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Downsized art salon small, quality and lively

THERE are fewer exhibiting galleries from Europe and America and the exhibition space is smaller, but the Art Shanghai 2009, more commonly known as Shanghai Spring Art Salon, at ShanghaiMart still promises to be lively.

The art salon is the city's first major art fair since the global financial crisis really began to be felt in China. And it will be watched as a barometer of how the art industry and market are responding to hard times.

It runs through April 20.

Sculptures by Salvador Dali and Chinese ceramics are expected to receive considerable attention. As always, the art salon promotes the work of talented Chinese artists in varied genre.

Nearly 100 Chinese and overseas galleries will exhibit their works, slightly less than last year's 105 participants.

"Of course, there are fewer galleries from Europe and America than in previous years," says Ge Qiantao, director of the art salon's organizing committee. "But that is made up by galleries from Latin America, including Cuba, Uruguay and Puerto Rico."

In view of the economic downturn, the exhibition spaces are smaller to ease the financial pressure on galleries.

"Everyone in the art community needs to work out some solutions to overcome the bad times," says Ge.

Compared with some other big art fairs, the smaller Shanghai Spring Art Salon, established in 2003, is more able to adapt its strategy to the difficult economic times that have hit the art market.

"Unlike other fairs that aim to expand, our target is to turn the it into a small but quality art fair," says Ge.

The art salon is noted for catering to intellectuals.

"Every year, we see new faces coming here to buy art," says Ge. "I am not that pessimistic about this year's condition. After all, there are always people who are interested in art."

The spotlight of this year's art salon is a cluster of 21 sculptures by Dali exhibited by FYR Gallery from Florence, including a six-meter-high "Triumph Elephant."

The works are valued at more than several ten million yuan and many are donated by collectors in Switzerland.

Dali, along with Piccaso and Matisse, are considered the three most representative artists of the 20th century.

The salon also will exhibit works of masters such as Fernando Botero and Takashi Murakami.

Promising young Chinese artists are always promoted by the art salon.

New artists from the Ruyi Gallery in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, are thought provoking and explore the human condition.

Contemporary ceramics have become very popular and collectible these days, as the economic downturn has hurt the market for contemporary canvas, video and installation.

"The economic downturn has almost stalled speculation in Chinese contemporary canvas, photography, video and installation," says Ge. "But contemporary Chinese ceramics is totally different. It is never over-hyped and the price is acceptable to many local folks."

Ge is not alone. Gu Zhihua, director of the organizing committee of the 2009 Shanghai Art Fair, also focuses on Chinese ceramics.

"They sold unexpectedly well last year, so we decide to reserve more space for them this year," he says. Shanghai Art Fair will be held on September 9-13 also at ShanghaiMart. "They are affordable and easy to appreciate, particularly for Chinese buyers."

The city's first big art event in the economic downturn will give a sense of what's hot, what's not and what's in store.

Date: April 16-20, 10am-6pm

Address: 4/F, ShanghaiMart, 99 Xingyi Rd

Admission: 25 yuan


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