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China's Art Shows: A Boom

彭菲 Sophia Peng 2018-08-14 11:19

Basel is too far? Never mind. Domestic art shows in China are rocketing all over the major cities. In Shanghai, ART 021 and Westbund Art&Design have emerged to become strong competitors of Art Beijing and CIGE — and in just five years’ time. This year, China’s art show craze is still going strong. ART Chengdu debuted on 25 April, JING ART created by ART 021 premiered in Beijing on 17 May and tries to grab a bigger portion in the mature Beijing market. All of them indicate that as long as there is interest, art shows are still expanding. 


“Chengdu is the centre of economic and culture in Mid-west China. It has Langzhou at the north, Xinjiang at the northwest, Tibet at the west, Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi at the south and Chongqing at the east. But there hasn’t been an international art show. The market is so promising and it’s really urgent to have a new brand like Art Chengdu,” says founder Huang Yu. 

After two years of planning, Art Chengdu settled in a top location downtown — Chunxi Road. The U-shaped visiting route links 31 art galleries from home and abroad. Its kiosks are relatively small in size, ranging from ten to thirty square metres, and the exhibits are all within a price range of up to RMB100,000 — placing the focus squarely on average buyers. 

“It’s not because we have lower expectations on the local buyers, but because we want to meet more young collectors through the show,” said one gallery owner. 


On the other hand, the first JING ART invited 32 galleries. Different from the trend-driven Shanghai show, the Beijing version focuses on more traditional and classic works: Wu Dayu’s works presented by Hauser & Wirth, 20th century American abstract artist Josef Albers’ Salute to Squares by David Zwirner Gallery, Wang Chuan’s 1985 No. 20 by Thousand Plateaus, post-war artist He Muqun’s Portrait No. 22 by Aye Gallery, and precious porcelain pieces from Qing Dynasty by Zheng Guan Tang. 

“In China, Beijing still has the most artists and art institutions, and brings opportunities to new art shows. However, we are not duplicating ART 021 in Beijing,” explains Bao Yifen, co-founder of JING ART. The art show brings works from 2,000 years ago. Apart from fine art, jewellery houses have also been invited, in an effort to diversify the selection, 

Whatever their size, art shows rely upon purchasing power. This year, Art Basel sold a Joan Mitchell painting worth 14 million dollars on the preview day, and the same price for Lévy Gorvy’s Unnamed. 


Compared to the ‘Basels’ of the art world, domestic art shows are priced geographically. From last year, million-dollar artworks came into fashion in Shanghai. For instance, Marlborough Fine Art sold a 1982 Francis Bacon work for 28 million dollars, Hauser & Wirth made million-dollar deals with Louise Bourgeois and Hans Arp’s sculptures. Besides, dynamic sculpture artist Alexander Calder, German New Expressionist Georg Baselitz, KAWS, and Antony Gormley are all the superstars on the show. The average price is around half-a-million dollars. 

The Beijing art market represented by Art Beijing and CIGE focus on Chinese contemporary art. Compared to the emerging Shanghai trend, Beijing is on a relatively conservative path. 

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Greenhouse planting Tang Maohong 

“Shanghai has surpassed Beijing to be the most important city of contemporary arts in China.” More and more gallery owners realise that the epicentre of contemporary arts has moved “eastward”. 


Data shows that in 2018 there are at least 135 art shows across the world. According to Global Art Gallery Report 2016, among the 19,000 galleries around the world, half of them take part in at least one art show a year. More importantly, we see more and more ‘Made in China’ emerging in the art boom. 

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