Gallery Weekend Beijing Returns After Pandemic Delays, With Dealers Hatching Scrappy Solutions to Get Around Travel Restrictions

The event marks the first major cultural gathering in China in 2022.

Installation view of 'Austin Lee: Human Nature' at M Woods 798, one of the institutions participating in this year's Gallery Weekend Beijing. Courtesy M Woods. Photo: Xiao Niu/ Zhao Yihan.

Gallery Weekend Beijing returns this weekend after nearly a month’s delay due to Covid restrictions in the Chinese capital, making it the first major in-person cultural event in China this year. Featuring a stellar line-up of more than 40 thematic exhibitions, by both local and international commercial galleries as well as non-profit organizations, the week-long event aims to bring audiences back after a difficult first half of 2022.

“The first half of the year has been a great challenge to local galleries, and people have high expectations of this year’s edition since it is the first main cultural event taking place physically,” said Amber Yifei Wang, director of Gallery Weekend Beijing, during an online press conference. “We hope this can be a great reboot of the local art scene.”

Running from this Friday, June 24, through July 3, with the first three days (June 24 to 26) serving as VIP previews, this year’s edition features exhibitions revolving around the theme of “Sharing.” There are 30 galleries and five non-profit institutions in the main sector, a rise from the last couple of years. as well as seven international galleries featured in the “Visiting Sector.”

Chen Shuxia, <i>Eastward</i> (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Asia Art Center.

Chen Shuxia, Eastward (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Asia Art Center.

Female artists are in the spotlight this year, with several galleries presenting works by women artists. Beijing Commune presents a solo show of paintings by the Xi’an-born, Beijing-based artist Liang Yuanwei (b. 1977). And at the Asia Art Center, Chen Shuxia (b. 1963) reflects the helplessness and depression experienced during the pandemic through a new body of work on canvas. Tabula Rasa Gallery has a group show of paintings by eight European female artists, while White Space presents the Beijing-born Liu Shiyuan (b. 1985), who works with photography, video, stage performance and installations.

This year also features the first collaboration among Beijing’s non-profit institutions, which are staging thematic exhibitions. Held at the 798 Art Center, the show “Crosstalk” is curated by four young curators—Beijing Inside-Out Art Museum’s Wenlong Huang and Yichuan Zhang, as well as Neil Zhang and Jiashu Zou from UCCA Center for Contemporary Art. It features works by more than 20 artists represented by galleries in Gallery Weekend Beijing’s main sector.

International dealers Pilar Corrias, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Gladstone Gallery, Balice Hertling, Kiang Malingue, Timothy Taylor, and Almine Rech are participating in the event’s visiting sector, presenting shows in temporary spaces with local staff. Among them, Chantal Crousel, Timothy Taylor, and Almine Rech are making their debut at Gallery Weekend Beijing.

Andrea Marie Breiling, Emma (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech. Photo: Adam Reich Photography.

Andrea Marie Breiling, Emma (2022). Courtesy of the artist and Almine Rech. Photo: Adam Reich Photography.

Despite the stringent Covid restrictions and hard lockdown across the country, galleries are confident in Chinese collectors’ buying power, particularly those from a younger generation. Star-maker gallerist Almine Rech, who is presenting abstract paintings by the New York-based Andrea Marie Breiling—the artist’s debut show in China—said demand for works by the artist has been going strong, and Chinese buyers have been very active internationally.

“We have galleries in Paris, London, Brussels, and New York, and Chinese collectors are buying from each of them,” Rech said during the virtual press conference. “They are buying internationally. The young and active collectors in China are tastemakers, and they are an important force for the global art scene.”

Despite the high hopes, Wang admitted that organizing this year’s Gallery Weekend Beijing has not been easy, as the pandemic situation in China keeps changing, and restrictions take a very localized approach to meet the country’s ongoing dynamic zero-Covid policy.

But the show will go on. Last year’s edition saw a record-breaking attendance of 199,000 visitors, despite Covid restrictions, but setting a new record this year isn’t a priority for the event’s organizers.

“We have to adhere to the restrictions by maintaining control over the attendance, with allocated time slots. We also adopted a hybrid format for those who cannot join us in person. We just have to be flexible and be agile in terms of organization and planning,” Wang said. “Visitors’ safety is our priority.”

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