The Phoenix Years
Art, Resistance and the Making of Modern ChinaMadeleine O'Dea
7 February 2019
Published by Allen & Unwin
The transformation of modern China told through the eyes of its dissident artists and writers.
The Phoenix Years tells the riveting story of China’s rise from economic ruin to global giant in the four decades since the country started opening to the world in 1978. This remarkable narrative is informed and illuminated by another one running beneath its surface – the story of the country’s emerging artistic avant-garde and the Chinese people’s ongoing struggle for freedom of expression.
By following the personal stories of nine contemporary Chinese artists, The Phoenix Years shows how China’s rise unleashed creativity, thwarted hopes and sparked tensions between the individual and the state that continue to this day. It relates the amazing years of self-discovery and hope in the 1980s, which ended in the disaster of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Following that tragedy comes the story of China’s meteoric economic rise, of the opportunities that emerged and the difficult compromises artists and others have to make to be citizens in modern China.
Journalist and foreign correspondent Madeleine O’Dea has been an eyewitness for over 30 years to the rise of China, the explosion of its contemporary art and cultural scene, and its citizens’ long struggle for free expression. Over that time she has known many of the key players, some of whom are now international art stars. Their stories tell the history of their country.
At once a fascinating and accessible account of the birth of modern China and a moving chronicle of decades of courageous political resistance and cultural activism, The Phoenix Years is vital reading for anyone interested in China today.