CIHA 2016 in Beijing

34th World Congress of Art History

About History Press Release Sessions Schedule Activities Participants Venue Discussion Registration Closed


LI Cai
Creative Misunderstanding, Misunderstanding and Related Discussions Concerning African Art

Session 15 Creative Misunderstanding

Fine Art College of Qingdao University


The encounter between modern artists marked by Picasso and African sculpture in the early 20th century contributed to the modern art revolution. However, the process was based on a creative misunderstanding: the artists just get enamored of the form, utterly ignorant of the meaning and function of African art. Similarly, Roger Fry’s creative misunderstanding of African sculpture also accorded with the popularity of art criticism of formalistic at that time.

Some researchers of the United States and Europe began to conduct field research in African continent with the combined methods of art history and anthropology after middle 20th century. Supposing opinions or researching approaches they put forward in this period are different from each other. Then, in the late 20th century, a trend about new opinions on non-European art and its representation as well as self-reflection appeared in European countries and America; serious misunderstandings for African art such as tribal style paradigm, cognition of tradition and authenticity were raised, and finally pointed out to more realistic networks of politics, economy and society. 

Chinese main awareness of African art comes from the West, but we haven’t understood the western relative research process on African art; in addition, we lack of systematic field researches, so we have misunderstood African art, resulting in some outdated, monotonous and segmented cognition, and we haven’t yet treated the research field from the perspective of art historiography and related theoretical method.

Recognizing Western research process can not only provide reference of cognition and research methods for related research fields in domestic, but also demonstrate a lively scene of art history, including creative misunderstanding and misunderstanding.

LI Cai

Li Cai, lecturer in Fine Art College of Qingdao University, graduated from Fine Art Academy of Zhejiang Normal University with a master’s degree in 2010, and received a doctorate degree of Art history from Advanced School of Art and Humanities, China Academy of Art in 2014.

Recent Research Field: Western modern art history and art theory.

Main Publications:

“Chinese Cognition of African Art since the 20th Century”, Master Degree Thesis, 2010.

“Changing Sight: Cognition and Research Methods towards African Art in Western Academic Circle”, Doctoral Dissertation, 2014.

“The Significance of Cognition of African Art”, Contending of Literature and Art, 2010 (2).

African Art Research, Co-editor, Yunnan University Press, 2010.

“Chinese Vision of African Art: A Survey of Chinese Cognition of African Art”, South African Visual Arts Historians, Cape Town,5-8 September 2013.

Formalistic Criticism of Roger Fry and ‘Pure Formal Design’ of African Sculpture”, in Crossover& comprehensive: Proceedings of Summit Forum of Design Education, China Academy of Art Press, 2012.