ART021 is the Chinese Fair You Need to Know About
It's fast establishing itself as the most important art fair in mainland China.
Over 50 galleries took part in upstart art fair ART021, named after Shanghai’s area code, this past week. The majority had at least one foot firmly in China, and many were selling to newly-minted Chinese collectors.
The event was founded in 2013 by two young, chic Shanghainese: PR director Bao Yifeng and former gallery director Kelly Ying. In its second year, the fair again filled five floors of the National Industrial Bank Building, a stately art deco tower near the Rockbund Art Museum. It also expanded to several other historic buildings nearby.
Two things dominated ART021 this year. A color one visitor described as “Facebook blue” appeared on the fair’s signage, catalogue, a Porsche Carrera parked in the lobby, and some key works—most notably Yang Shaobin’s I Am My Tools – Wall Street No. 6 (2013), shown by Long March Space, and drawings on felt by Don Gallery’s Zhang Yunyao. The same blue also appeared in swirls of a pâtissiere nozzle painting from Xu Zhen’s “Under Heaven” series that was printed on ART021’s tote bags.
Xu has been stretching the definition of “artist” ever since he declared himself CEO of MadeIn Company in 2009. He was the other ubiquitous presence at ART021, filling several different roles. As an artist, his work appeared not only on the branded tote bags but also in the booths of commercial galleries ShanghART and Long March Space; he was the fair’s featured sculptor with Eternity (2014); and a scaled down version of his Movement Field (2013) was installed in an outdoor art cube sponsored by Absolut vodka. A black “Under Heaven” painting went for RMB 290,000 ($47,000) at Long March Space. Madein Gallery, which Xu established earlier this year also appeared at the fair as did his new retail concept, Pimo.
“Indeed ART021 was a little bit of a Xu Zhen Art Fair,” said Lorenz Helbling, founder of ShanghART, “but with the participation of Madein gallery also at the traditional Shanghai Art Fair in Hongqiao at the same time, Xu Zhen’s solo exhibition at ShanghART and an opening at MadeIn Gallery a few days earlier, it was more like a general Xu Zhen Art Week.”
At ART021, MadeIn Gallery sold two large sculptural pieces by Beijing-based artist He An who works with urban and industrial materials. We Played the Flute and You Did Not Dance – Winter 11:37 (2014) sold for $25,000, and The Scent of When We Were Here Together Last Year or the Year Before (2014) sold for RMB 160,000 ($26,000).
Outside its street-level storefront, cupcakes with cream cheese icing reminiscent of Xu’s “Under Heaven” paintings were given out at the opening of Pimo, which treaded a line between a fair booth and a gift shop. Co-founder David Chau said Pimo, which is Chinese for fur, sold around 30 Xu Zhen sculptures and 100 prints, making almost RMB 2 million ($327,000) in total sales, with over RMB 300,000 ($50,000) coming from T-shirts and small accessories.
Even participants who weren’t closely affiliated with Xu Zhen mostly reported satisfactory sales at ART021, in large part thanks to works on the affordable end of the price spectrum.
Smaller local galleries dominated the 1+1 section of the fair, where each booth featured just one artist. Leo Xu Projects sold Chen Wei’s photographs Future and Modern (2014) for $7,500 and Tower (2013) for $12,000. Both went to Asian collectors. Vanguard Gallery sold everything they exhibited by Bi Rongrong, 14 works ranging in price from RMB 6,000–30,000 ($1,000–5,000), as well as works by gallery artists who weren’t shown in the booth itself.
“The organizers are good,” said Vanguard director Lise Li. “They introduced a lot of new collectors.”
Hong Kong’s Edouard Malingue Gallery sold three works ranging in price from RMB 17,000–350,000 ($2,800–57,000) by Hangzhou painter Yuan Yuan, who they’ve been representing for three years. Printmakers 2RC Edizioni d’Arte sold copper plate prints Study From a Human Body (1992) by Francis Bacon for €30,000 ($38,000) and Zhang Xiaogang’s set of nine prints titled Lost Dreams (2013) for RMB 360,000 ($59,000).
Pace, which has galleries nearby in Hong Kong and Beijing, sold several works by Hiroshi Sugimoto, Yin Xiuzhen, and Liu Jianhua. A gallery representative said the fair was “within our expectations. No surprises but still okay.”
Galerie Perrotin’s Uli Zhiheng Huang was more enthusiastic: “Sales were really good this year. On the first day 40 percent of the booth sold. We were working on sales before the fair, as usual, but the enthusiasm was unprecedented.”
Perrotin sold more than half its works by Dawei Dong for $5,000–8,000 a piece. They also sold a piece by Huang Fuxing for RMB 250,000 ($41,000) and five works by Kumi Kato, despite bringing only two to Shanghai.
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