Related News

Home » Feature » Art and Culture

Painting a picture that offers brightness in the future

THIS year's Shanghai Spring Art Salon attracted about 100 Chinese and overseas galleries, though most did not have high expectations. Wang Jie looks at the big picture of art and the economic crisis.

Art Shanghai 2009, widely known as the Shanghai Spring Art Salon, the first major art event on this year's calendar, is a barometer of how the industry and market are responding.

This year it seems to be offering some hope and brightness for the local art market.

"The deals at the art fair almost exceeded 200,000 yuan (US$29,295) this year," says Ge Qiantao, director of the art salon's organizing committee. "Although we made 400,000 yuan last year, this year is really not bad!"

Running for about a week, this year's art salon has attracted about 100 Chinese and overseas galleries, though most did not have high expectations for the art market.

"Because of the global economic turndown, we didn't plan to participate in the fair at first," says Gu Yongtang, general manager of the Shanghai Grand Theater Gallery. "Yet we also understand that we really need to be on show to the public especially in these harsh times, otherwise it will not be good and responsible for our artists and collectors."

To his surprise, the results were much better than he had expected.

The Shanghai Grand Theater Gallery sold 10 pieces - almost as many as it sold at last year's fair.

"Works created by the young artists and priced below 100,000 yuan were proving quite popular," Gu says. "Most of the buyers are new faces."

The unexpected result has boosted Gu's confidence so much that he is determined to expand the exhibition size at next year's fair.

Likewise, the Shanghai Spring Gallery is satisfied with their "gains."

"We sold nearly 15 canvases and sculptures," says Susan Xie, an organizer with the gallery.

Xie notes that promising young artists whose works are priced at several dozen thousand yuan were easy to sell.

"Today the buyers are more sensible," Xie says. "They are more keen on the art itself than a short-term profit. They want something that can be displayed in their homes rather than locked up in a warehouse."

Compared with these two galleries, Zhang Jun, owner of Simply Noble Gallery, was not as fortunate.

"I only sold one piece of glassware," Zhang laments. "Although I didn't sell any paintings, that single sale could still cover my rental fees here. In other words, I made ends meet at the fair."

The unexpected popularity of many young and unknown artists at least seems to have "declared" the end of the legend of the "Big Four" (Fang Lijun, Yue Minjun, Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Guangyi) who have written astronomical price tags over the past years.

Actually the art created by the "Big Four" was not in evidence at the fair, a dramatic change from their superstar status at previous fairs.

"It's time to cool down and return to the true nature of art," Ge says.

The cooling in demand also seems to be affecting big names from overseas.

The centerpieces of the fair - Fernando Botero's US$1.3 million canvas and Salvtore Dali's sculptures - are still waiting for buyers. Because of the economic turndown that particularly affected the West, some overseas galleries started to focus on potential collectors here in China.

But nothing is easy or obvious these days.

"Some people have expressed interest in these stunning pieces, but the negotiations will be going on long after the fair," Ge says. "In fact, we have a feeling that some collectors are ready to 'hunt' for the next 'Big Four'."

The unexpected good signs for the Shanghai Spring Art Salon doesn't translate necessarily into a renaissance for the art market, at least in Beijing.

The China International Gallery Exposition (CIGE), which opened before the Shanghai Spring Art Salon, at the China World Trade Center Exhibition Hall in Beijing suffered a major setback.

Boasting that all its exhibition booths had been sold by the end of last year, CIGE had been considered the "big brother" of the industry.

To cope with a decreasing number of galleries from the United States and Europe this year, CIGE switched to attract galleries from China, Japan and South Korea.

Organizers wracked their brains to incorporate new forms that might offer a fresh look for frequent art fair participants.

But nothing worked out.

"I sold two of my paintings at CIGE, but it was not a true art deal - just a big favor from one of my collectors," says one local artist who refused to be identified.

Perhaps the uncertainty of the art market is perplexing ShContemporary, one of the biggest and most influential art fairs in Asia. Rumor says that it might be suspended this year because of the bad economic situation.

To open or not to open, this is still the question.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend