With Western Markets in Turmoil, Shanghai Attracts the Art Crowd
Left: Collectors Don Rubell, Mera Rubell, and Jason Rubell. Right: Artist Yang Jiechang. (From ArtForum Scene and Heard)
ArtInfo and ArtForum have their reports on this year’s combination of events in Shanghai, including the ShContemporary fair. ArtInfo’s Sara Douglas tackles the question of what dealers are really accomplishing in Shanghai:
Much of a Western dealer’s investment in any new market comes down to education. Ask James Cohan, whose New York gallery recently opened a branch in Shanghai. At his booth, a representative of China CITIC Bank was seen inquiring about holding an event in the Shanghai gallery so that he could introduce some of his high-end clients to contemporary art. China, clearly, is a long-term investment. [ . . . ]
China’s richest are, of course, the individuals ShContemporary’s dealers would like to attract. But has the art market already developed too fast? Across the hall from the Hurun Report’s booth was German dealer Alexander Ochs, who has had a long-standing involvement with Chinese art. “Europe had 80 years to grow a market,” he said. “In China they have had four to five years.” He added that if the market is now cooling down a bit, that could spell a healthy correction. “People are learning to separate the important from the unimportant artists.” [ . . . ]
But there were also hurdles. A new fair, Showcase Singapore, launched in Singapore the day after ShContemporary’s first VIP preview and may have stolen some of its fire. And Shanghai’s hefty taxes make completing deals at the fair prohibitively expensive — there’s around 30 percent import tax and roughly 15 percent sales tax on top of that — leaving some dealers wistful for the new ART HK – Hong Kong International Art Fair, which launched last spring and doesn’t suffer from high taxes.
David Velasco has a diary of his Shanghai trip. When he asked his guide whether the artist Wang Tiande was referencing Walter DeMaria with his pile of coal installation, she responded that the artist didn’t know who DeMaria was but was a big fan of Warhol:
“But he’s really a traditional ink-brush artist trying to make his practice relevant within a contemporary context.” This seems a common theme in Chinese art. (Hanru similarly situates Yang Jiechang in his catalogue essay.) From what I gather, Wang’s arch solution was to reduce things to silhouette, burning pieces of parchment and photographing their ashes so that they look like distant mountain summits reflecting the pile of coal, which in turn resembles the shifting peaks and valleys of the Chinese art market, represented by a large animated graph hung from one wall.
The Wild East aspect of the trip wasn’t lost on Velasco either:
Hong Kong–based collector Hallam Chow made an argument for the exhibition: “This edition’s great for the Shanghai people. They’ll love Jing Shijian’s train and Yin Xiuzhen’s flying machine. You have to consider who it’s for.” He then pointed out a young artist at the table who had recently made a splash in the local market with a painting sold directly from her studio. All those fussing about Damien Hirst’s lucrative publicity stunt of an auction should take note of China, where it’s not uncommon at all for even artists without galleries to take work directly to the block. Here, perhaps even more than New York and London, the market is king.
Bund Traders (ArtForum)