CNN Style has a 23 minute documentary on the art and artists behind the Guggenheim Museum’s show Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World. It’s well worth watching.
Vice interviewed Cai Guo-Qiang as the Netflix documentary of his Sky Ladder premiered over the weekend:
Sky Ladder, the work documented in the film, was a project that you failed multiple times trying to complete. What exactly happened?
In the beginning, I didn’t expect at all that there would be a failure. I had already accomplished many great projects that were part of the explosion events, such as Project to Extend the Great Wall of China by 10,000 Meters: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 10 (1993), or Earth Has Its Black Hole Too: Project for Extraterrestrials No. 16 (1994). But during my first attempt at Sky Ladder in Bath, England in 1994, the aviation company told me that I needed a permit, otherwise flights would crash into the balloon. It was perfectly fine otherwise, but I could not do it at that time. Later on I obtained the permit and they said that I could attempt the project at a certain time on a certain day, but then it was raining too hard to attempt it on that day. It was then that I realized Sky Ladder was not an easy thing to complete.
How did that failure make you feel?
It excited me even more, maybe because the project was so difficult to realize.
The Chinese Contemporary art market has caromed between international attention and domestic buyers seemingly trying to stay one step ahead of the market momentum. Early buyers were in the West. But after a precipitous rise and the global credit crisis, the market’s center moved back to Asia where new wealth sought values that would make living Chinese artists the price peers of some Western painters. But that was only for a handful of artists. This week in London, it would appear that the cycle is turning and two separate trends from opposite sides of the globe are converging to promote a new set of names into prominence.
The South China Morning Post explains how a new middle-class market for Chinese Contemporary is supporting these painters:
Feng Ying, a manager of Beijing’s Space Station art gallery, said the biggest change in the industry in recent years was the increasing number of new collectors.
“They are very different from pure investors,” she said. “They are not very rich. They could come from all walks of life, working as architects, designers, doctors, lawyers or white collar workers. Their budget for a painting may be just tens of thousands of bucks. But they are real art lovers. They do a lot of research on the artists and go to many exhibitions. They have their own taste for art.”
And Colin Gleadell points to first-tier London galleries like Hauser & Wirth that are trying to catch them up to their price peers:
Seven years ago, [Zhang Enli’s] paintings were selling through the Shanghart gallery for up to $10,000 each. Since then, Hauser & Wirth have raised his profile and his prices. Their current exhibition has almost sold out, with prices ranging from $100,000 to $350,000. Even though the artist works in Shanghai, many of the buyers have come from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Temporary Space, for instance, has been bought by a collector who is building a private museum in Shanghai; the painted box room has been sold to the Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing.
At White Cube’s Bermondsey space, in south-east London, is an intriguing array of objects by 27-year-old conceptual artist, He Xiangyu from Beijing. Heaped mounds of earth-like matter are part of He’s Cola Project, for which he boiled down 127 tons of Coca-Cola to make paintings or sculptures (from $10,000), while a life-size but soft military tank, sewn together from luxury Italian leather as a comment on the relationship between political and economic power, is priced at $520,000.
“We want to show work by artists from all over the world, and there are a lot of interesting artists in China that we are finding out about,” says the gallery’s director of exhibitions, Tim Marlow.
In their converted power station gallery in St James’s this evening, 47 year-old Beijing artist Liu Wei will present recycled materials transformed into complex architectural sculptures, and large digitally designed abstract paintings which are priced between $78,000 and $680,000 each.
China’s contemporary art gets a boost from the sandwich class (South China Morning Post)
Art Sales: Get ready for the February rush (Telegraph)
Melik Kaylan previews the Met’s upcoming show of Chinese Contemporary art, “Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China:”
“There’s so much excitement and hype around contemporary art, the western variety, so we wanted to show that it’s happening in Asia too, that it’s happening even in the most traditional of forms—that Asia has a cultural present as well as a past,” says Maxwell Hearn, the curator and head of the Asian Art department. “And where can one say that more arrestingly than in the historical galleries?”
The shock of the unexpected is, emphatically, part of the message. Imagine you’re a regular, unsuspecting Met-goer dropping by for a soothing dose of Ming vases and Literati scrolls depicting mountains. Instead, you find your favorite objects displaced by a cacophony of contemporary works, often highly avant-garde and challenging. Or, conversely, you are lured in by the promise of traditional Chinese aesthetics extended into the present: modern versions of placid misty landscapes, rock-faces, and calligraphic studies, but you’re ambushed by polychrome cityscapes, photorealist images, photos of tattoo art and body painting, and unreadable calligraphy. Perhaps, you come in to see some of Ai Wei Wei’s works, and you’re mystified when you encounter ceramics by him that seem gratuitously included.
The curators have set out to show that art in China, even the most purely homegrown Chinese genre of ink-art, is merging with global influences and creating astonishing, vibrant hybrids that both illuminate the native tradition and expand the collective consciousness. At its profoundest, the show awakens us to what is happening to national cultural aesthetics everywhere, including our own, as motifs and symbols and visual paradigms wash back and forth across divides.
The Wall Street Journal reports on the destruction of Shanghai artist (and Chinese representative at the Venice Biennale) Yuan Gong’s studio and commercial real estate venture:
Shanghai-born contemporary artist Yuan Gong bought a large plot of land 10 years ago and created an art and retail space, naming the compound after himself. One of Shanghai’s 77 industrial “culture and creativityproduction parks,” the 6,000-square-meter facility houses design firms, restaurants, bars and spas, with about half the space occupied by Mr. Yuan’s art studio. […]
Last year, Mr. Yuan said local authorities contacted him about demolishing part of the property to build a road that would allow for a quicker flow of traffic in an area zoned as an economic and transport hub. The compound, located in an area that houses a large expat community and higher-income earners, is within walking distance of L’Avenue, a luxury mall developed by Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho and other new malls and offices currently under construction by Soho China and Forterra Trust.
“There were three exchanges regarding compensation but there wasn’t any agreement,” Mr. Yuan said, noting that the final exchange was held in mid-August and there was no threat of forced eviction.
At the entrance of the 2,336-square-meter compound, metal scaffolding, concrete debris and glass shards remained at the scene when China Real Time visited Saturday. Tenants at the compound, visibly unhappy about the destruction, tried to carry on business as usual.
Shanghai Authorities Demolish Artist’s Compound (China RealTime Report/Wall Street Journal)
Late in the last decade, the auction houses made a conscious decision to relocate Chinese Contemporary art sales to Hong Kong in both an offensive and defensive move. The goal was to generate more domestic interest in the artists of Asia among the newly wealthy collectors of China. But the defensive side of the move seemed to recognize a slowing interest among Western collectors in living Chinese artists. Some prominent collections amassed by Westerners were sold.
Curiously, works by Chinese Contemporary artists have begun to seep back into sales in New York and London. Jing Daily points out that London’s upcoming Contemporary art sales contain a number of important Chinese works. The Zhang Xiaogang above will be offered in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening sale. The auction houses anticipate strong competition from Western and Chinese buyers; and they’re coming into London with momentum built in Hong Kong a few weeks ago:
Christie’s Hong Kong did particularly well in the spring sales, coming within a hair of its high estimate of $22,866,350 with a total take of $22,628,450. Christie’s also sold the highest-priced lot of the season, Zeng Fanzhi’s Society, which went for $3.38 million. In all, 14 of the artist’s works were sold, generating $10 million, accounting for 13 percent of the overall Chinese contemporary art sales for the season, and creating high expectations for the work now coming on the block in London.
The prominence of Chinese artists at the upcoming sale reflects London’s position as a growing global hub for Chinese contemporary art, as European collectors continue to gain interest and wealthy Chinese buyers travel abroad in ever-increasing numbers. It’s a trend that will be augmented in coming years by the continued mobility of China’s wealthy, and the construction of the recently announced new Chinese financial district at London’s Royal Albert Dock.
The Chinese auction house China Guardian will be holding sales in Hong Kong this October, according to ArtInfo. British art advisor Michael Frahm points out this week on ArtDaily.org that Beijing has become the second center for Contemporary art sales:
If we drill down further into China ’s regional markets, we can see that Beijing in particular is performing incredibly well. The city is now second in the global market for contemporary art and is competing with New York, particularly at the highest end of the market, where the level of quality and prices have exploded over the last decade. Hong Kong , meanwhile, has emerged as the new epicenter of the global arts market. […] Works by Chinese artists are now contributing more heavily than ever before to the overall economic growth in the art market. Today, five Chinese artists feature in the world’s top 10 contemporary artists by revenue. Zeng Fanzhi (€39.2m), Zhang Xiaogang (€30m), Chen Yifei (€283m), Wang Yidong (€16.2m) and Zhou Chunya (€14.5m) now each feature, ahead of the likes of Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami. […]
The Chinese art market relies too heavily on the major auction houses that I have already touched upon. The dominance of the auction houses in China is far greater than that in Europe or in America . Their power and influence means that the market can, at times, lack diversity, as they are able to control much of what is brought to market. This is partly driven by a powerful culture of ‘trophy buying’ that exists amongst many Chinese buyers, which leaves a lack of enthusiasm for dealing privately. Buyers here like to be seen to be spending large sums of money, particularly for the most iconic works, and the best way to do so is to buy in person at auction. […]
This culture of trophy buying also highlights a somewhat misplaced focus in China on the lucrative investment that buying art might represent. In 2011 art was in fact China ’s hottest investment. With a far more favourable rate of return on investment than the unstable stock or housing markets, more and more of the country’s wealthiest continue to explore alternative forms of investment and art is, it seems, becoming more attractive by the day. In 2011 China ’s two largest auction houses, China Guardian Auction Co and Poly International Auction Co recorded a 49% and 20% rise in turnover respectively year-on-year.
In all the hubbub last month, Bonham’s noteworthy single owner sale in Hong Kong got lost in the mix. The auciton house sold HK$90.6m ($11.6m) worth of art, besting the estimates by 50%. All but one of the works was sold.
With that in mind, we’re posting the results here. All the Contemporary art lots sold, evidence of the strength in the market for Chinese masters of 20th Century abstract art.
15 works by Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wou-Ki total realized: HKD 63.3 million / 8.1 million USD (estimate: HKD 26.45- 37.3 million / 3.4 -4.8 million USD)
12 Imperial Chinese works of art total realized: HKD 27.75 million / 3.5 million USD
- Shang Yang, Hearth (HK$800-1.2m) HK$6.38m ($825k)
- Zeng Fanzhi, Mask (HK$2.5-3.5m) HK$5m ($655k)
- Fang Lijun, 1998.3.1 HK$2.5-3.5m) HK$4.22m ($546k)
- Zeng Fanzhi, Mask Series No. 11 (HK$2-3m) HK$3.62m ($468k)
- Liu Ye, Angels in Flight (HK$1-1.5m) HK$3.38m ($437k)
- Ding Yi, Apperance of Crosses (HK$800-1.2m) HK$1.82m ($235k)
- Shang Yang, H Land-13 (HK$300-500k) HK$1.46m ($189k)
- Yan Ping, Spring Flavour & Rabbit (HK$800-1m) HK$2.66m ($344k)
- Lia Dahong, The Honeymoon (HK$180-260k) HK$2.54m ($328k)
- Zhang Xaiogang, Bloodline, Big Family— Family No. 2 (HK$25-35m) HK$52m
- Fang Lijun, 1993.4 (HK$18-25m) HK$28.6m
- Liu Wei, A Good Dog (HK$12-15m) HK$14m
- Wang Guangyi, Mao Zedong AO (HK$4-6m) HK$8.42m
- Jai Aili, It’s Not Only You Who is Pale (HK$2.5-3.8m)HK$6.6m
- Fang Lijun, 1998 No. 2 (HK$2.5-3.5m) HK$4.46m
- Wang Guangyi, Post-Classical Series, After Mona Lisa (HK$2-3m) HK$4.22m
- Fang Lijun, 1997 No. 11 (HK$3-4m) HK$4.1m
- Fang Lijun, Dream of Peace (HK$2.8-3.5m) HK$4.1m
- Wenda Gu, Drama of Two Culture Formats Merge (HK$1.9-2.5m) HK$3.98m