Abu Dhabi’s The National goes inside the world of the Chinese Contemporary artist to report on the frozen market. In the story there are some interesting numbers. They cite Sotheby’s auction sale volume in Contemporary art as $3 million in 2004 and $51 million in the Spring of 2008 but only $40 million for the Autumn sales of that year. Those numbers aren’t bad at all. A 30x increase over four years and a 20% decline in volume during an economic crisis.
Here’s what’s Rebecca Kanthor finds happening on the ground and a lot of it sounds like over-investment on the part of artists and galleries:
- Huang Yan, a Chinese artist whose works have earned him $100,000 a piece at auction in the US, poured eight million yuan (Dh4.3m) into building the art district last year, hoping to make about 1.5m yuan annually. But there are only three tenants in a space that could hold 40. “It was quite unexpected,” he said of the economic downturn, which has left Chinese artists earning just a fraction of what they were before.
- Cheng Xixing of Don Gallery said she has not moved a piece in three months. International collectors, who previously made up the bulk of buyers of Chinese art, have turned shy, fearing a collapse of the market. At her grand opening at the end of 2007, Ms Cheng sold almost all of the eight pieces on show at prices of between 7,000 and 30,000 yuan to Chinese and foreign collectors. A year later, her second show for the same artist was a different story. “This time, almost everyone appreciated his work, but no one buys. It’s really very difficult.”
- “I think it’s more of a confidence issue than a money issue,” said Sun Ning, the director of Platform China gallery. “All these collectors not buying art anymore is not because they suddenly don’t have money. And the galleries closing is not because they suddenly don’t have money. It’s because they lost confidence in the market.”
- The rapid development of the market “globalised Chinese art”, said Philip Dodd, the chairman of Made in China, an arts consultancy firm. “You can no longer read the story of art without reading China into it.” But while the insatiable demand has put Chinese artists on the map, it also created a somewhat distorted vision of what good Chinese art is, Mr Dodd and other critics have said. Certain themes or icons, such as the former Chinese leader Mao Zedong, or pop propaganda, were frequently repeated, in an attempt to play into what was selling well or what artists thought collectors wanted.“Young artists painted for the market in the end. [They thought] there’s a formula … It was painting by numbers,” said Andrew James of Andrew James Gallery in Shanghai.
Back to the Drawing Board (The National)