NPR’s Morning Edition jumps on the bandwagon declaring Chinese Contemporary art dead. The curious thing about these stories is that they don’t offer much in the way of real evidence beyond galleries closing in Beijing. Yes, they point to the October sale of Chinese Contemporary art in Hong Kong that had a 39% sell-through rate. What they don’t tell you is that the works that did sell still made extraordinary prices. And the day sale of the same auction was in the 80% range for the sell-through. Clearly the whole situation is more nuanced than this quote would suggest:
Even as the Chinese contemporary art market reached ever more dizzying heights, its fundamentals were shaky. Tales of dirty dealing by artists were legion; some artists bought back their own works at auction to push the prices up; others secretly offered “buy one, get two free” deals at auction; some even signed contracts with middlemen, paid to inflate the price of their art.
ArtTactic has a “speculation barometer” measuring the perceived level of speculation in an art market; the level for the contemporary Chinese market was 73 percent higher than for the Western contemporary art market.
Independent curator Zhu Qi believes up to 80 percent of transactions in China were “fake” or pumped up. For some artists, making money began to take precedence over making art, he told NPR in an interview recorded late last year.
Sky-High Chinese Art Market Comes Back to Earth (NPR/Morning Edition)