Nightclub Owner Qiao Zhibing Tells How He Became One of China’s Biggest Art Collectors

An empty wall is his enemy.

 

We recently sat down with Chinese entrepreneur and night club owner Qiao Zhibing for a talk about how he makes selections for his growing contemporary art collection (see artnet News Top 200 Art Collectors Worldwide).

Qiao was frank about the fact that he started focusing on art simply because of a need to decorate the spaces he owns. “My clubs have a lot of empty walls and needs to be filled with something,” he says of the cavernous night clubs he owns in Shanghai and Beijing (see Chinese Restaurant Mogul Zhang Lan Spent Millions At Christie’s).

“When I first started I was an amateur,” he admits, and compares his ongoing acquisition activity to “a learning process.”

Qiao says he prefers to focus on artists of his own generation, and to that effect has already added works by Zhang Enli and Liu Wei, as well as by some blue-chip names including Antony Gormley, Olafur Eliasson, Sterling Ruby, Thomas Houseago, and Theaster Gates.

According to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal about young Chinese art aficionados advising their collector parents, Qiao got the “thumbs-down” from his daughter Qiao Dan, a freshman at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, when he purchased a three-foot-long outstretched right arm, made of steel and modeled after the thousands of statues showing the iconic former leader, Mao Zedong, with his arm extended.

However, his daughter was enthusiastic about Yang Fudong,’s photograph, titled, Don’t Worry, It Will Be Better, which depicts a group of well-dressed young adults lounging about an apartment. “My daughter was a moody teenager at the time,” Qiao told the Journal.

Qiao tells artnet News that Shanghai is an exciting place for art right now because of the current strong government support. He is focusing on creating his own art center and is transforming five disused oil tanks in the newest art district of Shanghai’s West Bund into a mixed-use contemporary art center. He doesn’t just envision an ordinary museum. Rather, he says: “I just want to find a more vibrant way to work with artists and influence more people.”

 


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