The Financial Times explains that, despite many of the Ullens collection works going to American or other overseas buyers, the market for Chinese Contemporary art is beginning to attract young buyers from the mainland. With that in mind, Sotheby’s created a documentary exhibition to run alongside the Ullens show so that buyers would have a better understanding of the historical and art historical background to the works:
In addition to educating collectors, these efforts represented an attempt to reverse the speculative reputation of the Chinese contemporary art market. In the past, prices achieved at auction were the main source of validation.
Not so long ago “people bought a work at auction and the only reason was it was $20,000 before and now it’s $40,000”, said Lorenz Helbling, who has directed Shanghai’s Shanghart Gallery since 1996. “I would ask, do you know about this artist’s biography? And they would say, it was $20,000 now it’s $40,000, that is the biography. The artist could have exhibited at the Venice Biennale and nobody cared. This time around the auction houses seem to say, we should be a little bit more serious, or be a bit academic, or at least select better artists for the speculation game.”
Many agree that these efforts to crystallise an art historical narrative and create a canon of key artists mark a new stage of maturity for the Chinese contemporary art market.
New Buyers on the Block (Financial Times)