This ran last week and then got buried by fluff. Charlie Finch gets political and it’s a very interested read.
Posts Tagged ‘Chinese contemporary art’
So the results from the London auctions are in, discussions with my associates who visited Frieze were had, Richard Polsky published his official (and kinda cheesy) buy, sell, hold “art market guide 2007” and then a handsome financial advisor from Chicago sent me this article from yesterday’s WSJ.
After processing all of this – these are my thoughts:
The most important info from the WSJ article is at the bottom when Rubell, the alpha collector, claims that its not the credit crunch affecting him, its the exchange rate. That was the same thing I heard from those with dollars at Frieze.
Then the article went on to say that only 19% of the buyers at Sotheby’s Contemporary auction in London were American. That is low (12% Asian, Middle Eastern & 42% European), really low and very telling of the future. So is the fact that the Chinese Contemporary sales did so well.
I missed the art market’s passing from Paris to New York, but I think I will live to see its move to London.
As for Polsky’s art market guide published on ArtNet News, his advice resonated well with WSJ and the auction results. He stamped Doig, Hirst, Yuskavage with a SELL in his guide. But re: his Yuskavage commment, I didn’t get it, I thought the opposite was true.
Overall, I thought his advice was very conservative and was surprised that Warhol was a BUY – but maybe he is doomed to claim that forever (if you don’t get it, you should be ashamed, please click here)
So, are the young contemporary Western artists going to suffer from this financial uncertainty? We will have to wait until December for the next round of auctions and fairs to see.
After disappointing sales for Bonham’s in Hong Kong, the auctions held by Poly International Auction Company in Beijing has impressed even the duopoly of Sotheby’s and Christies. The FT article Into the Void by Natasha Degen reported that Poly’s last auction was a success with the 80% Chinese and 10% Western patrons bidding on the highest quality works seen together in the auction market.
The art market has curiously become important in China which experts argue is due to the absence of an established museum infrastructure. Chinese museums do not have high curatorial standards and rarely exhibit contemporary art. “Right now there’s a void, so the galleries and the auction companies have naturally filled that void,” said Beijing dealer Meg Maggio. “It’s like we’re missing the third point on the triangle.”
American collector of Chinese Contemporary and owner of 210 works said the shortage of important exhibitions in China, and in the West, was Chinese contemporary art’s “Achilles heel.” “There’s not a good conceptual understanding of what the art’s all about,” says Logan. “Everybody can quote the prices but there’s not a real thorough understanding of why this art is important and where it fits into the total scheme of things.”
Beijing has been developing to correct this void of knowledge which is affecting new collectors, wanting to own Chinese Contemporary. The Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art is opening this fall, the Central Academy of Art’s Museum of Contemporary Art is under construction, there is also the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and The Poly Group is restructuring their art museum of antiquities to include Contemporary Art.
Predictions are that the new museums and serious contemporary art spaces will divert attention away from the auctions, or private/commercial sector, to curators and critics for validation.
Wu Guanzhong, Ancient City of Jiaohe (1981)
Sold to a Singaporean Chinese for a record ¥37 million or $4.9 million at Poly
A large work by Fang Lijun priced and sold for $1million was at Art & Public.
Shanghart had works by Wang Guangyi and Zeng Fanzhi (the Fanzhi sold for $530,000 to a European collector)
Wang Guangyi & Zeng Fanzhi
And most intriguing was the absence of the poster child for Chinese Contemporary, Zhang Xiaogang. Given the demand, fuelled by Chinese wealth and sudden Western “interest”, one would assume works by he and his contemporaries would be ubiquitous.
The question is the answer – Where can you buy their works, if not at a fair (from a dealer)? Go to an auction.
We have seen prices for these first generation Chinese artist multiply in the auction market because Lijun, Fanzhi, Xiaogang and the others have bypassed the gallery system completely. They grew up before the market existed in China and are accustomed to selling their work directly and then having it resold at auction. The market makers in Chinese Contemporary have openly acknowledged that these artists go directly to auction with their new work. The motive behind this is that 1st generation artists believe that private buyers are prepared to pay higher prices than dealers.
Things are changing though:
1. Western galleries have started to recruit Chinese artists (PaceWildenstein signed Xiaogang and Zhang Huan 2 months ago but didn’t feature any of their work in the booth).
2. Fairs are starting to emerge that focus specifically on Contemporary Asian Art, like the Asian Contemporary Art Fair (ACAF) in New York next winter from November 8 – 12. The fair is being sponsored by a Korean Collector, and directed by a curator I am not familiar with and the director of Mary Boone.
Zhang Xiaogang & Zhang Huan
and because I love making graphs.
This was made using the auctions results of the “top 100″ in each sector. Serious peaks and valleys – want to know why? Check out my post about the history of the market and I’ll give you some clues: Japanese collectors, exceptional single owner sales (at auction), sleepers in the Old Master market, Warhol and Modigliani.
let’s familiarize ourselves with the past. Below is a brief synopsis of the history of the global art trade.In the beginning of the Dutch Trade, artists used their work to relieve themselves from debt. They were not commissioned by a religious body like the Italians had been for years prior. They created the international trade of art, as Holland had an advanced dealer network of men trading internationally. The Dutch market fizzled out, however, in 1680, when the English Trade blossomed and the market thrived in Europe because it was primarily comprised of Industrialists who wanted something showy, bright and tangible. The Euro-Centric market prospered for the next 150 years or so. A change in the global art market took place at this time. Historically, the Academy stabilized the market and provided a commodity. Dealers had now replaced the Academy and become the machine.
From 1929-1962 there was hyperinflation in Europe so the market moved to America. The French market imploded in 1962 and the British market picked up, but the French never recovered. In 1973, the British economy crashed; oil prices soared, hyperinflation occured, alongside enormous debt, and the English had to go to the IMF for the first time. At this time though, the art market shot up! The resilience of the industry led it to remain relatively unscathed. During 1980 –1990 (the Thatcher and Reagan years), prices were high, high priced luxury goods were hot, and the buying trend continued until the 1987 NYC stock market crash. 1989 saw the London market bust as well. Hard times.
Afterwards, consumers wanted to put their money into something safe. They thought that art was an endlessly inflatable entity, but it will burst, just like any other market (i.e. Real estate). The 1990s saw the Japanese yen soar, like their real estate market, and about 45% of art and antiques were being imported to Japan. One year later, it crashed due to major corporate lending scandals. Big businesses were borrowing money to buy art, but the works had no resale value because of the inflated prices. Again, the market collapsed. 1991 saw the rise of Hong Kong, Basel and Zurich. Hong Kong was now pan-Asian and a VAT free port. Basel and Zurich were outside of the European tax ramifications so large collections in Switzerland formed a nucleus to support the market there.This brings us to the future. Chinese Contemporary is a no-brainer, but speculators and speculectors (collector/spectulator hybrid) alike think we should still keep our eyes on a possible rise in the French art market, most notably in photography (there will always be a stable African and Oceanic-Pacific market because of its colonial history). With recent Spring auction results now in, the Indian market seems to be the one to watch. Stay tuned.
What’s the buzz in the art market these days? Contemporary work coming out of China, that’s what. The trend, though, has been in the works for years, as artists in China have been stretching their wings for several decades in an effort to re-work a long history of artistic and symbolic representation.
From 1949 to the 1970s, Chinese art resembled Soviet style Socialist-Realism, producing a void in creativity and worldy influence. As art schools reopened in the 1970s and Western thought and art trends flooded the Chinese cultural landscape, artists rediscovered their creative voices and established an avant-garde style that brought with it experimentation in the forms of mixed media and performance art. With the 1989 exhibition “China/Avant-Garde” at the China National Gallery in Beijing, the stage was set for the international art market to take notice, as the show gathered much press for the repeated closure of the space by authorities.
As the 1990s raged on with outcries and protests by artists, the tone of Chinese art turned towards the contemptuous and scornful, mirroring the political landscape of the time. While the nation moved towards a market economy, artists mellowed, becoming more open to experimentation in all mediums.
International shows at the Asia Society in 1998 and 2004, as well as the Venice Biennale of 1999 showcased work coming out of China that mimiced and went beyond Western trends, displaying true mastery and talent by an entire group of never before seen artists.
Chinese contemporary art can most closely fit into three distinct categories. The first is the Political Pop style that is characterized by bold colors and sharp lines, collage effects and commentary on a variety of international political concerns. Second, the Cynical Realist style often shows the human figure in pain or shock. The third style, Gaudy Art, resembles Western patterns of kitsch, a response to the growing international (and particularly Western) consumer culture and its mirrored effects on the Chinese culture.
While the art is heavily influenced by Western movements, the Chinese work has its own distinct and unique character that is dynamic and fresh, exciting and intriguing. While some of the work may seem to merely mimic Western style, some artists truly understand the combination of technique and flair required to make it in the international market, inspiring curators and collectors alike to take part in the international craze.