Saturday, January 11, 2014

The success of Chinese contemporary art continues

(source by Alexandre Errera) Be it auction records, international museums initiatives, prominent collectors’ efforts, or biennale and art fairs’ focus, 2013 was a tremendous year for Chinese contemporary art. And 2014 will be equally so, if not more.

If you take a closer look, the recent evidence speaks for itself. At auctions for instance: $23.3m paid last October (by a non-Chinese collector) for a painting by Zeng Fanzhi, an artist not even 50 years old. In the market, China is back as the No. 1 market in the world for contemporary art sales, and Sotheby’s and Christies started to operate in Mainland China, to cite just a few examples.

Li Xiao

An art bubble, pure speculation, you might say? Well, this time the market is not the only force putting a lot of effort to back Chinese contemporary art. As Noah Horowitz, Director of the Armory Show told me: “2013 seems to have been incredibly important year in thrusting the ‘China story’ onto the world stage, and beyond mere discussion of sky-rocketing prices.” Indeed, museums too have been launching major initiatives. The Guggenheim announced in April that it will partner with the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation to acquire Chinese contemporary art for the museum’s permanent collection. In New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has opened in December its first ever major exhibition of Chinese contemporary art, featuring 35 artists and 70 works . In Paris, the Musee d’Art Moderne offered the first major retrospective of the celebrated Chinese artist, Zeng Fanzhi. These are significant events.

Chen Wenling Happy Life n.5

International collectors are also putting their money where their mouths are. Don and Mera Rubell, influential American collectors, have used their entire museum space in Miami to showcase 28 Chinese contemporary artists. In Europe, collectors Dominique and Sylvain Levy, have extensively added artworks to their existing 200 artists-strong collection. New and young collectors outside Asia are also actively starting to buy young Chinese contemporary artists. This is without mentioning the already established collectors from within China who are putting their efforts (and heavy wallet) to build up considerably their collection, and show them in private museums, such as in the Long Museum in Shanghai.

                                                                                       Xing Junqin - Green

What about biennale and fairs? The latest Venice Biennale featured nearly 350 Chinese artists. Yes, that’s 350 artists, compared to 150 artists from 38 countries in the Central Pavilion and the Arsenale. This prompted Art in America magazine to call the Biennale “a giant survey of Chinese contemporary art, with some Western work mixed in for a balance.”  Looking ahead, the Armory Show’s (Mar 6-9, 2014) focus will be on China, and will present a selection of artists and Chinese galleries curated by the influential Philip Tinari, Director of the UCCA. This will be another platform for Chinese artists to be shown and recognized globally.

Only time will tell us whether these are just signs of a “renewed wave of interest,” in the words of Lorenz Heibling, Director of the influential ShanghART gallery, or a real turning point. What is certain is that never so many influential eyes of the art world are turned onto China, and that it has a fantastic opportunity to show what it can create.

                                                                        Ma HanToday's Landscape Fan n°6

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