Art fairs are expensive undertakings. This is no secret. From participation fee, artwork logistics, staff costs, to travel expenses and much more, the overheads quickly stack up to a hefty bill. No matter how deep the pockets of a gallery—and trust us, many are very deep—it’s still a financial cost that bears certain risk. So why then, are there an increasing number of galleries concurrently participating in ART021–now in its seventh year—and West Bund Art & Design, which is in its sixth year?
TEXT: Denise Tsui
IMAGES: Courtesy various
As Shanghai Art Week comes to a close, the fairs pack up and the art world jets off to the next destination—yours truly included. During our visit last week, we decided to tackle this curious question of doubling up fair presence. Art fairs taking placing concurrently are certainly nothing new but there is an air in Shanghai unlike others—a sense of unspoken rivalry. To gain an insight, we visited ART021 and West Bund Art & Design and asked seven globetrotting galleries who presented booths at both fairs but do not have a permanent space in Shanghai, to shed light on their choices.
That ART021 and West Bund Art & Design were rapidly expanding fairs with varying audiences was a shared thought. The desire to create a distinction in their gallery presence was a defining factor for the decision to showcase solo or group presentations as well as which artists were to be selected. One gallery noted that the two fairs came together as a package, while another praised what she felt was the more experimental nature of West Bund. These reasons perhaps come as no surprise, and if one was to visit both fairs consecutively, the ambience is strikingly different.
While ART021, with its historically grounded venue, the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, brings a touch of old Shanghai glam, West Bund appears more institutional, modern and sterilized. In recent years, as West Bund funding seems to magically increase and ART021 finds itself in a tighter financial bind, visitors and galleries alike find themselves making choices and priorities.
As art world gossip would have it, an unnamed gallery shared that their choice was West Bund, however to double up and concurrently participate at ART021 was through invitation—which also was the case for a couple of other galleries.
Nonetheless, the galleries we spoke felt that there was a place for both fairs to coexist harmoniously, that each had discernable characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. With the opportunity to participate in both, these galleries had the opportunity to reserve one booth for wide-ranging gallery presentation, and take a riskier chance on the other with a single or duo artist focus. Taking a chance on varying collector demographic (and their limited time and attention) was quoted as another strong reason.
Below the galleries explain their curatorial and strategic rationale.
Paris/New York/London/Hong Kong
While ART021 showcased various gallery artists—including Nate Lowman, Raymond Pettibon, and Oscar Murillo among others—to introduce their works to a Chinese audience, the booth at West Bund was dedicated to the works of Franz West—the first artist to exhibit with David Zwirner when the gallery was founded in 1983. Presented alongside West were paintings by young American artist Josh Smith.
“Both West Bund Art & Design and Art021 offer a strong foothold in the Mainland Chinese art market and are anchor events for Shanghai Art Week. While the two Shanghai art fairs are vastly different from each other for myriad reasons, whether it is curatorial ethos, aesthetics, demographic or overall vibe, participating in both fairs gives us greater leeway to showcase a broader range of work by gallery artists.”
Leo Xu, Director Hong Kong Sales, David Zwirner
A giant of the Korean art circuit, Kukje Gallery has participated in both fairs on separate occasions previously. It was their first time appearing at both concurrently, believing each fair held its unique merits.
“We wanted to bring out the fun of being at a bustling art fair, and still showcase works by artists who are truly acclaimed and respected. Elmgreen & Dragset was the best fit for all that, hence the solo booth [at ART021]. West Bund Art & Design is the more institutional younger sister of ART021—more reserved and serious. And the crowd is genuinely interested in our roster of artists—particularly our Korean artists. We thought it would only make sense to show a condensed version of our gallery program at our booth, so that it serves as an entry for visitors to become more acquainted with the work we do.”
Bo Young Song, Managing Director, Kukje Gallery
Tang Contemporary Art
Tang Contemporary Art has participated in ART021 since its inception, first debuting in the thematic section, then in their main gallery section since thereafter. With fondness for both fairs, the gallery is also currently taking part in both for the first time. While at West Bund, they presented a solo project by artist Zhao Zhao, the booth at ART021 was a group showcase of selected gallery artists that best represented what the gallery had to offer.
“ART021 has a great collectors base, mainly with Chinese and Asian collectors and good international collectors. The collector base of West Bund accompanies the international gallery and is very international. With all the fair galleries and visitors, the whole world is focusing on Shanghai during the eventful art week. I believe the composition of the collector system here is not only regional but attracting art collectors from all over the world. So we bring forth a wide range of works, from different medium to motives, in order to cater for the difficult spectrum of collectors and bespoke for our collaborating artists and their works.
Zheng Lin, Founder and Director, Tang Contemporary Art
Hauser & Wirth
London/Hong Kong/Los Angeles/New York/Somerset/St. Moritz/Zürich
Strong curatorial concepts drove Hauser & Wirth’s presentation at West Bund—a solo booth dedicated to Austrian artist Maria Lassnig (1919 – 2014) on the occasion of the centenary of her birth, which the gallery mounted as an in-depth introduction to the artist. Meanwhile over at ART021, the gallery held a group presentation that highlighted the gallery’s diverse global programming—with a particular focal point on Hauser & Wirth’s strong female presence in the gallery’s roster of artists through important works by Louise Bourgeois, Lorna Simpson, Jenny Holzer, Pipilotti Rist, as well as Mary Heilmann, Rita Ackermann, Bharti Kher and Geta Brătescu.
“The decisions on what to show at each fair are partially based on regional taste and partially on our strategic goals for the region—the artists we want to promote and introduce to the wider audience in Asia.
Vanessa Guo, Senior Director of Asia, Hauser & Wirth
Galerie Chantel Crousel
Galerie Chantel Crousel began participating in ART021 since its first edition in 2012 and believe in the strength of both fairs. While they chose to showcase an ambitious body of works by Gabriel Orozco and Anri Sala , at ART021, the gallery brought a selection of recent and very representative works by artists from the gallery roster, in an effort to “that despite the diversity of their practices they coexist harmoniously together.”
“Since we [began] participating in ART021, we realize the audience in Shanghai has increased and diversified to a point we feel we wanted to experiment with their different audiences too. They each do have their own identity and network and different architecture as well as location. At West Bund, both artists, Gabriel Orozco and Anri Sala will have a large section of the booth devoted to fewer works but very well presented. That way we expect to offer better visibility and understanding of their practices to both individual collectors as museums.”
Niklas Svennung, Co-owner, Galerie Chantel Crousel
To participate in both fairs, White Cube increased their manpower, bringing in their London team and their expanded Asia team—including their Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia representatives—to ensure visitors to both booths were well looked after. A solo presentation of Eddie Peake dominated the gallery’s ART021 booth, while at West Bund, a group presentation showcasing the strength of White Cube’s roster of artists shone through.
“Collectors attending the fair are very passionate and educated on art with a diverse palette. Therefore when curating a collection for an art fair, we aim to present and expose clients to a range of mediums and artists that the gallery represents as well as introducing the works from other artists. We want to differentiate and make an impression on visitors coming to the fair. The founders of ART021 have successfully positioned the fair in the market to resonate and attract a younger generation of art enthusiasts and collectors. As such, we felt that a solo presentation of Eddie Peake would be a great match for this audience.”
Laura Zhou, Director, Asia, White Cube
New York/Los Angeles/San Francisco/Paris/Geneva/Basel/Hong Kong/London/Rome/Athens
Gagosian was one of the few galleries that chose group presentations across both fairs that was comprised of artists from their extensive gallery roster including Georg Baselitz, Joe Bradley, Urs Fischer, Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Grotjahn, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Robert Indiana, Jeff Koons, Joan Mitchell, Nam June Paik, Ed Ruscha, Taryn Simon, Pierre Soulages, Rudolf Stingel, Sarah Sze, Mary Weatherford, Katharina Grosse, among others.
“November is an exciting month in Shanghai. With the opening of the world-renowned art institutions such as the Pompidou in Shanghai, we are hoping to reach a broader audience and deepen the gallery’s existing collector base by participating at both ART021 and West Bund Art & Design. We keep in mind that collectors who travel from overseas to attend the fairs in Shanghai will likely visit both fairs. Therefore, we took a curatorial approach to make sure that works are being presented in the most coherent and best possible ways at both ART021 and West Bund Art & Design.”
Han-I Wang, Senior Director, Gagosian
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.