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Parsing China's Reaction To Its Pritzker Prize-Winning Architect

There's no doubt that the awarding of the Pritzker Prize this week to Chinese architect Wang Shu was based as much on its symbolism as for personal achievement. Jiayang Fan looks at what the announcement's reception in China has been.
March 3, 2012, 9am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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To read Thomas Pritzker's prize announcement makes clear the symbolic intent of awarding the highest prize in architecture to a Chinese-based practitioner for the first time:

"The fact that an architect from China has been selected by the jury represents a significant step in acknowledging the role that China will play in the development of architectural ideals...China's unprecedented opportunities for urban planning and design will want to be in harmony with both its long and unique traditions of the past and with its future needs for sustainable development."

Whatever the intended message to China, Fan notes that the award has, "inspired equal parts bafflement and skepticism in the land of its honoree."

In comparing the country's reaction to the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000 to Gao Xingjian, Fan sees similarities. "The ambivalence surrounding the international recognition of two artists with such different profiles-Gao was an exiled dissident writing from abroad, Wang lives and works in China-speaks less about their art than it does about a pervasive cultural anxiety surrounding Chinese artists. In other words, the doubt has little to do with Wang's work but rather his celebration by the West-a West that, for better or worse, casts a continual and critical eye on both the country's human-rights record and its brisk pace of urbanization."

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Published on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 in The New Yorker
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