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'There are more art investors than true collectors in China'

FENG Jianwei opened the Stir Gallery on Maoming Road S. in late 2006 and says the current economic crisis has greatly hurt the art market.

"My gallery's sales have dropped drastically since the Wall Street mess broke out in September 2008," says the gallery owner.

"Many collectors who were interested in purchasing have canceled the sales," he says. Most of his collectors are Westerners and many are from the finance industry.

It's inevitable that the market would be greatly affected in China where art, namely contemporary art, has a comparatively small audience.

According to Feng, it's not the general public that would get hurt if the Chinese art market bubble would ever burst.

"The only victims are the local galleries, auction houses, speculators and art 'investors' - I don't mean real collectors," he says. "Oh, did I mention artists? Yes, I should say that those who choose not to paint or sculpt and cater to the market have not benefited."

Feng has a point of view on what this market downturn means to the Chinese art industry, or rather, to Chinese art itself.

"In my opinion, the general public doesn't care much about art. The artists are often misguided, so are art education and art professionals," says Feng who lived in the United States for more than a decade.

"There are more art investors than true collectors in China. A gallery's function of screening artwork for the primary market has been taken over by local auction houses whose only function is to inflate art prices and demand."

Feng's gallery, fortunately, is not his major income source. He has other business but has been an art lover since he was young. His ideal is a truly pure environment some day, in which art is a cultural phenomenon, rather than a commodity and a market for investors.

"I definitely don't want to see the slowdown of the market, but I also want to see a healthier art environment," says Feng.

"Art is not an item on a store's shelf. Demand for art should be created by its creators and its appreciators, not just by a few investors and marketers.

"Art needs to be nourished, not exploited. The fruits of artists' creation should be shared and enjoyed by more people."


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