Tag Archives: zhang xiaogang

Exhibition Of Young Contemporary Chinese Artists Heads To Kansas City

“Looking East” Exhibition Showcases China’s Up-And-Coming Artists, Reflecting The Generational Difference Between Young Artists And ’90s Superstars

Guo Wei's art reflects the rebelliousness and angst of China's so-called "post-80s Generation" (Image: Kansas City Star)

Guo Wei's art reflects the rebelliousness and angst of China's so-called "post-80s Generation" (Image: Kansas City Star)

With regular news about China’s most famous artists selling works for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases well over a million dollars, over the past five years, it can be easy to forget that China’s art world is in a constant state of flux, with thousands of young artists coming out of art schools and vying for attention. Although artists like Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang have quickly become major global art stars, China’s younger artists are little known outside of their home country (and, more often than not, are unknown there as well), so the news that Kansas City is mounting a relatively large-scale and far-ranging exhibition of works by young Chinese artists must give some of these art greenhorns some hope for their future prospects.

The “Looking East” group exhibition, held at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, follows previous solo shows of Chinese artists Hong Chun Zhang, Chong Siew Ying and Deng Wushu at the gallery, and offers viewers a glimpse at many of China’s burgeoning young talents. From the Kansas City Star:

Three prints by Yang Qian seem shallow and self-indulgent compared with [Sheng Qi's politically-motivatd] oils. Yang wields tremendous skill to produce voyeuristic fantasies of spying on beautiful women through moist windowpanes or in foggy mirrors.

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New Exhibitions In China Present Country’s Top Contemporary Artists To A Domestic Audience

Interest Of New Collectors, Government Support Growing As More Museums Mount Large-Scale Exhibitions Of Work By Top Artists

Wang Guangyi's work seems to be (finally) accepted and promoted by the Chinese government's cultural elites

Wang Guangyi's work seems to be (finally) accepted and promoted by the Chinese government's cultural elites

 Recently, we translated a speech presented at the first-ever conference of Chinese collectors of contemporary Chinese art delivered in Beijing by influential art critic Li Xianting. In this speech, Li called on Chinese collectors to get busy buying, preserving and presenting top-quality works of contemporary Chinese art in order to ensure younger generations in the country will be able to view and understand their artistic heritage. Li called art collecting “a form of cultural creation,” the responsibility for which lies in the hands of the country’s new generation of art collectors. From Li’s speech:

We can’t expect the government to establish, from top to bottom, an art museum system in such a short amount of time, not least because the construction of the “hardware” is so difficult, but what’s harder is [assembling] the artwork itself, because up until now the collection in the government’s museum of contemporary art has been really poor, and not only because in the past three decades the important works of Chinese contemporary art have flowed overseas. Can the government spend the money to collect contemporary art? Aside from lack of funds, the hardest thing is that within a considerable amount of time, could the government possibly recognize the value of a contemporary art value system? 

Whether by coincidence or by design, a news item in China’s Global Times today announced a spate of high-profile museum exhibitions of two of China’s top contemporary artists, Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Guangyi. Although as recently as last month Li Xianting decried the Chinese government’s slow movement on arts education and investment in cultural capital, these two exhibitions seem to indicate that development is beginning in earnest. From the article:

While the recent inclusion of a selection of contemporary Chinese artworks in exhibitions held at state-run museums across the country has been considered by many as a sign that Chinese contemporary art has been officially embraced by the government, others in the art world are calling for more to be done to recognize the genre.

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Chinese Buying Drives Sotheby’s Hong Kong Sale To $170 Million

Bidders From Mainland China Dominate As Expectations Are Surpassed In Landmark Autumn Auction

Chinese contemporary artist Liu Ye's "Portrait of L" sold in Hong Kong for $209,000 over its high estimate

Chinese contemporary artist Liu Ye's "Portrait of L" sold in Hong Kong for $209,000 over its high estimate

Over the last week, we’ve followed the Sotheby’s autumn auction in Hong Kong, which included sales of everything from fine wine to antiquities to contemporary Chinese and Asian art, noting that sales were well above estimates and sell-through rates were promising. Today, in a wrap-up of the sales, Le-Min Lim of Bloomberg illustrates how this series of auctions, led by Chinese rather than American buyers, represents a major shift in auction buying trends:

The total beat both the presale estimate of HK$950 million and last year’s auction, which raised HK$1.1 billion ($141.7 million at that time), half its forecast, three weeks after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s September 2008 failure.

“The bidding was intense,” auctioneer Henry Howard-Sneyd said in an interview after the auction. The mood in the saleroom was “electric” when Emperor Qianlong’s throne came on the block yesterday, he said: “This shows when the right item comes along, the money is there — especially from China.”

Chinese collectors have come out in force over the last year, recognizing quality lots and quickly developing a sophisticated eye for collection-worthy wines and paintings. In terms of antiquities, an area in which Chinese collectors have more experience, however, they seemingly can’t be beat:

The strength of Chinese bidding at the antiques sale defies a decade-old trend of Western dominance at the priciest end of the market. As recently as June, Sotheby’s rival, Christie’s International, said Americans were its top clients in this category, followed by the Chinese and Hong Kongers. Of the 2,400 lots offered this week, 88 percent found buyers.

The Chinese also bought the priciest wines and oil paintings by masters and contemporary art. Over the weekend, a Chinese buyer paid a record $94,000 for a 6-liter bottle of Chateau Petrus 1982; another spent HK$7.3 million for a 1984 oil-and-color on paper by Li Keran at the auction of classical Chinese paintings; while a third spent HK$36.5 million on a mid- 1950s oil-on-board painting, “Lotus et Poissons Rouges” (“Lotus and Red Fish”) by deceased Chinese master Sanyu.

While this article claims contemporary art underperformed, I think the sell-through at the contemporary Asian art auction speaks for itself. If lumping together all of the pieces at the contemporary auction — which included Chinese, Japanese and Korean artists in one large sale — I would say the final tally is brought down significantly by the Japanese and Korean artists, who sell, on the whole, for significantly less than quality Chinese contemporary artists.

In terms of the Chinese artists up for grabs in the contemporary sale, selling rates were excellent, with 5 of the 6 Zeng Fanzhi paintings up for auction going for well above than their high estimates, Yue Minjun’s “Hats Series – Two Lovers” selling for $372,000 over its high estimate, and works by top Chinese artists like Liu Ye, Wang Guangyi, and Huang Yongping destroying pre-sale estimates.

Interview With Chinese Contemporary Artist Zhang Xiaogang: Recording the “Relics of Life”

Excerpts Of Chinese Art Blog Artron’s Interview With Zhang Xiaogang Shed Light On His New Exhibition, “The Records”

Zhang Xiaogang feels the art environment in Beijing is worlds away from that of New York

Zhang Xiaogang feels the art environment in Beijing is worlds away from that of New York

We recently profiled Chinese contemporary artist Zhang Xiaogang’s new exhibition in Beijing, which breaks dramatically from his earlier work by incorporating sculpture and mixed media pieces. Last week, China-based art site Artron (Ya Chang Art Network) sat down with Zhang to discuss the new direction his art is taking, and the ways that the rapidly-shifting Chinese culture affects his creative process as well as his views of the American and Chinese art worlds. 

Ya Chang Art Network: What’s the basic idea behind this new exhibition? 

Zhang Xiaogang: Actually, the idea is basically to “revise” a continuing exhibition. But this idea is one that I’ve paid pretty close attention to for several years, like I have with topics related to “memory.” The people’s lives are changing quickly, so now we’re facing our memory and our memory loss, which all results in a number of psychological reactions associated with these and other matters. So it seems that by creating pieces concerned with memory — since our lives are changing so fast, resulting in a constant loss of our memory and nostalgia, which begins at a very young age — it all comes back to how I was always concerned with the idea of memory, an idea that has concerned me even more in recent years. 

In the past a series regarding “memory and starting to remember,” then a series about “inside and outside”, later became “amendment” in my new works — the new works are a deeper continuation of the old works. I hope to continue this theme, to a relatively deep degree, to see if there are any other possibilities. This is the basic idea [of this exhibition].

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“The Chinese Are Out In Force” At Sotheby’s Hong Kong Auctions

Mainland New Collectors Pushing Contemporary Chinese Art Nearly Back To 2007 Levels As Classic Chinese Photography Sells Out

Sold in Hong Kong for $1.1 million USD, $372,000 over high estimate: Zhang Xiaogang's "Comrade (Diptych)" Image: Sotheby's

Sold in Hong Kong for $1.1 million USD, $372,000 over high estimate: Zhang Xiaogang's "Comrade (Diptych)" Image: Sotheby's

There’s been no shortage of jaw-dropping figures coming out of Sotheby’s Hong Kong autumn auction, as this weekend’s fine wine auctions brought in nearly US$8 million, Fine Chinese paintings took in US$23.5 million, 20th century Chinese art made US$14 million and today’s contemporary Chinese and other Asian art pulled in almost US$15 million — mainly on the strength of contemporary Chinese artists like Zhang Xiaogang, Zeng Fanzhi and Yue Minjun. Among the countries represented in the Asian contemporary art sale — China, Japan and South Korea — sales of Chinese art were the most consistent and showed the highest sell-through.

With spirited bidding by mainland Chinese collectors, and important milestones like 100% of the classic Chinese photography selling out, it looks like the contemporary Chinese art market is back in business in a very significant way, driven more by domestic rather than foreign demand as its performance parallels the Chinese economy. The prevalence of mainland collectors in all of this week’s auctions could really indicate that these autumn auctions are a major turning point in contemporary Chinese art as the point at which the Chinese collector really came into his own.

Although news reports are still forthcoming about the buyer breakdown, based on the turnout these last few days it seems as if Golden Week has indeed attracted many mainland Chinese collectors to depart with their gold in Hong Kong. From Bloomberg yesterday, regarding Chinese buyers at yesterday’s auction of Fine Chinese paintings:

The Chinese are out in force,” said Jerome Chen, 60, a Hong Kong-based collector…“It’s hard to outbid them.”

Low-key and unassuming, the Chinese buyers at yesterday’s auction sat mostly clustered in the back rows, watching their rivals and whispering into mobile phones between bids. China’s accelerating growth and a 50 percent gain in the benchmark Shanghai stock index from the same time last year have generated wealth and stirred buyer confidence.

The fresh figures coming out of Hong Kong this morning indicate that these “low-key” Chinese bidders were not only present, they dominated at the contemporary Asian art auction, pushing contemporary Chinese art prices to some of the highest levels seen in the last couple of years. One of China’s premier contemporary artists, Zhang Xiaogang, attracted the highest bid with his “Comrade (Diptych)” going for US$1.1 million  (US$405,000 over high estimate), and top artists like Yue Minjun (whose “Hats Series – The Lovers” sold for US$823,000, US$372,000 over high estimate), Liu Ye (whose “Portrait of L” went for US$467,000, or $209,000 over high estimate), Huang Yongping, Zeng Fanzhi (who sold 5 out of 6 paintings, all above high estimates), Wang Guangyi, Xiang Jing and others all surpassed estimates and found new homes — presumably back in the country of their origin.

In October, Sotheby's will put on a large-scale sale of Asian art in Hong Kong. Will The New Chinese Collector continue to flex his (or her) muscles at that sale?

Yue Minjun had an exceptional showing, taking in $823,000 for "Hats Series - The Lovers"

Following the reputation we’ve seen developing over the last several months, Chinese collectors are fast becoming notorious in the auction world as sophisticated and determined buyers. As the Bloomberg article about yesterday’s auction notes, either you love [selling to] them or you hate [competing with] them:

It’s very clear the Chinese are holding up Asia’s art market,” said Eddie Leung, 51, an art collector and managing director of Paper Communication Exhibition Services, in an interview at the venue. “It’s great if you’re a seller, but awful if you’re bidding against them.”

Though James Pomfret, writing for Reuters today, says the contemporary auction had “mixed results,” it seems to us that the Chinese works stole the show. Although some Japanese and Korean pieces did well, they by and large reduced the overall sale figures. Looking only at the Chinese pieces sold, it would seem that this sale was a major success overall:

In the Asian contemporary sale, Chinese artists once again dominated. While there were few blockbuster prices testing the $1 million mark except Zhang Xiaogang’s “Comrade,” solid results were seen for the works of Liu Ye, Li Songsong and Fang Lijun, with most top lots bought by mainland Chinese collectors.

Exhibition Profile: Zhang Xiaogang’s “The Records”

One Of China’s Top Contemporary Artists Branches Out In Extraordinary New Beijing Exhibition

Zhang Xiaogang's newest exhibition shows an artist in transition

Zhang Xiaogang's newest exhibition shows a great artist in transition

Contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang, long known for his ethereal family portraits, has moved into uncharted territory with his newest exhibition, “The Records,” running from September 27 to November 15 at Pace Beijing. The show, which showcases more sculpture and less painting, is a move in a completely new direction for Zhang. As he pulls away from the portrait painting which launched him into the international spotlight, does this show give us an indication that top Chinese contemporary artists are developing works for a more domestic audience?

One of the major shifts we’ve seen among major Chinese artists in the last year or two is a stronger effort to reach mainland Chinese viewers and less of a reliance on the “traditional” symbols and icons that initally drew the attention of Western collectors and art lovers. Zhang Xiaogang’s newest exhibition, which is less Cultural Revolution and more 21st century than his early ’90s output, definitely marks a new chapter in the artist’s work. Does this indicate that he’s finished with traditional canvas-and-oil work? Or is it  just an artistic master flexing some new muscles?

According to Pace Beijing, the show presents the artist’s newest works from 2008 and 2009, including prints on steel plates, sculptures and installations:

Since his earlier works, Zhang Xiaogang never ceased the traces left by history in one’s soul and memory. In this new works, Zhang through employing some unique materials join together “landscape”, “object”, “self”, and scars, collective icons, as well as journal entries, which all carried historical and memorial meanings. He uses new artistic forms to further deepen the subject of “history and contemporary”. In other new works, Zhang creatively combines thoughts and form, continuing the tradition of writing poems on paintings.

Several photos of the exhibition are posted on Chinese contemporary art forum Art Ba-Ba.

Yue Minjun Sails Past Estimates At Phillips Contemporary Auction

Contemporary Chinese Artist Assures Place Among Top Contemporary Artists, Selling For $685,694

Yue Minjun's "Untitled" (2005) brought in nearly $200,000 more than its top estimate. Image © Phillips de Pury & Company

Yue Minjun's "Untitled" (2005) brought in nearly $200,000 more than its top estimate. Image © Phillips de Pury & Company

Tentative signs of optimism are starting to show in the contemporary art world, which has not been spared by the economic downturn. Although recent auctions of Chinese and other Asian art have indicated that this region’s contemporary art remains popular among local collectors — who snapped up artwork at recent Ravenel auctions and festivals like HK09 — many predominantly Western art auctions have recently been met by restrained bidding. At last week’s Phillips de Pury & Company Contemporary Art auction in London, however, sometimes frenzied bidding has allowed major auction houses to breathe a slight sigh of relief. 30 of the auction’s 39 pieces sold, bringing in $8,451,540, just shy of the target of 8,692,240. Compared to some other recent sales, this is a huge success, and indicates that buyers are finally getting back into the game as prices have adjusted somewhat and created excellent buying opportunities.

Among the pieces by Koons, Warhol, Ruscha and others, one piece in particular surprised some observers — “Untitled” (2005) by contemporary Chinese artist Yue Minjun. The painting by Yue, who has become one of the world’s top 10-selling contemporary artists over the course of the last 10 years, brought in $196,959 more than its highest estimate, proving that even in tough economic times, historical artists and good quality art will always attract bidders. As Artinfo writes on the sale:

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