What "new ways" are there for art school graduation seasons in 2022?

TEXT:Text by Emily Weimeng Zhou and edited by Sue    DATE: 2022.7.25

Since May, art academies have gradually started the preparation and presentation of their graduation seasons. For art academies in China, the annual graduation exhibition not only provides a platform for graduates to display their achievements in graduation creation, but it also plays a crucial role in connecting the surrounding communities around the campuses. Meanwhile, it attracts the attention of art lovers and art education observers as well.

Due to the influence brought by the pandemic, the traditional offline graduation seasons have begun to expand their online space and explore new possibilities since 2020. "Online Graduation Exhibition" became a hot topic that year, and major art academies successively launched their own online platforms during the graduation season. Taking the 2020 CAFA Graduation Exhibition as an example, the "Online CAFA Virtual Art Museum" had attracted more than 530,000 visitors to view the works on the first day of its launch. Although there were many problems and challenges in terms of technology and practical operation in the first year of the "Online Graduation", judging from the visitor data and hot discussion, graduation exhibitions that year have achieved a great success. Under this circumstance, the graduation seasons in different art academies have broken the circle and were able to approach a wide range of visitors, which has far exceeded the limit of visitors that could be accommodated in concrete art museums and campuses in previous years.

View of the VR Exhibition Hall, 2020 CAFA Graduation Exhibition

In 2022, the normalization of the pandemic prevention and control has brought about a new lifestyle and new concepts, and the online field is no longer fresh. The graduation exhibitions of art academies have gradually shifted from being forced to take online strategies to the parallel of “online” and “offline” plans. Besides, art academies have also generated online channels for more activities during graduation seasons besides the graduation exhibition.

It is also worth noting that this generation of young graduates who grew up in the internet era rapidly adapt to the multiple display channels of graduation creations. They spontaneously expand the display platforms and showcasing methods for their graduation creations. In this regard, for the majority of the audience who are concerned with degree shows, the on-site visit of the offline exhibition has different specific conditions in various cities. However, in the increasingly diversified social media platforms and the distinctive style of self-media fields, the graduation exhibitions in 2022 have given rise to many new perspectives.


Posters of 2022 Graduation Season in Nine Prestigious Art Academies in China

New Methods: The Parallel of Online and Offline Plans

In response to different pandemic prevention and control policies in various cities, most of the graduation exhibitions of domestic academies of fine arts initiated a plan that combines both “online” and “offline” forms.

In Beijing, art academies represented by the Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Arts, Design of Tsinghua University, have successively launched “online graduation exhibitions” from May to June. Among them, officially launched on May 20th, the 2022 CAFA Graduation Season entitled “Loading…” featured the “Online Gallery” for the degree show, which cooperated with Artron.Net. Besides, the “Digital Twin Campus of CAFA” presents 3D images to represent the typical visual elements of the campus. Meanwhile, the official WeChat accounts of CAFA, CAFA ART INFO, and various Schools and Departments of CAFA have used multiple strategies to organize different themes to promote the graduation show and graduates this year. In addition, from June 16 to 18, the three-day live streaming “Visiting Enterprises to Promote Employment & Experiencing the Graduation Show with the President and Deans of CAFA” has accumulated a total of 2,028,500 views on five online platforms.


Live Streaming Event of “Visiting Enterprises to Promote Employment & Experiencing the Graduation Show with the President and Deans of CAFA”

While the 2022 Online Graduation Exhibition of the Academy of Arts, Design of Tsinghua University, which was launched on June 13, focused on presenting the infinite possibilities between art and design, reflecting the logic and fluency of the online platform in the viewing process. Although the exhibition layout in the mobile phone screen is limited, it can still be seen that the Academy is striving to build the concept of the “exhibition hall” and “corridor” through digital understanding, which remains enough space for visitors to interact and explore.


7.pngScreenshots of 2022 Online Graduation Exhibition of the Academy of Arts, Design of Tsinghua University

Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts kicked off its 2022 Graduation Season with the theme of “Integration and Harmony”. The offline degree show that opened in May is only open to teachers and students in the Academy. However, the official WeChat account of the Academy claims that in order to promote art to the public, in conjunction with the adjustment of the pandemic prevention and control in Tianjin, the graduation exhibition of excellent works are held outside the campus one after another from June. Meanwhile, the “Online Gallery” organized by the official WeChat account of the Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts continuously updates and promotes outstanding works of graduates from various majors and schools.

View of 2022 Graduation Offline Exhibition of Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts

WeChat Promotion of 2022 Graduation Creation of LuXun Academy of Fine Art

Compared with the relative silence of offline events in the graduation season of art academies and universities in the north of China this year, the planning and final presentation of the graduation season of art academies in southern China showcases a diverse and lively scene. Taking the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou as an example, it took the theme of “Vital Force” to launch the 4th Zhejiang International Youth Art Festival together with 12 academies in Hangzhou, which strives to activate the communities within the coverage area of these 12 academies.

Screenshots of 2022 Online Graduation Exhibition of China Academy of Art

View of Offline Exhibition in the 4th Zhejiang International Youth Art Festival

Source: WeChat Account of China Academy of Art

Screenshots of “Meta-prospect: Hubei Institute of Fine Arts Work Exhibition of 2022 Graduates” Online Show

The Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in southwestern China has created an offline and online “art market” with the theme of “Chongqing Art Market — Blooming June”. Regarding the offline events, in addition to the graduation exhibition, a series of special art events such as “Art Tour at SCFAI” and “Museum Late” was organized, which took cross-regional, cross-disciplinary, cross-time, and space as the keywords. As far as the online space of the graduation season of SCFAI is concerned, the audience may be aware of the richness and playfulness brought up by the “art market”. In addition to the regular online exhibitions, the audience can visit the artists’ studios online through the “broadcasting room”, and participate in diverse online activities. They can also shake the phone to get an “Art Mystery Box” to encounter a piece of graduation work randomly. Besides, the viewer can also consult and purchase graduation creations through the “Chongqing Art Market — Online Shop”.


View of “Museum Late” organized by the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute

View of “GAFA Degree show 2022” Online Gallery


View of “GAFA Degree show 2022”

Source: WeChat Account of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts

Overall, the graduation seasons of major art academies across the country this year are actively adapting to the requirements and restrictions of their respective regions, and carrying out graduation-related activities from multi-dimensional channels and methods. It should be admitted that, in conjunction with social enterprises and the media, academies themselves have been stimulated to extend their possibilities in terms of reaching out to different platforms under limited conditions. However, the absence and limitations of the offline part of the graduation seasons are undoubtedly regrettable, but it is gratifying that art institutions at the social level are also actively participating in the presentation of graduation works, which in a sense complements the context and constraints within the academic system. “Nice to Meet You. Hope to See You Again: 2022 the Second Undergraduate Graduation Exhibition” held in Enjoy Art Museum in Beijing sets a good example that shows the art institution’s participation.

Exhibition View of “Nice to Meet You. Hope to See You Again: 2022 the Second Undergraduate Graduation Exhibition”

The Self-recommendation of Graduates: The Opening and Challenges of the Digital Platforms

Since the graduation exhibition was forced to expand to online platforms, not only does the academy level actively adjust its strategies, developing new channels, and connecting to new platforms, but also many graduates have begun to publish their graduation creations and record the creative process in self-media and diverse social media platforms. In a sense, different from the limitations of the space and exhibition line in the traditional offline graduation show, or the relatively fixed and unified uploading and presentation logic in the online graduation exhibition, various social media platforms have instead given graduates a certain degree of “re-creation” freedom. In this regard, graduates are required to develop their graduation creations with an “Internet character”. 

Of course, various online platforms are also keenly aware of the extension of the graduation creation display, so they have organized activities related to the graduation season on their own platforms, and positively linked with official media and universities. If searching the hashtag “Xiaohongshu Online Degree Show” in Xiaohongshu, a popular social media and e-commerce platform in China, one may realize that this topic has received more than 15.3 million views so far. In June this year, Xiaohongshu initiated the project “Xiaohongshu Online Degree Shows” on its platform, and jointly launched an event to collect graduation creations with major academies of fine arts and other art colleges in China. Taking this project as an opportunity, numbers of official accounts of art academies have been stationed on the Xiaohongshu platform, thus to jointly facilitate the promotion and recommendation of graduates'' creations on the internet. As one of the rewards of this project, Xiaohongshu has further launched the “100 Young Artists Luminous Project”, which cooperates with art supporters in different fields in the art industry to provide a network flow of support and industry cooperation for the selected graduates. By doing so, the future development trend of art graduates is largely covered.

Screenshots of “Xiaohongshu Online Degree show”

On the one hand, such online activities provide every young graduate who can access the internet with the same display platform and can help this group of young people gain widespread attention within the industry and outside the art circle. But on the other hand, such a display platform has also brought a new round of challenges and competition—it put forward new requirements for the graduates' “self-recommendation”. In the internet platform, one may be ignored and forgotten at any time. How can the graduates and their works stand out and attract viewers’ attention among tons of images and video posts? What is faced by every graduate is the audience who would swipe their creations on their mobile phones quickly and randomly. It would be a very different viewing logic with the previous system of a physical degree show.1.PNG

Poster of "2.86% of CAFA Graduates Spontaneous Offline Group Show"

The “online” shift in recent years has unknowingly forced more students to learn to self-recommendation in the era of the internet. Young graduates may have realized the unprecedented amount of attention that the online graduation exhibition will bring. However, understanding how much of the attention is just casual glances with curiosity, is also necessary for them. The same-scale phone screen will average the artworks’ volume, techniques, media, etc., at a similar level, which may dispel the splendid highlights of artworks in the offline exhibitions to a large extent. Therefore, regardless of how the “online” trend will continue, giving a unique “personality” to the creators and their creations seems to be particularly critical at this moment.

When examining the presentation of the graduation season in 2022 on different channels and platforms, it is not difficult to realize that art academies, social art institutions, social media platforms, and graduates themselves are all actively seeking new possibilities. Such initiative of multi-party linkage is even more unprecedented than any time before. Regarding graduates, facing the attention of society and stepping out of the academies’ protection circle seems to be ahead of schedule. They have to adapt to numerous changes and limitations under the pandemic in an initiative way, expand the platform and language for self-expression, and clarify the direction of future development. Only by doing so can they keep the energy and courage to step forward in the moment of obscurity.

Text by Emily Weimeng Zhou and edited by Sue.

Image courtesy of art academies and art institutions mentioned above.