ART021 Maintains a Strong Foot in the Rising Shanghai Art Scene

Outside the beautiful building of the Shanghai Exhibition Center, where ART021 has been held annually since it began in 2012. Image courtesy of ART021.
Inside ART021 overlooking the central main galleries section below and the Approach section above. Image courtesy of ART021.
Eddie Peake, Triple Selfie, 2016, Screen print and oil on canvas with spray painted aluminium tray frame, 200 x 120 cm (without frame). Copyright the artist. Photo by George Darrell for White Cube. Image courtesy of White Cube.
Kukje Gallery ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair 2019 booth installation view. Solo booth by Elmgreen & Dragset showing Tailbone (2019) in the centre and Elevator (2019) to the right. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano. Image courtesy of Kukje Gallery
Galerie Balice Hertling’s booth installation of Puppies Puppies, Andrew D. Olivo 6.7.1989 – 6.7.2018, 2018, which won the gallery the prize of Best Presentation at ART021 2019. Image by Denise Tsui for CoBo Social.
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CoBo Social Chinese Abstraction Series

Shanghai is on the rise to helm the world’s third largest art market and as one of the longest running proponents of the now buzzing Shanghai Art Week, ART021 once again proved it’s not going to let itself be overtaken by the aggressive expansions of its state-supported sister fair. 

TEXT: Denise Tsui
IMAGES: Courtesy various

Shanghai makes a strong case vying for the position as the hotspot of the Chinese art market. An impactful art week saw more museums, institutions and galleries opening receptions than one could physically attend—and believe me, we gave up trying. The buzz of the town was undoubtedly the inauguration of Centre Pompidou’s Shanghai outpost at the David Chipperfield-designed West Bund Art Museum on 6 November, which certainly added grandeur to the week with the French President Emmanuel Macron flying in to tour the museum.

 

Outside the beautiful building of the Shanghai Exhibition Center, where ART021 has been held annually since it began in 2012. Image courtesy of ART021.

 

Between news last week of the private Yuz Museum collaborating with the renowned Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Beijing’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art announcing plans for a Shanghai location, there was also Japanese digital art collective teamLab who launched their new Shanghai space on 5 November. TANK Shanghai—the venture of Chinese entrepreneur Qiao Zhibing—opened earlier this year, snagging themselves an impressive Belgian contemporary art show for November art week.

On the commercial front, major globetrotting galleries have been gradually landing in Shanghai. This year alone, Perrotin, Lisson and Almine Rech all opened permanent locations. Meanwhile rumours continued to circulate throughout the week of other galleries looking to secure their piece of this pie too, although China’s complicated taxes, tariffs and fast changing regulations—not to mention trade-offs including various levels of censorship—has been a deterrent to a full commitment.

At the centre of all the commotion driving art trading—including the initiation of Shanghai Art Trading Month which sees lowered tariffs and sped up processing—is ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair and its slighting younger sister fair, West Bund Art & Design. One of the earliest proponents of Shanghai Art Week, ART021 concluded its seventh edition on Sunday, 10 November. Held every year at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, the beautiful Art Nouveau-inspired façade has become iconic with the image of ART021. With a reported some 80,000 visitors across four days and positive sales percentages, ART021 proved it wasn’t ready to be overtaken by the state supported West Bund yet, which has seen rapid and aggressive expansions since 2017.

 

Inside ART021 overlooking the central main galleries section below and the Approach section above. Image courtesy of ART021.

 

The VIP preview—and media access—started with some unnecessary hassle on the part of confusing logistics between security and fair staff. Luckily these wrinkles seemed quickly ironed out in the first hour. Split into two wings and a central section, one sensed the stench of gallery hierarchy, made visibly evident with the placement of most blue-chip galleries in the main centre. A half floor raised from this, overlooking the mega players downstairs, the 18 galleries making up the Approach section—younger galleries enjoying a different pricing model—helped to soften this jarring separation.

For its seventh edition, ART021 welcomed 110 galleries hailing form 18 countries. With over 70% of participating galleries either based in China or have locations within, it was a fair specifically catered to certain collector tastes—a thought confirmed by many international gallerists who in conversation noted reaching new local collectors was one of their primary goals of participation.

And who would blame them? According to a recent report by the Business Insider, China outranked the United States in having more of the world’s wealthiest people in a never before seen precedent despite a trade war that is yet to draw a conclusion, declining exports and high tariffs slowing China’s overall economic growth. The report further outlined that China currently stands as the world’s third largest art market, after the United States and the UK respectively.

 

Eddie Peake, Triple Selfie, 2016, Screen print and oil on canvas with spray painted aluminium tray frame, 200 x 120 cm (without frame). Copyright the artist. Photo by George Darrell for White Cube. Image courtesy of White Cube.

 

Among those that reported cheerful sales, Simon Lee Gallery (London/New York/ Hong Kong) sold nearly half their booth while Perrotin (Hong Kong/Seoul/Paris/Shanghai/Tokyo/New York) reported 40% of their booth sold out on the second day. Similarly, Tang Contemporary Art (Bangkok/Hong Kong/Beijing) found collectors for over half their works in the price range of RMB 48,000 through RMB 1,500,000. White Cube (London/Hong Kong) parted with nine works on the first day from their solo presentation of British artist Eddie Peake including Triple Selfie (2016), One Man Army (2016) and Fare Thee Well (2017). Meanwhile Kasmin (New York) sold a painting by Mark Ryden within minutes of the fair opening and reported every subsequent sale was to a new client. David Kordansky (New York) sold works by Will Boone, Matthew Brannon, Evan Holloway, Lauren Halsey, and Fred Eversley among others in the range of US$30,000 – US$275,000.

Whitestone Gallery (Tokyo/Hong Kong/Taipei/Karuizawa) happily found homes for 35 works, many to Chinese collectors. Meanwhile ROH Projects/Nova Contemporary (Jakarta/Bangkok) sold out their solo booth of young emerging Thai artist Aracha Cholitgul. Going home empty handed (but pockets full) were Vigo Gallery (London) and Various Small Fires (Seoul/Los Angeles).

 

Kukje Gallery ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair 2019 booth installation view. Solo booth by Elmgreen & Dragset showing Tailbone (2019) in the centre and Elevator (2019) to the right. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano. Image courtesy of Kukje Gallery

 

Artwork sales aside, there were several memorable booths that stood to engage in the discussion of artistic and curatorial discourse. Among them, Kukje Gallery (Seoul/Busan) presented a solo booth of Berlin-based duo Elmgreen & Dragset. One could really feel their Scandinavian roots seeping through the sculptures from the highly polished surface finishes and simple aesthetics. A personal favourite was Tailbone (2019) which stood centre stage in the booth and behind it, Elevator (2019), with its air of discreet and quiet sarcasm.

 

Galerie Balice Hertling’s booth installation of Puppies Puppies, Andrew D. Olivo 6.7.1989 – 6.7.2018, 2018, which won the gallery the prize of Best Presentation at ART021 2019. Image by Denise Tsui for CoBo Social.

 

Galerie Balice Hertling (Paris) was a sure highlight with an installation piece by American artist Puppies Puppies. Patches of grass filled the entire flooring of the booth, in the middle which stood a tombstone bearing the name of her former self “Andrew D. Olivo” and the dates “June 7, 1989” and “June 7, 2018.” Albeit a bit morbid, the artwork is also a celebration of a turning point in the artist’s life, as she underwent surgery and embraced life as a trans woman. To our pleasant surprise, as we stood there in conversation with gallery co-founder Daniele Balice, jury of the newly launched ART021 Best Presentation prize arrived to award Balice as winning gallery. The award is one of two—the other for Best Booth went to Peres Projects (Berlin)—introduced by ART021 in an attempt to encourage creativity among participating galleries. This year, the jury was comprised of David Chau, co-founded of ART021 and JINGART; Li Jun, deputy editorial director of AD China Magazine; and Aric Chen, curatorial director of Design Miami and Design Miami/Basel.

If anything is evident from the buzz and intensity of last week, it is simply that Shanghai is on the rise and is a strong contender to helm the Chinese art scene. Nevertheless, in the meantime there are still plenty of logistical matters to smooth out from improving VIP and guest services—a concern not exclusive to the fair and voiced by various people we spoke to over the week—to tackling the trade-offs galleries have to endure to sell in China, there is are still just some tweaks that need to happen before Shanghai can lead the world’s third largest art market.

 

 

 


 

Denise Tsui is currently the Managing Editor for CoBo Social. A Hong Kong-born Aussie with an addiction to coffee, her research interests are primarily in the study of exhibition models and curatorial practices and art from the Southeast Asia Region. Previously she was an editor for ArtAsiaPacific and curator for a private collection of Australian and New Zealand art. A condensed version of her postgraduate curatorial thesis on contemporary Indonesian art was published in the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies in 2015.

 
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