Support from avid collectors have been an irreplaceable force for art to grow, for young artists to shine in international arena and for the world to see in a different way. For 2016 is a year of shocks (we need not explain why), it is also a year for Asian collectors to take a more progressive role in the art scene. Here are the key players (and their related events) that you should not miss!
Chen Dongsheng (China)
Chinese tycoon Chen Dongsheng has definitely rocked the art world in 2016 with his purchase of 13.5% stake in Sotheby’s (BID) through Taikang Life Insurance, one of China’s biggest insurers. Run by Chen, Taikang Life is now the Sotheby’s largest shareholder after quickly increasing its stake since late June, making seven share purchases in July alone. It owns the auction house’s shares worth around $233 million, ahead of other top investors including Third Point, BlackRock and Point 72 Asset Management.
Married to the granddaughter of Mao Zedong, Chen is a powerful businessman in China’s fine arts and ancient artifacts market. In 1993, he founded China Guardian Auctions, the biggest shareholder of Taikang, and made his fortune in art sales and insurance that required keeping wary regulators on his side.
Young and energetic, Art Patron and Founder of K11 Art Foundation (KAF) Adrian Cheng have made himself a regular on news headlines with his multiple new initiatives this year.
In early March, Mr. Cheng was invited to join the Board of Directors of the New York-based nonprofit Public Art Fund, which counts as his first trustee position of an art institution in New York despite holding a number of positions in art world, including Tate’s international council and the Centre Pompidou’s international circle. A month later, Elmgreen & Dragset’s monumental 9-meter high, empty swimming pool sculpture named “Van Gogh’s Ear” was installed at the Fifth Avenue entrance to Rockefeller Center, thanks to the joint effort of the Public Art Fund and the KAF. The KAF then announced in October this year a collaboration with MoMA (New York) to introduce the first free online course available in Chinese, “Seeing Through Photographs” which explores 180 years of photography through MoMA’s collection.
KAF also opened several major exhibitions in Shanghai and Hong Kong this year, often hosted by Adrian Cheng himself. Co-curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Amira Gad, Hack Space toured in HK and Shanghai to set new discourses for a more globalised art trend called post-internet art. To echo he principles of promoting Chinese contemporary art, the foundation also presented a big scale survey “WE” which featured 56 young Chinese artists. Mr. Cheng was then once again under spotlight with the opening of a new show Vivienne Westwood – Get a Life in early December.
With a new museum due to open in early 2017, Mr. Adikoesoemo generated much noise this year. The Jakarta-based collector, who runs a chemical and energy logistics conglomerate, will fund entirely the Museum Macan, Indonesia’s first modern and contemporary art museum. The ambitious 43,000-square-foot museum project will form part of the entrepreneur’s new residential and business development in the western Kebon Jeruk district of Jakarta. Dr. Thomas J. Berghuis, the former curator of Chinese art at the Guggenheim in New York, will serve as the new museum’s first director.
“Jakarta is one of the most dynamic artistic centers in the world, and Indonesia has long been home to countless talented and experimental artists working in all genres,” Adikoesoemo said in a press release. “I am delighted to be able to provide the public with the kind of high-caliber arts institution that Indonesia deserves, and to support and expand the existing creative industries and diverse artistic communities. Museum MACAN aims to fill a void in Indonesia, and is committed to exchange with other museums, and to strengthening the network of cultural institutions and artists in the area that are creating an increasingly vibrant and supportive environment for the arts and culture across Southeast Asia and beyond.”
Adikoesoemo’s 800+ collection comprises a comprehensive selection of work by modern and contemporary Indonesian artists, as well as work by major Western artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, and Frank Stella.
Shanghai-based billionaire and mega-collector Liu Yiqian made headlines around the world like “all the time” for record-breaking bids at auctions. Last April, he hit the paper again with a new venture — a family-backed auction business Beijing Council International Auction Co. According to Artnet, Liu’s holding company Sunline Group was an early investor in the auction house, which his business partner Dong Guoqiang founded in 2005. By acquiring a personal stake in the the auction house, which specializes in ancient and modern Chinese paintings and ceramics, Liu is expanding his equity portfolio into the operations of art business.
The high-profile buyer of Modigliani’s Nu couché for US$170.4 million at Christie’s last year, also made public on the Chinese social media platform WeChat his purchase of the massive 36-foot-wide painting 930-7 Strip by German artist Gerhard Richter from Marian Goodman Gallery at Art Basel last June by posting a photo of himself in front of work.
The Japanese fashion mogul has made art news headlines in 2016 by spending an obscene amount of money – US$ 98 million – on contemporary art, in just two nights.
Maezawa, the 40-year-old founder of Contemporary Art Foundation, and Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown, has made some bold moves at two sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s this May. Snapping up works by major artists like Christopher Wool, Richard Prince, Jeff Koons, Adrian Ghenie, etc. he was later revealed by himself via Instagram, and confirmed by a statement to artnet News, that he was the mysterious buyer behind the record-breaking US$57.2 million purchase of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1982) as well.
Aged 41, Maezawa is ranked Japan’s 17th richest person by Forbes in 2016, and has a net worth of $2.8 billion as of 12/29/16. With a single spend that was enough to cover one quarter of Christie’s total evening sale profits in a season, Maezawa is no doubt the most talked-about high roller on the scene.
The sweet couple from Dhaka is ranked among Power 100 by ArtReview this year, for their endeavour of building an art scene in Bangladesh and raising awareness of South Asian contemporary art though the Dhaka Art Summit.
Successfully held its 3rd edition earlier this February and brought together curators, artists, and art professionals from around the globe, the Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) attracted 138,000 visitors this year and proved its capacity as a major international art event. Inaugurated in 2012 by Samdani Art Foundation, it serves as a non-commercial research and exhibition platform for South Asian art. Active not only regionally but also internationally, Mr. Samdani is also the co-chair of Tate Modern’s South Asian acquisitions committee. He is a member of the New Museum International Leadership Council in New York, and advises regional initiatives such as the Singapore Art Fair and the Colombo Art Biennial. While Mrs Samdani chairs the foundation and oversees the direction of the summit.
They are also prodigious collectors of art of their region, including modern and contemporary Bangladeshi artists as well as artists from India and Pakistan. Their next move will be a vast new arts centre in Sylhet, northeast Bangladesh, housing part of the permanent collection of the Samdani Art Foudnation. A multifunctional space for residencies, workshops and exhibitions, the centre is set to open in 2018 and is the first contemporary art institution in the country.
A K-pop mega star from Korean boy band Big Bang, Choi Seung-hyun aka T.O.P. is the guest curator of Sotheby’s sale this fall. The unusual partnership has become both a art world headline and a social media buzz.
To his 6.4 million Instagram followers, it is little surprise that T.O.P. is an avid collector – he often posts about art and design, to showcase his latest discoveries from around the world. After awarding Visual Culture Award at Prudential Eye Award last year, in 2016 he took a step further by teaming up with Sotheby’s to curate a glittering sale of Asian and Western contemporary art, filled with works by blue chip names like Andy Warhol, Lee Ufan, Rudolf Stingel, Sigmar Polke…plus commissioned work by Kohei Nawa, and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Infantry (1983) provided by the Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa as a support to close friend.
Much thanks to the star’s constant update of the event via Instagram, the sale reached US$17.4 million, a result exceeded estimation. With this it is positive to confirm T.O.P’s position in the high art world, and the auction house’s victory to draw in a younger demographic through social media.