Art Market Info

Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Art and collectibles insurance market set for higher growth

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 5:14 am

SINGAPORE – The insurance market for art and collectibles has seen strong growth recently and it looks set to scale even higher in line with the booming market for such expensive rare items here.

Market experts expect art sales to continue with its stellar performance in the months ahead on the back of the improving economy and rising appreciation for art pieces here.

Singapore’s position as a wealth management centre, which may attract more high net worth individuals looking for alternative investments, is another factor that may boost sales of expensive art and collectibles here.

One major player that has benefitted from the rising opportunities in this niche sector is AXA Art Insurance, a dedicated art insurance arm of European insurance giant AXA.

The company told MediaCorp that its total premiums here have risen over 75 per cent from January to July, compared to the same period last year.

AXA Art Insurance Singapore spokesperson Mr Charles Liu also said that the company’s sterling achievement in Singapore has outpaced its performance in the European market over the same period.

Mr Liu added that he foresees total premium earnings from art insurance alone to hit over $1 million this year.

“Firstly, Singapore is not as badly affected by the financial crisis as compared to Europe. Secondly, art insurance is still very new in Singapore and there is a market demand,” said Mr Liu.

Meanwhile, leading auction house Christie’s said that its Singaporean clients have spent a total of HK$54.6 million ($9.5 million) during its Hong Kong 2010 spring auctions. This is a whopping 169-per-cent increase from the same period last year.

It added that its Singapore clients have increased their spending across the different categories such as jewellery, watches, Asian contemporary art and Chinese 20th Century art, as well as South-east Asian modern and contemporary art.

Specialised insurance for art or collectibles typically covers the item from the purchase date, including when it is transiting or is displayed in the house. It helps with restoration fees if the piece is damaged. However, it usually does not compensate for the loss of investment value.

The insurer will examine and conduct an annual valuation of items based on their quality, artists’ prominence and existing market demand.

They will also assess the storage conditions regularly. For example, AXA Art does not cover gradual deterioration due to weather conditions. However, it covers external and accidental loss – such as those caused by flooding – on a case-by-case basis.

Market players said that the biggest challenge in the industry now is the lack of skilled professionals.

“It is difficult to find someone with art expertise to evaluate art pieces and the business acumen to grow the company,” said Mr Liu, who was trained as an artist in China.

Apart from AXA, other market players include United Overseas Insurance which offers The United Fine Art Insurance Policy to selected clients.

However, Christie’s said that its insurance arm focuses its services mainly in Europe and provides coverage for items sold from its auctions for up to seven days or till they are collected.

Some gallery owners and collectors have turned to their existing home insurance policies to provide protection for their collections.

However, experts said such extension or option may limit the amount insured and can be invalid once the item leaves the house.


Sotheby’s Hong Kong Announces Autumn Contemporary Asian Art Sale

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 5:10 am

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong will hold its Contemporary Asian Art sale on 4 October at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. This season, in addition to the regular various-owner sale, Sotheby’s is honoured to present Property from an Important European Collection, a single-owner sale encompassing 38 lots expected to fetch a total of over HK$30 million / US$3.8 million. The sale highlights seminal works by the likes of Zhang Xiaogang, Yu Youhan, Ding Yi, Li Songsong and Wang Du. Presenting important works by numerous Shanghai artists, this collection provides a rare opportunity to understand the creations of Shanghai contemporary artists as a group. Selected highlights will be on view throughout September in Asia and during Asia Art Week in New York, followed by an exhibition open to the public in Hong Kong from 2 to 3 October. See Notes to Editors at the end of this press release for details.

Ms. Evelyn Lin, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Asian Art Department, said, “A systematic collection can illuminate the zeitgeist embedded within art works. Sotheby’s is honoured to present Property from an Important European Collection comprising major works by Fang Lijun, Zhang Xiaogang, Wang Guangyi, Li Shan, Ding Yi and others. These works are unique documents to help our understanding of China and the country’s expeditious progress. What makes this collection even more significant is the presence of major works by leading Shanghai artists, who are more attuned to scrutinising urban life compared with their Beijing counterparts. Among these important works are Gaudy Art representative Yu Youhan’s The Waving Mao and, for the first time ever, the complete photo and video masterpiece by Yang Zhenzhong, Light as Fuck I. We hope that this auction will help contemporary Chinese art collectors understand Shanghai artists and their environment as well as broaden their collecting interest.”

Avant-Garde Art in Shanghai
Property from an Important European Collection includes seminal works by avant -garde artists active in Shanghai in the 1980s and 1990s, in addition to other renowned contemporary Chinese artists, such as Zhang Xiaogang, Fang Lijun, Yue Minjun and Wang Guangyi. Ever since the implementation of its open-door policy, China’s avant-garde art movement has grown in leaps and bounds. Shanghai plays an indispensable role in contemporary Chinese art as a link between Chinese and Western styles. Following the legacy of Wu Dayu and other pioneers of Abstraction in modern Chinese painting, Shanghai artists have proven to be daring in experimenting with forms and styles. Among them are Ding Yi who responds to Western Minimalism from his unique perspective, and Yu Youhan and Li Shan, both of whom excel in Political Pop and Gaudy Art.

Navigating in a different realm from those in other regions of China, Shanghai artists are exceptionally independent and individualistic. Living in a crowded city where urban anonymity breeds indifference, Shanghai artists are intrinsically different from their counterparts from the North, especially Beijing. Often, Shanghai artists are more engaged with society; they observe and respond with sensitivity to issues such as urbanisation and consumerism. During the 1990s Gaudy Art became popular, with Yu Youhan being its most prominent proponent. Having taken leave of Abstract art, Yu appropriates Mao Zedong’s image in his Political Pop art which made his name heard. Living in a bustling metropolis where materialism reigns supreme, Yu experiments with vibrant colours and popular subjects to reflect and to analyse the excesses of urban consumerism. Among the Property from an Important European Collection are also works by Yang Zhenzhong, Pu Jie, and Liu Jianhua, all of whose works render their perspectives on the highly commercial world that is Shanghai.

Among the highlights of this collection is Yu Youhan’s (b. 1943) The Waving Mao (Est. HK$700,000-900,000 / US$90,000-120,000) which is similar to an earlier piece by the same artist. Political Pop emerged as a principle avant-garde movement in the post-1989 era and Yu Youhan is among its best advocates. While inspired by propaganda posters from the Cultural Revolution, Yu Youhan is also influenced by Western Impressionism and Modernism. His series of works featuring Mao Zedong’s image reflect the changing circumstances of China’s economy, politics and culture since the beginning of Communist reign, transforming the almost sacred image of Chairman Mao into mere ornament. The Waving Mao was commissioned by fashion designer Vivienne Tam in 1995. The Chinese inscription on the lower right corner of the painting reads: “Made for Madam Vivienne Tam, Yu Youhan, 1995”. An earlier work from 1990 with the same title was featured in the groundbreaking exhibition China’s New Art: Post-1989.

Ding Yi’s (b. 1962) Appearances of Crosses – 6 (Est. HK$1.5-2.5 million /US$190,000-320,000) created in 2005 is another important work in this collection. Begun in 1988, the Appearance of Crosses series is among Ding Yi’s rare large-scale works and centres on one of the most common symbols of the human subconscious. Yet Ding Yi empties the symbol of its meaning by turning orderly patterns into painterly brushstrokes and subverting the viewer’s conventional response to the symbol, with the densely packed crosses probing the viewer’s spatial perception of the canvas’s surface. Depending on viewing distance, one is presented with distinct, textured shapes and a giant cross embedded within; patterns on the canvas are as vibrant as exploding fireworks. Conveying the inharmonious complexity of contemporary urban existence, this work is an inspiration to behold. Appearance of Crosses – 6 is among Ding Yi’s favourite works and was featured on the catalogue cover for the retrospective on the artist held by Birmingham’s IKON Gallery in 2006.

Other Highlights
Another highlight of this collection is Zhang Xiaogang’s (b. 1958) Bloodline Series: Yellow Baby (Est. HK$5-7 million / US$ 640,000-900,000) from 1997. Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline Series portraits are based on old family photographs and charcoal drawings. Cool tones are dominant and colour is usually limited to a small patch on the cheek, the thin red blood line, or an occasional flash of colour on the garments. Through them, we see Chinese people in the early years after Communist liberation, during a period of material depravation when men and women both wore the obligatory Mao suit, which de-emphasised gender and class differences. Each anonymous face looks virtually identical and iconic of an era of social suppression. However, Zhang Xiaogang’s meticulous care in providing colour on the cheeks or thin red blood lines still delineates individual character. The subject sitting in the chair in Bloodline Series: Yellow Baby appears to be female, although the hair and clothing suggests a male toddler, bringing out contrasts of identities in terms of age and gender. Despite the inviting, cottony softness of the background, it alienates the child from reality, seemingly isolated in its world, creating a paradox that evokes empathy from the viewer. It is one of the most representative works from Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline Series of the 1990s.

Put Down Your Whip (Est. HK$2-3 million / US$260,000-38,000) created by Li Songsong (b. 1973) in 2007 is one of very few of the artist’s works derived from another work of art: Situ Qiao’s painting of the same title currently in the collection of the National Art Museum. While Situ Qiao’s work was based on an anti-war play against the Japanese occupation, Li Songsong deconstructs and reconstructs the image in his unique style of Abstraction, distancing the viewer from the historical event, therefore dissolving the realism of the original painting and its nature as a record of history. In doing so the artist refocuses the viewer’s attention on pure artistic expressions and reveals the changing nature of Chinese art in the past century, which is truly thought-provoking. As Li Songsong once said, “No matter how you paint, there is no way to conceal the reality of history… but perhaps my painting can provide some scepticism in the way we look upon certain issues or ideas.”

Another highlight of the collection is Wang Du’s (b. 1956) No Comment (est. HK$1.2-1.8 million / US$150,000-230,000), which was exhibited in the opening exhibition of Palais de Tokyo – Site de création contemporain in Paris. Wang Du, who now lives in Paris, concentrates on the critical analysis and deconstruction of the power and ubiquity of the mass media. A person of influence in the Chinese art world for decades, Wang Du has established an international reputation as a leading conceptual artist. Created in 2001, No Comment is characteristic of Wang Du’s creations, with the artist’s beliefs conveyed effectively through both the medium and the message. The double meaning of the work’s title and the newspapers in the trash can both clearly reveal the artist’s conviction: that daily news is rubbish, and that people consume this media with as little care as they give their trash. The majority of the newspapers in the waste basket are the left-leaning Libération rather than the more conservative Le Monde, another detail that informs us of the artist’s beliefs. In the age of overflowing information, one live television newsfeed works as well as any other to convey the artist’s outrage.

The Art Market: Back in gear

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 5:09 am

The art world is definitely back in gear after the summer with a slew of events across the globe. In Shanghai, the fourth edition of ShContemporary continues until Sunday. This fair has changed considerably since its original ambitions to bring powerful western dealers to China: it now overwhelmingly features galleries from the Asia-Pacific region, from Seoul to Sydney. In Paris, the annual gallery trawl Parcours des Mondes, now in its ninth year, brings together 68 dealers in tribal art. African, Oceanic, Pre-Colombian and Asian works of art are on offer, with price tags that range from under €1,000 to six-figure sums. From Wednesday, the Grand Palais in Paris hosts its equally grand antiques-and-art event, the Biennale des Antiquaires, with everything from antiquities or tip-top 18th-century French furniture to modern art. In New York, Asian Art Week features auctions – including a single-owner collection of archaic bronzes at Christie’s on Thursday – and dealer shows, with Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Himalayan art. Erik Thomsen is showing a pair of enormous screens, “Vying Peacocks” from the Taisho period (early 20th century). And in an interesting initiative, Christie’s is co-operating with the Chinese Ministry of Culture to present work by contemporary Chinese artists at the Rockefeller Center. The firm, it will be remembered, was in bad odour with the Chinese authorities after the aborted sale of two bronze heads from the Zodiac fountain, looted from the Summer Palace in 1840. The heads were bought at the Yves Saint Laurent sale last year by a Chinese buyer who, as a patriotic gesture, never paid for them. This month’s show looks like an attempt to build bridges after that debacle. Asia Week in the galleries starts this week and continues until the end of the month.

The latest financial centre to sit up and take notice of art as an investment is the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. On September 22, the semi-governmental agency, Luxembourg for Finance, is holding its first conference on the subject. Organiser Elisabeth Kugel admits she was startled by the positive response: “We sent invitations to asset managers and bankers, plus some artists and gallery owners, and we already have 180 people signed up, coming from Luxembourg but also from Belgium, France and the UK. We didn’t expect nearly as many.”

The conference is being held in the state’s modern art museum and the main speaker is Michael Moses, co-founder of the Mei Moses art index and of Beautiful Asset Advisors. “We are always searching for new niches and, following the financial crisis, we think this is a good time to promote ‘emotional assets’ such as art,” says Kugel. “If the response is positive, we might decide to establish art as an investment for the financial centre, like microfinance or Islamic finance.”

The contentious subject of artists, resale rights, the levy on the resale of work by living artists seems to be one element in the recent split between Bonhams, the London auction house, and Adam’s, Dublin’s long-established auction house. The two firms have ended their 12-year association and Bonhams will inaugurate its own Irish art sale in London in February. James O’Halloran, Adam’s managing director, says: “One of the problems in the market is the levy. Auction houses charge the buyers in Britain, but we in the Republic of Ireland have to charge the vendor. With the financial crisis, some art is being resold for less now than its purchase price, and the vendors feel it is hard to have to pay the levy when they’re making a loss, particularly if they had already paid it as buyer, when they bought in the UK.”

Irish art is a small market that saw a boom in the early years of this century but has since weakened considerably. Hopes that Irish-Americans would buy into the field never materialised. But O’Halloran says Adam’s has managed to weather the financial crisis in Ireland and the drop in prices, and has opened an office and gallery in the Northern Irish capital Belfast. “The market is consolidating here in Dublin,” he says. While sale volumes “went off a cliff” in 2008, “we had already persuaded our vendors that they couldn’t expect boom prices and we have been able to produce consistent sell-through rates of around 80 per cent,” he says.

A contested ‘Giacometti’ entitled ‘Homme qui chavire’

A second Giacometti faking case has opened in Stuttgart, Germany, following on from a related case heard earlier this year, which resulted in guilty verdicts for three men accused of forging Giacometti bronzes (a judicial review is pending). In this new case, four men and a woman are accused of counterfeiting some 1,150 bronzes and plasters by the artist, which the police found in a “secret” warehouse in Mainz. According to the prosecution, the defendants attempted to sell 300 bronzes and 100 plasters, valued at €50m, through a New York gallery in 2008 and 2009. The prosecution says fakes worth around €9m were sold by the accused to buyers in Germany and elsewhere, and that they also tried to sell 17 works, worth €1.3m, to an undercover police investigator.

Press reports have named one of the accused as Lothar Wilfried Senke, who allegedly claimed that he knew Diego Giacometti, Alberto’s brother, and had access to a series of works that had been hidden for years.

The expert witness in the first trial was Mary Lisa Palmer, director of the Giacometti Association (there is also a rival Giacometti Foundation, but that’s another story). She says: “The way to rid the market of fakes is through education, but in the meantime the best thing to do is contact our association, which is also attentive to ‘provenance’.”

Indonesian Artists Drawing on Experience

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 5:07 am

One of the good things about living in a city the size of Jakarta is that, no matter how obscure your talent or hobby, chances are you can find a group of like-minded people who share your interests and passions.

A good example of this is a new group called Kelir Buku Anak (Community of Children’s Book Illustrators). The group was formed in September as a means of improving the standards and professionalism of Indonesian artists specializing in the illustration of children’s books. The word kelir is slang in Indonesian for “to color.”

“We formed this organization so we would be better able to help struggling illustrators navigate the children’s book industry in Indonesia,” said 30-year-old Evelyn Gozalli, one of the group’s co-founders.

Today, the group has around 116 active members who regularly meet to share information about the illustration business in Indonesia and trade helpful hints drawn from past experiences as well as providing networking for job opportunities.

“I joined the group to have the chance to meet people who work in the same field as me and to get new information while building my network at the same time,” said 29-year-old group member Nikki Ayumurti Hartomo, a full-time illustrator.

Nikki, who is earning her master’s degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design in the US, has already published two children’s books titled “What Shall We Wear” and “Lula The Cannonball Girl.” She said she chose illustration as a profession because she liked both visual art and children.

“My father is a painter, so art has always been close to my life,” Nikki said.

An avid reader as a child, she admits to being raised on a steady diet of fantasy books. “It was so exciting to read those kinds of books because I could always go wild with my imagination.”

Nikki describes her drawings as an illustrator as “decorative, cute, humorous and playful.” She said she prefers to work with traditional techniques involving watercolors and colored pencils to draw her trademark subjects, a combination of cute monsters and animals. “I always imagine that God must have been laughing when he was creating all the animals in this world.”

Meanwhile, Evelyn describes her specific genre as “cartoons of romanticism.” She loves to draw her children characters with big eyes because, “that way I can show children’s innocence and curiosity.”

Nikki said there was no specific message that she wanted to spread through her drawings. “I just want to ask people just to have fun by looking at my drawings.”

“I love it when people can smile or be entertained from looking at my illustrations. When that happens, it means that I have accomplished my goal,” she said.

That’s why, she added, “I always have fun when doing my job.”

Evelyn said that, overall, illustrators of children’s books in Indonesia continue to make vast improvements. “Some of our illustrators are working on the same quality level as illustrators overseas,” she said.

Nikki agreed. According to her, young Indonesian illustrators who specialize in children’s books are getting better each day. “Their ability to tell a story through drawing is becoming more solid and varied.”

But Evelyn believes one main hurdle must be overcome before the growing talent level of Indonesian illustrators can be fully appreciated. She points to the persistent lack of reading habits among too many Indonesians, especially when it comes to children’s books.

The community is attempting to combat the problem by meeting it head on. They regularly conduct workshops, exhibitions and seminars, all of which are open to the public. In May, the organization’s members were involved in a World Book Day event held in Kuningan, South Jakarta. The event was a big success in reaching out to would be illustrators as well as the public.

Nikki said she hoped the illustration group will continue to help Indonesia improve its ranks of aspiring young illustrators while encouraging them to dedicate their talents to the development of children’s books in this country. “I hope illustrators of children’s books in Indonesia can continue to improve their work until it can consistently compete at the international level.”

The Community of Children’s Book Illustrators says it will continue to push for this improvement while helping readers to enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

Art market recovers but still has far to go

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 5:06 am

The ninth Korean International Art Fair (KIAF) closed its doors at COEX, southern Seoul, Monday, after five days of dealers, curators and curious passersby weighed the contents within.

Though the art market has considerably slowed since the economic recession in 2008, aesthetes are hopeful for a slow rise back to pre-crash figures, with KIAF to be one such indicator for the Korean industry. This year’s fair was Asia’s largest yet, surpassing the 2010 Hong Kong Art Fair in May, with 193 galleries from 16 countries, although many sales sheets were still left wanting.

“Compared with last year, there were about 20,000 more people this year and in terms of sales about 3 billion won ($2.54 million) higher,’’ said Pyo Mi-sun, the president of Pyo Gallery and head of the Galleries Association of Korea. “Although the economy isn’t that great yet _ and whether it’s because of the expectation that the economy will get better or because people just have a big appetite for buying artwork right now and appreciate it ― I think that the recovery of the art industry isn’t far.’’

France’s Maria Lund, director of her eponymous gallery and a regular at KIAF, was also satisfied with this year’s showcase.

“We’ve been selling smaller pieces this year, which I believe is due to the economy,’’ Lund said, although she feels that the 2010 event has been more successful, with higher-quality work. “You could say things are looking up.’’

The event seemed to close optimistically for some, though a few directors could be seen wrapping up their artwork in bubble wrap more than an hour to closing, the desirable red dots markedly sparse. Some curators noted the lack of key collectors, which contributed to an overall show of poor sales, and the final day saw a largely student-crowd, walking through exhibition-like and snapping photos of their favorite works when director’s backs were turned.

The greatest concentration of sold stickers could be found in the U.K. corridor ― this year’s guest country ― and within that, at Other Criteria, Damien Hirst’s publishing company that works with a selection of artists to output limited edition art.

“He has probably one of the highest profiles of any contemporary artist in the world,’’ said manager Keinton Butler. “And I think that he has had a fair amount of exposure here in Korea.

“I think that Korean buyers, particularly in this market, feel that he’s a good investment.’’

Eager as domestic buyers were to snatch up the young British artist’s work, it did seem that economic factors were inevitably a deciding issue. Though several booths showcased Hirst ― including Pyo Gallery, though the original “Spin’’ did not sell ― the selection of prints at his official publishing booth were most popular.

Tellingly of the art atmosphere was the inclusion of Liverpool-based Static Gallery, an alternative artists’ organization whose booth ― humorously and educationally ― displayed a large blueprint of the KIAF exhibition hall, with red dots marking sales in a relatively live-time view of each gallery’s progress.

“We’re looking at the hierarchy of the art fair,’’ said Paul Sullivan, director of Static, explaining that he hypothesized the most dots would centralize around the fair’s main corridor of booths.

The only entrant invited by the British Embassy (as opposed to fair organizers), Static sought participation between attending galleries, inviting directors to apply the red stickers themselves as works were sold. Sullivan noted that it was intriguing to see how much information galleries revealed ― surprisingly, some even disclosed the cost of each work.

Fittingly, the issue of selling work was not the main mission of Static: “The currency of what we do is not always money.”

ShContemporary Vies for Top-Tier Status After a Lukewarm Closing

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 5:05 am

SHANGHAI— The ShContemporary art fair wrapped up on Sunday with only modest sales, but participant galleries largely satisfied with the outing. However, given the sluggish results expected from the Korea International Art Fair, which concluded yesterday, the message seems to be that the contemporary Asian market as a whole is not heating up as quickly as might have been expected, especially in the wake of the stellar results at May’s ART HK in Hong Kong. All eyes now turn to the contemporary and modern auctions, which commence on October 4 in Hong Kong, for a more definitive read on where the market is going.
The stand-out performers at ShContemporary included Alexander Ochs Galleries of Berlin and Beijing and Bo Yin International Contemporary Gallery of Shanghai. Asia Art Center of Beijing and Taipei, Frantic of Tokyo, and Eli Klein of New York also all recorded some solid sales in the midst of a quiet fair.
Alexander Ochs featured the work of up-and-coming young painter Lu Song. Beijing-born and UK-trained, he had five works on display, four of which sold for $6,000 apiece during the course of the fair. More substantial for Ochs was the sale of a Wu Shugang piece for $70,000, which was reportedly snatched up as a birthday present for a very lucky husband. Ochs also moved a work by the Korean painter Yoo Junghyun on the opening day for $20,000.

Meanwhile, Bo Yin had on offer the striking, if rather histrionic, paintings of Zhuang Baolin. These proved a winning choice for the gallery, which closed deals with collectors from Belgium on five of the artist’s works — one canvas commanding $1.2 million with four others going for around $400,000 each. Another China-based gallery with a reason to be cheerful was the Asia Art Center, with Li Chen’s irreverent sculptures winning bids of up $200,000. The gallery is looking to expand next year, with its sights set on India and Dubai.
Among the international guests, Tokyo’s Frantic Gallery, on their first foray into Shanghai, was featuring works by Taisuke Mohri, Macoto Murayama, and Naritaka Satoh. They sold a Mohri for $13,000 and a Murayama for $25,000. For Frantic, the fair is mostly about building their reputation in China, connecting with collectors, galleries, and museums. Gallery curator Rodion Trofimchencko was enthusiastic about the potential of Shanghai: “There are problems here, but there are always problems. It is such a big market, you have to be prepared to spend time and fix the problems. You have to think about the future. If you just think about the future, you die today.”
Gallerist Eli Klein was upbeat as well. A cheerful party scene by Zhang Gong, titled “Night Club,” went to a collector within a few hours of the fair’s opening for $30,000. Zhang Gong is a professor in the animation department at Beijing’s Qinghua University whose animations and witty, detailed canvases have attracted attention for some years. “Night Club” depicts a droll group of animated characters, including Kung Fu Panda and Gong’s own wispy heroine, Miss Panda — with the boys from “South Park,” caught in the act of looking up her skirt.
Klein believes it is important to recognize that art in China is developing in its own way. “Chinese artists are often making larger works than western artists,” he said. “Some of the galleries in China are huge and dwarf the spaces of many US galleries. The artists here can get used to working in airplane hangars.”
The world financial crisis caused a shakeout in China’s art world, Klein said, adding, “There has been a negative stigma attached to Chinese art — that the prices were inflated.” This was true of some artists, Klein explained: “When the Chinese art market collapsed, an important aspect was that artists who had unreasonable pricing found they would never realize those prices again. This hurt the reputation of Chinese art.”
This was not a problem exclusive to China, of course, but Klein claimed that there are artists he does not want to work with because of their pricing. “In this business everyone has to be happy,” he said. “This is not a one-and-done-deal business. Our clients have stayed happy. The prices for the works they bought have held up or increased at the expected rate.” And yet he admitted that it is a difficult market to learn, “If you don’t know what you are doing and want to dabble in Chinese art without good advice, you are almost sure to get burned.”

Performance art is dead

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 5:02 am

It is no longer the provocative genre it once was now artists are succumbing to the pressures of commerce.

Dialogue and Demolition, an art piece many Beijingers are famimilar with, was created by Zhang Dali, in 1998. [China Daily]

Peking University art professor Zhu Qingsheng recalls coming away disappointed from The Constructive Dimension, billed as “the first collective appearance of vanguard art in the new century”, at the National Art Museum of China recently. “It failed to present a complete picture of Chinese contemporary art,” Zhu says.

“Performance art, a crucial component of Chinese vanguard art, was absent from the much-hyped exhibition,” he adds.

That missing piece can now be found at an ongoing exhibition at Pace Beijing, in the capital’s 798 Art Zone.

Above: In Miniature Long March, artist Qin Ga tattoos a record of his travels across China, following the Long March route. Below: Breathing, by Song Dong, involves breathing on the ground in different locations. [China Daily]

Although featuring some of the most recognizable performance artists of today such as Zhang Huan, Song Dong, Yang Zhichao, and Qiu Zhijie, the exhibition’s opening early this month was a low-key affair. There was nothing to suggest its title, The Great Performance.

Rather, it provides a history of performance art from the early 1990s to the present through the videos, installations, paintings and photographs of more than 30 of the most exciting artists of contemporary times, says curator Leng Lin.

Slated to run through Oct 16, it “offers viewers a chance to re-examine one of the nation’s most shocking and provocative vanguard art genres” despite the absence of some of the more notorious, visually disturbing images, points out art critic Yang Shiyang.

Performance art first emerged in the West in the mid-20th century.

“It did not appear in China until the 1980s when the nation gradually opened its doors to the outside world and local artists began seeking more radical ways to express their yearning for freedom and independence,” says art historian Lu Peng.

Breaking free of the long-dominant Socialist Realism style, this kind of art rose in prominence with the end of the “cultural revolution” (1966-76) and the start of China’s reform and opening-up.

Its high season came in February 1989 when the first large-scale exhibition of contemporary art was held at the National Art Museum of China.

The exhibition ended abruptly in chaos after artist Xiao Lu fired two gunshots, as the final touch to her performance/installation work entitled Dialogue.

At the turn of the century, exposed to various art concepts from abroad and increasingly pressured by the fast-changing social reality to find new forms of expression, some Chinese artists began taking to performance art in a big way, Lu says.

In 1990, in Guangzhou, capital of southern China’s Guangdong province, local artists including Xu Tan, Lin Yilin and Liang Juhui formed the Big Tail Elephant team, in response to rapid urban development, consumerism, traffic congestion and gender roles, in Southern China.

In one of their performances – Maneuvering across the Lin He Road – they built a brick wall on the side of a major thoroughfare in Hong Kong, then moved it brick by brick across the street, creating an enormous traffic jam.

The wall, they said, symbolized national and cultural borders; by moving it across the street, and creating urban chaos in the process, the artists said that it “showed the precarious situation in which nations find themselves when their political and economic borders shift”.

It also showed, they said, resistance to the forces of the kind of modernization that the city of Hong Kong embodies.

Performance art became popular across the country in the 1990s, with artists staging numerous live shows in public spaces. Local media called them “strange and disturbing”.

However, critic Huang Zhuan points out that the evolution of performance art in China has taken a totally different path from that in the West. Unlike in the West, performance art here comprises sporadic acts that are disconnected from the nations’ art history.

“Chinese vanguard artists are taking advantage of every cultural and technological resource available – be it Chinese characters, ready-made objects, the human body, or videos, photographs, folk culture, and the Internet – to express their individual feelings and observations.”

For instance, artist Xu Bing in his 1994 performance art – A Case Study of Transference – used Chinese characters and Latin words, ink, seals, pigs and boars, to express the idea of the collision of cultures.

Artist Song Dong sought inspiration from Chinese calligraphy, writing with a brush dipped in water to explore the philosophical idea of “creating something out of nothing.” Zhao Bandi used a toy panda as a prop for his series of works on topics such as climate change, wildlife protection, and non-smoking.

Meanwhile, artist Zhang Huan tortured himself, attracting wide attention.

These works were referred to as shock art, provoking much debate about whether they could even be considered as art.

Consequently, some prominent performance artists, such as Ma Liuming and Cang Xin, have been barred from public exhibitions and shut out from media exposure on the mainland with their works being slammed as “shocking, disturbing and even subversive.”

Not surprisingly, the performance art movement has lost its steam, says Leng Lin, curator of the on-going exhibition in the 798 Art Zone.

Some of the well-known names such as Zhang Huan, Xu Bing and Qiu Zhijie have taken to installations instead.

Zhang Huan admits that he has turned to ash paintings and cow-skin paintings “because of a lack of novel ideas and new inspiration.”

Some say these artists are simply trying to figure out new ways of making more money.

While performance art is taboo at official exhibitions, “The surge of commercialism and consumerism and the advent of the Internet, have also demystified it as a sharp-edged, vanguard art”, says critic Wu Hong.

“Performance art has become chic acts catering to the curiosity of the middle class and the newly rich.”

The boundaries between art and life, and art and business, are also blurring, says critic Li Rongkun.

For instance, some netizens are assuming the role of performance artists, uploading their weird performances, in a bid for overnight stardom.

“Businesses are also hiring amateur actors and actresses to stage so called performance art,” art critic Zhou Wenhan says.

“The sole purpose is to draw more attention to their products … whether there is art or not, nobody cares any more.”

Art market picks up pace

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 5:01 am

The domestic art market still has some obstacles to overcome before it can compete internationally. This was the conclusion reached at two large art fairs held in Shanghai recently – Shanghai Art Fair and ShContemporary.

The recent ShContemporary drew collectors and viewers alike. [China Daily]

The 14th Shanghai Art Fair, held from Sept 8 to 12, at Shanghaimart, announced the total trade volume of this year’s fair rose to almost 70 million yuan ($10.4 million), 40 percent higher than last year.

“China’s art market is picking up slowly after the bubble burst at the end of 2008,” said Mauro Malfatti, director of the International Division of BolognaFiere, organizer of ShContemporary, held from Sept 9 to 12 at Shanghai Exhibition Center.

However, although ShContemporary has established a reputation as one of the best contemporary art fairs in Asia, insiders say that heavy taxation has hindered its development.

Imported artworks are in the same category as luxury goods in China and attract a 33 percent tariff if sold at art fairs in the Chinese mainland. Art fairs in Hong Kong and Singapore, on the other hand, have “zero tariff” policies.

“It has been a major problem, and we have filed reports to the relevant government sectors,” said Gu Zhihua, executive secretary of the Shanghai Art Fair Organizing Committee. “But this issue involves very senior departments of the government and changes can’t be made overnight.”

Many industry insiders make their deals elsewhere in order to avoid paying the tariff.

“You can find an artwork you like at ShContemporary, then make the deal later in Hong Kong and bring the piece into the mainland,” said a gallery owner who asked not to be named. “It’s common practice – that’s why a fair like ShContemporary doesn’t disclose its trade volume.”

When the buyer brings the piece to China, he can declare a much lower price to the Chinese Customs, which is incapable of accurate evaluation of the true price of an artwork, especially a contemporary piece, Malfatti explained.

One gallery owner said that you can even call the artwork a “personal belonging” and avoid paying the tariff altogether.

“Unless this obstacle is removed, there can’t be any common art market communication,” said Dr Yu Jinglu, director of the Shanghai Grand Theater Gallery.

Another problem is shipment. One gallery owner who asked to remain anonymous, said that artworks are often damaged at Chinese Customs, when shipped in or out of China and that bureaucratic hassles often delay artworks at customs while the necessary paperwork is sorted out.

“Of course you can hire professional art shipping companies – who have the right connections for the job, but the cost will be five to eight times higher than shipping artworks as ordinary goods.”

Despite these difficulties, China’s collectors are still showing great enthusiasm for investing in art.

“Now the stock market is not doing well, people have realized that buying art can be a good investment,” Yu said.

The contemporary Chinese art scene was discovered by the international art world around 2000. Prices soared rapidly for Chinese art, and a bubble arose in the market, Malfatti said. The global economic recession burst the bubble and the market experienced a 30-45 percent drop in prices.

Now collectors are becoming more informed.

“They are learning to pay attention to the quality of the artworks, and buying something they truly like, instead of something they believe will increase in value very soon,” Malfatti said.

Both the Shanghai Art Fair and ShContemporary have organized educational events for potential investors, believing that their maturity can boost the healthy development of China’s art market.

Shanghai Art Fair invited experts to evaluate private collections of jade, ceramic, antiques and artworks, and special classes were given to VIP clients of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China about art appreciation.

ShContemporary’s Asia Pacific Collectors Development Program, which takes collectors to international art fairs and museums and teaches them art history and appreciation, held contemporary art forums at this year’s event.

Uli Sigg from Switzerland, one of the most important private collectors of contemporary Chinese art who has been buying contemporary Chinese art “from day one of its appearance”, said that he would continue to buy contemporary art, but he would only consider buying artworks from well-established artists such as Zhang Xiaogang and Fang Lijun “if they do something different, something new”.

王易罡:从西方到东方 从大陆到台湾

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 4:59 am




Contemporary Malaysian art fair encourages tourist dollar

In Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 at 4:57 am


1 Malaysia Contemporary Arts Tourism Festival 2010 or MCAT 2010, organised by Tourism Malaysia, is a new Malaysian visual art festival that is attempting to draw more “high-yield” tourists to the region. To support this festival, the government body has released a useful and comprehensive guide to Malaysian galleries and events.

‘Teka Teki’ (2010, acrylic on canvas), by Malaysian artist Masnoor Ramli, is one of the works held in the Aliya and Farouk Khan Collection. Image courtesy of Tourism Malaysia.
Presented as a contemporary art festival, it will showcase art from internationally recognised Malaysian-born artists through a series of seminars and exhibitions. Events began in June this year and will continue through October. Key highlights mentioned in the the press release include:

“… a display of Aliya and Farouk Khan’s personal collection as well as several exciting and vibrant works by some of the best internationally-acclaimed Malaysian artists, both young and established ones such as Abdul Multhalib Musa, who is regarded as one of Malaysia’s leading contemporary sculptors; Fauzan Omar; Annuar Rashid; abstract expressionist Yusof Ghani; Eng Hwee Chu; visual artist/writer A. Jegadeva; Dhavinder Gill and many more.

Other art works that will be showcased include those by Ahmad Zakii Anwar, Hamir Saib, Tan Chin Kuan, Shooshie Sulaiman, Umibaizurah Mahir, Kaw Leong Kang, Anthony Chang, Rajinder Singh, Bayu Utomo, Fauzan Mustapha, Stephen Menon, Ivan Lam and the list goes on. Besides the presence of curators and art collectors during the three-month period, world-renowned speakers such as Mika Kuraya from Japan and Russell Storer from Australia will also be there to conduct the seminars.”

To assist festival attendees in finding their bearings in Malaysia’s contemporary art scene, Tourism Malaysia has put together the “Tourism Art Trail“, a directory of contemporary art galleries, seminars and talks on Malaysia’s contemporary art scene, information on places where art tourists can visit as well as events they can attend or participate in.

The festival is projected to contribute RM115 billion and create two million jobs by 2015.