It is a timeless struggle, between the new and the old. Is “the new” more new than it is old? A lot depends on who is looking, and how artworks are framed. Maxwell K. Hearn, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s survey of contemporary Chinese art—the staid institution’s first foray into the field—situated many 70 works by 35 mainland Chinese artists in low-lit halls and glass-encased displays normally reserved for the “classical” arts, emphasizing (occasionally to a contrived degree) the continuity with traditional arts of pieces that could just as easily hang on the brightly lit walls, or sit on the concrete floors, of a gallery of modern or contemporary art. Thankfully free of over-hyped art-historical claims and market-driven bluster that often despoils Chinese contemporary art exhibitions, “Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China” was an engaging, subtly political survey of three decades of art-making, in spite of some of its most obvious curatorial inconsistencies—most notably, the prevalence of works that have less connection to the titular “ink art” legacy and instead derive from other Chinese traditions. No matter, the tangents brought a welcome diversity, revealing living artists’ many ways of being steeped in the old and contributing something new.