What’s in store for Chinese art in 2014? Colin Chinnery’s watch list

From up-coming artists to art fair fatigue, we bring you key predictions for the year of the horse. 

As Chinese New Year approaches, we’re left wondering what the year of the horse will bring for Asian contemporary art. In the first of a two part series, Colin Chinnery, artist, curator and Artistic Director of Wuhan Art Terminus, gives Art Radar readers an insight into the coming 12 months in China’s art world.

Chengdu Contemporary Art Centre by Zaha Hadid. Image courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects.

Chengdu Contemporary Art Centre by Zaha Hadid. Image courtesy
Zaha Hadid Architects.

New art institutions in China

China’s art museum building boom is nothing new, with a string of major institutions like the Power Station of Art and Long Museum both opening in Shanghai during the past two years. Shanghai’s West Bund might be the site for a whole new development of private museums and commercial galleries, but it is too early to tell fact from gossip.

What might be new starting in 2014 is the development of substantial new contemporary art institutions in so called ‘tier two’ cities. The long awaited Sifang Art Museum opened in Nanjing last November and as many as five institutions are in development in Wuhan alone, including one I am helping develop, Wuhan Art Terminus (WH.A.T.). In addition, OCT is expanding their museum empire in a controversial real estate project built on land claimed from Wuhan’s beautiful East Lake and Taikang Insurance is building an art space in their Chairman’s alma mater, Wuhan University. The largest project of the T2 crowd is in Changsha – a massive 115,000-square-metre cultural hub designed by Zaha Hadid called the Changsha Meixihu International Culture and Art Center, which is being consulted by museum franchise tsar Thomas Krens and is slated to open in October 2015.

MadeIn Company, ‘Play-1’, 2011, silicon, iron, cotton filling, hemp cordage, fur, feathers, shells, 170 x 80 x 80 cm, in “Action of Consciousness”, at ShanghART Gallery (Shanghai, China). Image from ShanghART Gallery website.

MadeIn Company, ‘Play-1’, 2011, silicon, iron, cotton filling, hemp cordage, fur, feathers, shells, 170 x 80 x 80 cm, in “Action of Consciousness”, at ShanghART Gallery (Shanghai, China). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery website.

The battle for ‘tuhao’ cash

Last year’s arrival of Shen Qibin’s Tian Ren He Yi art fund started with a warehouse fire that burned much of the artworks on offer at their first auction event. That didn’t stop work by MadeIn Company‘s Xu Zhen selling for a purported RMB9.8 million, while other participating artists such as Qiu Zhijie, Wang Jianwei and Jin Feng all sold works for several million RMB. The sheer amount of cash invested by China’s nouveau riche – deprecatingly referred to as ‘tuhao’, which translates roughly as rich hicks – into this art fund will very likely precipitate a battle for the tuhao billions.

Cao Fei, 'Haze and Fog', 2013. Still from the film courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space.

Cao Fei, ‘Haze and Fog’, 2013. Still from the film courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space.

Anti-corruption campaign

Related with the above tuhao issue is President Xi Jinping’s massive anti-corruption campaign, which is affecting every level of life in China. Corruption is so pervasive that it is seen as the biggest source of social unrest in China, threatening the very survival of the Chinese Communist Party. Traditional art, especially ink wash painting and calligraphy, is very much part of this old order, with artists giving paintings to government officials as ‘presents’ which then can be magically turned into cash at ‘auction’. Many doubts regarding China’s status as having the biggest art market in the world might be answered swiftly if anti-corruption cracks down hard on this practice.

He Xiangyu, 'Tank Project', 2013, leather sculpture. Photo by Dora Tang, courtesy of UCCA.

He Xiangyu, ‘Tank Project’, 2013, leather sculpture. Photo by Dora Tang. Image courtesy UCCA.

New Chinese artists coming of age

A new generation of Chinese artists are coming of age, those born after 1980 known in China as the “Post ’80” generation. Although this generation has yet to produce seminal artists such as those from the “Post ’70” generation like Yang Fudong, Cao Fei or Xu Zhen, the names from the new generation have been popping up more and more regularly in international shows. Yan Xing’s nomination for the Future Generation Art Prize and the recent Rubell Collection show “28 Chinese” are part of this trend. 2014 starts auspiciously for this generation with a solo show by He Xiangyu (b. 1986) at White Cube’s “Inside the White Cube” exhibition series.

Surge Art Fair in Beijing 2013. The company plans to expand its fairs to four more Chinese cities by 2014.

Surge Art Fair in Beijing 2013. The company plans to expand its fairs to four more Chinese cities by 2014.

Art fair fatigue

Art market expansion might be close to reaching saturation point, with the number of art fairs reaching critical mass. Grumbling sounds can be heard from collectors and artists alike. The situation has become a treadmill for artists, forcing them to constantly produce popular products to satisfy newly converted collectors in newly converted regions. If there is such an equation pitting quality against quantity, something has got to give, and 2014 might be when that happens.

Colin Chinnery

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Related Topics: art districts, art spaces, business of art, market watch, Chinese art and artists, art fairs, lists

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Comments

What’s in store for Chinese art in 2014? Colin Chinnery’s watch list — 4 Comments

  1. Hello. I have a ink wash painting signed Xu Zhen. Any info you have would be appreciated! I really love the pic but have to sell now …I received from estate years ago. Thank you very much. I could send a pic if you give me an email to send to. It is a very large/tall picture of birds in tree. Or if you can lead me to someone that may have info. I’ve written today to his facebook page hoping the artist will write back…it doesn’t appear that he does this type of work any longer. He has another medium he is working with now it looks like. Thank you for any info you may offer me.
    Cindy in California
    cinnest@aol.com

    Cindy Eaves in California

    805-444-6711

  2. Pingback: FARRANDEMORA EN CHENGDU ART FAIR CHINA by ART4+ | FARRANDEMORA

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