Art’s New Superpower (Vanity Fair)

Once an empire of enforced egalitarianism, this nation of 1.3 billion is waking up from a stupor of isolation as Shanghai and Beijing prepare to become capitals of a China-dominated world culture. And once wary state officials have managed to befriend a few of the country’s most rebellious artists just in time for Beijing’s giant 2008 photo op, the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. “The place is just an environmental disaster, but there’s a kind of energy,” says noted New York architect Basil Walter, who has collected Chinese art during visits to his Shanghai office. “In the art districts, ladies in Bentleys pull up, dressed to the nines, and slog through the mud to get to a gallery where they’re seeing a new artist’s work, while some deranged person is quivering off to the side. There’s a visual bombardment that makes the place really exciting.”