The GlobalArtNews twitter feed pointed our attention to this interview with Larry Warsh conducted by Arttactic’s Anders Petterson. The interview was reprinted at Yishu, the journal of Contemporary Chinese Art and it offers a counter to some of the press reports declaring Chinese Contemporary art dead. Read the rest of the interview to see Warsh’s thoughts on the growth the Chinese middle class and the emergence of an art-buying public in China itself. Here we’ve extracted his salient point–that prices have dropped on the best work and will resume their rise because of the inevitable inflation–but we reprint it with the caveat that Warsh holds a large collection of Chinese Contemporary art. So he is talking his book.
In the short term—the next 12 to 18 months—there will be good opportunities to buy works by top-tier artists in both painting and photography. By top-tier, I mean the 40 or so who have gained art-historical recognition, have been internationally exhibited, and are being acquired by museums in the West as well as Asia. Historical works by these individuals—the first generation of Chinese contemporary artists, from 1989 through early 2000s—are relatively scarce and will continue to gain value. The global downturn has yielded some attractive pricing, particularly in comparison to top contemporary artists in the West, creating smart buying opportunities. In fact, art funds focusing on Chinese contemporary art have been formed to take advantage of this moment. Museums are also acquiring for their collections.
Chinese contemporary photography is a buying opportunity. It’s still undervalued relative to painting, which was the focus for collectors for many years. Quality works will become increasingly scarce, particularly as China develops as a consumer society with its own collector base. The Chinese audience with disposable income is growing, and a consistent percentage of those people will become art advocates and collectors. [ . . . ]
The Chinese government has recognized the importance of contemporary Chinese art, and has earmarked money to promote and solidify the field via the Beijing Culture and Development Fund. They are also supporting museum exhibitions in China and abroad. This is a major development.
Also, I think that in the near term, China will undergo more severe inflation than it’s seen recently, making high-quality work a good haven for protecting the yuan. This will also benefit non-Chinese collectors holding this type of asset. With its broad acceptance on the international art market—London, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, China—and its performance in Western and Asian auction houses, high-quality work will be salable around the globe, yielding the respective currency of choice.
With the coming inflation, I predict that art will outperform other non-art investments, as it has done in the past. I project that within 24 to 36 months, prices will return to levels close to where they were, with some prices higher. Great work will achieve breakout prices sooner.
Asia is the future, and everyone in the West should be aware of this fact. Between China and India, the entire planet will be looking toward Asia as it leads the globe in new areas of development. The Chinese art market has tremendous opportunities yet to be realized. Chinese contemporary art is not going away.