Shanghai Art week
Shanghai Art Week takes place every year in November and over time it has become an important date in the global art market calendar. Last year it coincided with the opening of the Centre Pompidou Shanghai (See the report about Centre Pompidou Shanghai). This year is significant simply because the event’s two contemporary art fairs are the first in the world on this scale that have been able to physically take place since the start of the coronavirus crisis (1). This is a major event within the context of proliferating online art shows.
Art021, West Bund Art &Design
ART021 is located in the middle of the megacity at the Exhibition Centre (featuring 83 exhibitors, 60% of whom are Chinese), while twenty minutes away by car, if the traffic is good, there is the West Bund Art & Design fair (featuring 51 galleries, including many from overseas) occupying spaces in the new museum district.
As Kylie Ying, co-founder of ART021, explains, Shanghai Art Week is strongly encouraged by the local authorities. “The government of Shanghai recognizes the importance of contemporary art, which is why they facilitate sales and the transportation of artworks, with free zones and more accommodating taxes.” Kylie is the archetypal new heroine of contemporary art in China. Beyond her role as co-director of the fair, she is also a collector – mainly of female artists – and the face of various fashion brands, from Dior to Uniqlo, as well as of course being a social media influencer.
Lifestyle and Art
“ART021 is also linked to a certain lifestyle,” she explains. “We organize lots of cross-sectoral projects with luxury brands.” The businesswoman doesn’t seek to copy the western model: “We don’t want to be another Art Basel or Frieze. For its eighth year, the fair is mainly exhibiting Chinese art. We have a young audience who appreciate new modes of expression which ordinarily aren’t very commercial, such as installations, videos etc…”
The existence of a significant audience of young, rich contemporary art lovers in China is confirmed by Philip Tinari, director of the UCCA art centre in Beijing, a pioneer of its kind in the country, which will be opening a new site in Shanghai next year (See the interview of Philip Tinari during the lockdown in Beijing). “We have 1,500 young donors who closely follow new developments in current artistic creation.” He adds: “This year, Shanghai Art Week has been a culture shock. It’s like a return to times before the pandemic.” Incidentally, in 2021 the director of the institution is staging an exhibition of 300 artworks dedicated to Andy Warhol, first in Beijing then in Shanghai.
Christie’s Hong Kong
At Christie’s Hong Kong, the head of contemporary art Jacky Ho explains: “many Chinese collectors are hungry for current artistic creation following the lockdown period (See the interview of Jacky Ho in June 2020 about the art market). They want to see art in person. Also the audience for contemporary art has matured in China. They want things that are rare and fresh on the market. They’re interested in the current production of global contemporary art, as shown in our next sale on 2 December in Hong Kong.”
The Parisian Balice-Hertling gallery were unable to travel to ART021 as planned before the public health crisis. However, they did send a Chinese representative and eight works by the French artist Julie Beaufils (born in 1987). At the Balice-Hertling booth the one-woman-show featured paintings on the theme of tarot, on display for between 5,000 and 13,000 euros. “We sold everything in the first half hour of the fair, to buyers including the M Woods Museum in Beijing,” says Daniele Balice (See the interview of Daniele Balice speaking about crisis in Contemporary art). Here, art lovers proudly announce their purchases. The co-founder of the institution, Lin Han, posted two works by Julie Beaufils on Instagram (with 45,000 followers).
Hadrien de Montferrand
At the same fair, the French art dealer Hadrien de Montferrand, who opened a gallery in Beijing in 2009 followed by another in Hangzhou in 2013, organized – also from afar – his participation in ART021. “We sold around thirty works between 4,000 and 120,000 euros, including several watercolours by the French-Cameroonian artist Barthélémy Toguo for around 25,000 euros.” (See the interview of Barthélemy Toguo in his studio in 2020).
Prices also seem to prove satisfying at the West Bund fair. The New York-based David Maupin of the multinational Lehmann Maupin gallery observed that the majority of his booth sold out for between 35,000 and 600,000 dollars. As for Lihsin Tsai, the Hong Kong director of art market behemoth Hauser & Wirth, she confirmed the trend towards an art-buying frenzy after a long period of privation: “One of the things we sold was a painting by Zhang Enli to a major private Chinese museum”. The 55-year-old artist, who is the subject of a retrospective which opened during Shanghai Art Week at the Power Station museum, is one of the art stars of the former Middle Kingdom. His paintings were sold by Hauser & Wirth for between 250,000 and 500,000 dollars. (See the interview of Ivan Wirth at Art Basel Hong Kong)
Although the speculation frenzy in contemporary art seems to have diminished in China, the appetite for current creation remains exceptional. The businessman Lu Xun, a seasoned collector originally from Nanjing who created a museum in 2013, Sifang Art museum, with extraordinary architecture designed by the architect Steven Holl, observes: “It’s a market that is growing at an impressive rate. Every year I meet new collectors.” Just before Shanghai Art Week his new exhibition opened in Nanjing, dedicated to the Swiss painter Miriam Cahn. Born in 1949, she is promoted by the Parisian gallery Jocelyn Wolf (See the exhibition he did of Miriam Cahn during Fiac 2019), among others. “She is an important artist and we wanted to show at least 70 of her works. But with censorship becoming increasingly strict in relation to nudity, we weren’t allowed to bring some of her more explicit works over from Europe. That’s when I realized that Chinese collectors also had lots of her works. So we selected pieces locally to complete the exhibition.”
China, which benefits from vast resources and a frenetic enthusiasm that is also encouraged by the authorities, is in the process of becoming a major trendsetting force in contemporary art. The values of artists promoted and bought there, regardless of nationality, can rapidly rise within a system where media coverage reigns. In the geopolitics of art, in terms of what we call soft power, the battle between this large country, the United States, and Europe is entering a new era.
Sifang Art Museum
(1) Anyone entering Shanghai is subject to a 14-day quarantine period in a hotel, even if they are visitors from Hong Kong. Chinese nationals are armed with a certificate on their phone stating that they are in good health, which grants them access to the fair, among other things.
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