Tag Archives: chinese contemporary art

Artprice: Zeng Fanzhi Is China’s New “#1 Artist”

Auction Sales From July 1, 2008 To June 30, 2009 Send Zeng To The Top Of The List, As Chinese Artists Make Up 16 Of The Top 50 In The World

Zeng Fanzhi is one of China's most interesting and top-grossing contemporary artists of the last 30 years

Zeng Fanzhi is one of the most interesting and top-grossing contemporary Chinese artists of the last 30 years

Artxun (Chinese) reports this week that Zeng Fanzhi — one of China’s top contemporary artists — has gained the title of “Number One” Chinese artist in terms of auction prices over the last year, leapfrogging longtime title-holder Zhang Xiaogang. While some of this may be down to the slower pace with which Zhang is producing new works, Zeng’s growing popularity within China and, ostensibly, among New Chinese Collectors, could have something to do with it. Zeng, who sprang to prominence in the 1990s mostly through his “Mask” series but has since begun experimenting with more abstract pieces, recently sold 5 of 6 pieces up for grabs at Sotheby’s autumn auction of contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong well above high estimates, indicating that his popularity among the primarily Mainland Chinese bidders remains strong.

The Artxun piece, rather than focusing only on Zeng’s auction prices, does an excellent job of looking into the artist himself and some of the personal projects he has undertaken, including the “Zeng Fanzhi Art Scholarship,” which awarded 10,000 yuan to a disabled university applicant in July of this year. From the article (translation by CLCB staff):

Compared to last year’s [Artprice] list, Chinese artists comprised 16 of the top 50 artists in the world, down from 18 the year before. Among Chinese artists, Zeng Fanzhi was the highest selling, surpassing Zhang Xiaogang by 1,010,000 yuan, becoming China’s most “expensive” artist of 2009. Zhang Xiaogang slipped from the top five this year down to #7. Chinese artists who made the top 50 list last year, namely Yin Chaoyang, Liu Wei, Fan Dehai, and Guo Hai weren’t strong enough to make the list this year, although Yan Peiming is expected to enter the top 50. Another interesting thing to look at is Chengdu’s growing power — aside from Zhang Xiaogang, Chengdu-based contemporary artist Zhou Chunya was ranked 17th in the world and #11 in China in 2008, and in 2009 rose 3 places in the world ranking to #14 while rising 6 places in China to #5 there. Another Chengdu artist, Luo Zhongli, ranked #38.

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WSJ: Only China Can Save Luxury Sales

Spending On Everything From Luxury Cars To Private Jets Shows Ultrarich Chinese Are Unleashing Their Inner Conspicuous Consumer

The exclusive club of "ultra-rich" in China are splurging amid the ongoing global economic doldrums

The exclusive club of "ultra-rich" in China are splurging amid the ongoing global economic doldrums

An interesting blog post today at the Wall Street Journal, where Robert Frank points out that the global economic downturn has turned a new spotlight onto a once-unlikely savior — the Chinese [ultrarich] consumer. While this group is exclusive to say the least, particularly in terms of the miniscule percentage of the Chinese population that can live up to this title, the staggering dropoff of the once mighty American, Japanese and even Russian luxury showoff has pushed the Chinese super-spender into the leading role.

Though Frank’s potential nicknames for this ultrarich group of big spenders — “Deng Xiaoblings,” for one — are a humorous take on the subject, the repercussions of an Eastward shift of conspicuous consumption and luxury shopping sprees could mean a great deal for established western luxury brands. Just as the increased buying power — and desire for diversification — seen among Chinese buyers of everything from gold to real estate to luxury cars to Chinese antiquities and contemporary arts has affected those markets and caused everyone from Bugatti to Sotheby’s to focus far more strongly on the China market than ever before, this China-bound luxury shift could very well change the nature and corporate strategies of the global luxury industry.

From the WSJ:

Purveyors of posh have a new mandate: Go East!

An updated forecast from Bain & Co. out this morning shows a stronger-than-expected rise in luxury sales for Asia–especially China. It said it expects luxury-goods sales in mainland China to jump 12% this year.

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“Experience China In Israel” Event Opens In Tel Aviv

Event Follows Other Recent Cultural Events And Partnerships In Germany And Belgium, And Upcoming Events In The United States

01617988Following China’s National Day celebrations earlier this month, a wave of cultural events have taken place — or are slated to take place — around the world. From China’s position as guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair to the many included works of Chinese contemporary art at the Europalia-China art festival in Brussels (co-curated by premier Chinese artist Ai Weiwei), the last few weeks have given Western audiences a good opportunity to get up close and personal with several aspects of contemporary Chinese artistic culture.

This week, Chinese culture heads to the Middle East, where the “Experience China in Israel” cultural exchange event kicked off this weekend at the Tel Aviv Opera House. The event will feature performances, film screenings and photo exhibitions, and follows similar “Experience” events held in the past in Russia, South Korea, Germany and the U.S. From Xinhua:

The event, jointly held by the State Council Information Office of China and Israeli Foreign Ministry, is dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the 17th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Composed of a series of activities including performances, photo exhibitions, a film week and a symposium on China, Israel and the world economy, the event, which began earlier this week and will conclude at the end of this month, is expected to allow the Israelis to see Chinese culture and China’s development and achievements over the past 60 years and promote Sino-Israeli friendship.

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Carnegie Hall’s ‘Ancient Paths, Modern Voices’ Festival Comes To Orange County, CA & NYC

Festival Will Bring Together Performing And Visual Arts, Music, And Film

Several top contemporary Chinese artists like Yue Minjun will be featured during Carnegie Hall's Ancient Paths, Modern Voices" festival later this month

Several top contemporary Chinese artists like Yue Minjun will be featured during Carnegie Hall's Ancient Paths, Modern Voices" festival later this month

This month is shaping up to be pretty exciting for China-watchers in Orange County, California and New York City, as Carnegie Hall presents a new festival celebrating Chinese culture, “Ancient Paths, Modern Voices.” Scheduled for both cities are a number of performances by top Chinese musicians, film screenings, contemporary Chinese art exhibitions and more. The festivals will take place from October 11 to November 24 in Orange County and from October 21–November 10 in New York. From a release:

“The immemorial culture of China has made itself felt throughout the world for many centuries-but its influence today is arguably more widespread, and more directly present, than at any other time in history,” stated Dean Corey, President and Artistic Director of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. “That is the source of the richness and excitement of Ancient Paths, Modern Voices. The festival presents extraordinary expressions of the most venerable Chinese artistic traditions, then brings them into the here and now. This is Chinese culture in all its variety, from the deepest roots to the greenest branches.”

In New York, a number of partner organizations across the city will take part in the three-week festival, contributing venues as well as experts in the field of Chinese performing arts:

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Global Collecting Forum Held In Beijing

Forum Provides Opportunity For Western, Chinese Collectors, Curators And Artists Come Together To Discuss Future Of Art Collecting In China

Western and Chinese experts discussed a wide range of important issues in art collecting at the Global Collecting Forum in Beijing (Photo: CRI)

Western and Chinese experts discussed a wide range of important issues in art collecting at the Global Collecting Forum in Beijing (Photo: CRI)

Although the last few years have seen the rapid rise of the New Chinese Collector of contemporary Chinese art, the relatively late arrival of Chinese collectors means that the vast majority of major works of contemporary Chinese art remain in the collections of Western art collectors (such as the former Swiss diplomat-turned-prolific collector Uli Sigg, who owns around 2,000 pieces) or Western art museums and galleries. Although buying trends are changing, as more Chinese collectors and curators start to bolster their collections and diversify the artwork they acquire, one of the unique challenges that art lovers in China must face is the dearth of contemporary Chinese artwork available for view in their local museums and galleries.

With these issues — the underdevelopment of Chinese art museums and the growing interest in private art collection in China — in mind, this weekend the Global Collecting Forum was held at Beijing’s Reignwood Theater. The forum brought together a number of prominent Western and Chinese art collectors, museum curators, gallery owners and artists, whose work was shown at an exhibition which included pieces by prominent Chinese artists like Cai Guoqiang, Xu Bing, Liu Xiaodong and Wang Guangyi. According to Cultural China:

[Chinese writer-filmmaker Sun Shuyun], who was a guest at last year’s ISD forum, has met some of the world’s best-known art collectors and museum directors there. But she was somehow left with the impression that many of these “leaders of art collecting actually knew very little about Chinese art.”

The situation is expected to improve as this year’s forum brings over 30 leading art experts from Europe, the United States and Russia to meet with their Asian counterparts in the Chinese capital. Those set to show up include Baroness Kennedy QC, a trustee of the British Museum; Alexandra Monroe, senior curator at the Guggenheim Museum; and Derek Gillman, director of the US-based Barnes Foundation, a top collector of Post-Impressionist paintings.

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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.

First Meeting Of Chinese Contemporary Art Collectors Held At Songzhuang Art Festival

Dozens Of New Chinese Collectors Converge To Discuss Art Values, Top Artists, And Closing China’s “Art Gap” Between Key Figures And The Public

The First Annual Conference of Collectors of Chinese Contemporary Art attracted a number of top critics, artists, and journalists

The First Annual Conference of Collectors of Chinese Contemporary Art attracted a number of top critics, artists, and journalists

We’ve been looking a lot at the New Chinese Collector — the up-and-coming art collector who has become a fixture at art auctions around the world without really being understood by many seasoned collectors or auction houses. What is so fascinating about this group is the way that mainland Chinese collectors have really developed organically, and come together out of collective interest in the subject to become more informed about what art is out there, how much it costs — and should cost — and which artists they should be buying for their personal collections.

Recently in China, the 5th Annual Songzhuang Art Festival (which we profiled last month) was held in Beijing, with more than 1,000 artists taking part. As one of China’s most well-attended art festivals — owing mostly to Beijing’s international visibility and status as China’s artistic and cultural center — the Songzhuang festival lends itself to important or high-profile events. This year, one of the most unusual of these was the “First Annual Conference of Collectors of Chinese Contemporary Art” (首届中国当代艺术收藏家年), headed by art critic Li Xianting (栗宪庭). As the domestic audience becomes increasingly interested not only in museums and galleries but in specific types of art, and the middle class continues their (new) tradition of diversifying assets, it will become even more important for the domestic “New Collector” to understand the art and the market itself. At Songzhuang, the “all star cast” of attendees is a good indication that many in China are motivated to help their art market (and art audience) mature and develop rapidly.

As this Artintern article (Chinese) points out, many influential members of the Chinese art world — including conference chairman Li Xianting — feel that it is important for the Chinese collector to become intimately familiar with Chinese contemporary art not only to fill a gap in public knowledge but also to catch up to western collectors of Chinese art:

Chinese contemporary art began with the opening of China [in the late 1970s]. However, with no standard of value in the domestic contemporary art market, collecting and business in contemporary Chinese art was started in the West. Since the late 1970s in Chinese contemporary art — for example after the “Stars Fine Arts Exhibition — foreigners in Beijing have created a ring around the market, a ring which is still increasing. When overseas institutions or individuals gather up works at a low price that we have identified as a representation of Chinese contemporary artwork, then sell them back to China at a very high price, [these artists] are reported in domestic media as overnight successes and superstars. This has been to the detriment of the local Chinese contemporary art market.

At the annual meeting, the Chinese contemporary art critic Li Xianting — the chairman of the event — said, “To establish China’s own contemporary art market, we have to establish China’s own artistic value standards and use these standards to guide the market — is the art guiding the money or is the money guiding the art? China must take its own stand.”

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Art Market Confidence Index Shows 75% Of HK Auction Respondents In The Mood To Buy

As Hong Kong “Stirs From Slumber” And Buyer Confidence Remains High In China, What Can We Expect To See Next Week?

Zeng Fanzhi is one of the historical Chinese contemporary artists up for auction in Hong Kong next week

Zeng Fanzhi is one of the historical Chinese contemporary artists up for auction in Hong Kong next week

We’ve been interested in the upcoming Hong Kong Sotheby’s auctions of Contemporary Chinese, Southeast Asian and other Asian art, with a particularly obvious fixation on the Chinese side, for some time. After the surprising turnout of mainland Chinese, and their willingness to go far above and beyond lot estimates to take home something they’ve set their hearts on, Sotheby’s is likely expecting a good proportion of bidders both from the mainland and other areas of Greater China — definitely Hong Kong, since buyers from that market have been something of a fixture at Chinese art auctions for ages. And while the unpredictable nature of art auctions makes it difficult to forecast how next week’s auctions turn out (although total revenue estimates for all of the Hong Kong auctions are close to US$100 million), many people are excited and motivated to buy some high-quality, historical art.

One thing that makes the auction of contemporary Chinese art even more interesting to me on a personal level is the way it will coincide with “Golden Week,” a week of celebrations coinciding with both Chinese National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival. If last year’s turnout was any indication, Golden Week could draw well over a million mainlanders to Hong Kong this year, most of whom are coming to the city either to shop for expensive objects or eat and drink for days. While Golden Week, on its own, really shouldn’t affect the Sotheby’s sale too much, it is within the realm of possibility that some of the shopping-mad mainlanders might be shipping a Yue Minjun or Liu Ye painting home along with their boxes of luxury goods.

Another reason I’m excited about the Hong Kong sales next week is because of this article, published today by Art Market Insight, which is bullish on the article because of the comparatively fast re-emergence of Hong Kong following the global economic crisis:

Once again, Sotheby’s is weighting its sale in favour of the Contemporary segment (Contemporary Asian Art) which carries the richest of the three catalogues with 190 lots and a total revenue estimate of $12.5m. In order to re-kindle interest amongst its biggest clients, the auctioneer has built a catalogue of very attractive signatures. Among the star lots: a powder drawing by CAI Guoqiang , Money net NO.2, estimated at HKD 4.7m – 5.5m, ($606,000 – $710,000), several paintings by YUE Minjun , including Hats series – The lovers expected to generate around $400,000 (estimated HKD 2.8m – 3.5m), three paintings from the famous Chinese Portrait series by FENG Zhengjie including a superb contemporary Amazon (4 x 3 metres) estimated at $100,000 – $130,000 (HKD 800,000 – 1m). A very similar monumental portrait fetched $133,000 in June 2009 (Phillips de Pury & Company, London, £81,000).

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