Following a rocky first few years, doubt hovers over SH Contemporary 2013.

While a notice on states that the seventh edition of SH Contemporary, mainland China’s first international art fair, has been cancelled, event organisers tell us that the Shanghai fair, which was slated for September 2013, has been postponed because of scheduling problems.

The main hall of SH Contemporary art fair 2012. Image courtesy Creative Commons

The main hall of SH Contemporary art fair 2012. Image courtesy Creative Commons

Speaking to Art Radar, a representative of Bologna Fiere, which organises the show, stated that there were hiccups with “when and where” to hold the event. Bologna Fiere could offer no more detail, but noted that updates would be posted on the event website at a later date.

Art fair teething troubles

Launched in 2007, the first SH Contemporary proved popular with art fair experts because of its mix of young Chinese artists and blue chip international works, said Georgina Adam in the Financial Times. Styling itself as “the platform for Asian contemporary art”, the fair aimed to attract collectors, art lovers and VIP’s from across the world, according to the website.

But the event struggled financially, losing 4.6 million yuan (USD740,000) in its inaugural year, according to the Shanghai Daily. Jasmine Jiang, Manager of Bologna Fiere China, told the newspaper that SH Contemporary had lost organisers over USD2 million during its first five years. The event was also hampered by legal wrangling from the outset, as then Director Lorenzo Rudolf, Swiss dealer Pierre Huber and Bologna Fiere, co-founders of the fair, fell out over accusations of breaches of contract, according to FlashArt.

Sh Contemporary, Shanghai, China, 2010. Image from

SH Contemporary, Shanghai, China, 2010. Image from

Focusing on Asia

Following these disputes, the 2010 edition of SH Contemporary streamlined its focus towards Asian art. In 2007, half of the 140 participating galleries were from countries beyond Asia, whereas in 2011, only 15 hailed from Europe, noted the Shanghai Daily. Fair Director Massimo Torrigiani told Time Out Shanghai that a shift in focus would address the disproportionate interest in North American and European galleries.

What strikes me the most in the Asia Pacific is the lack of communication between different art worlds. In China, people know little about India, in India, they know little about China, in Japan, they ignore Australia. Everyone is looking at Europe and the US, and rarely at each other.

Executive director of Minsheng Art Museum Zhou Tiehai said that the Asia pivot might help to increase sales at the fair, telling the Shanghai Daily that

it’s a good idea to attract more galleries from China. The goal for a fair is to sell artwork. Here, collectors, regardless of where they are from, are interested in art created by Chinese and other Asian artists. Otherwise there is no point for them to come to Shanghai.

Art fair scene too competitive?

The online announcement of cancellation and the Bologna Fiere’s subsequent correction to postponement led art market writer Georgina Adam to speculate that SH Contemporary 2013 may have other troubles apart from its past financial and legal difficulties. “The growing strength of Art Basel HK, plus the high import tax payable in the mainland, has certainly been a handicap to this event“, she says in an FT article. The Shanghai Daily also noted that the financial success of another event, the Shanghai Art Fair, could mean that “SH Contemporary could likely face an even bigger battle to stay afloat“.


Related Topics: art fairs, art events in Shanghai, art market watchbusiness of art

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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