Gallery Weekend Beijing Drew Nearly 200,000 In-Person Visitors Despite a Regional Audience and Enduring Travel Restrictions

Dealers saw robust attendance and encouraging signs for the future of in-person art events.

Installation view of BANK MABSOCIETY at the Visitor section of Gallery Weekend Beijing.

After the turmoil that stalled much of the 2020 art calendar, Gallery Weekend Beijing marks one of the first signs of a return to interacting with art in real life—and so far there’s been robust demand.

Originally scheduled for March, the fifth-annual edition of the event was postponed to May and ran for a week before ending yesterday (though some visiting galleries are continuing their runs for additional weeks). The surprisingly high number of in-person visitors—199,000 according to the official count—largely came from the region.

The figure marked a 72 percent year-on-year growth in visitors, organizers said, though it’s safe to assume numbers were depressed last year amid the pandemic as well.

Gallery Weekend Beijing director Amber Yifei Wang.

Gallery Weekend Beijing director Amber Yifei Wang.

“Under three core concepts—ecology, technology, and recovery—this year’s Gallery Weekend Beijing expanded its exhibition both physically and digitally,” said director Amber Yifei Wang in a statement. The platform has “broken the traditional gallery weekend model and became an anchor event for the city as well as a milestone for the art world.”

Travel restrictions meant most of the visitors came from cities surrounding Beijing. Though it is the domestic collectors with whom we have mostly interacted, we are very delighted to see renowned collectors from Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and many more cities during this year’s edition,” said a spokesperson from the visiting Paris gallery Balice Hertling, which showed works by Enzo Cucchi, Camille Blatrix, Julie Beaufils, and Owen Fu. “I am also impressed by the emerging and young collectors among them.”

spokesperson for Pilar Corrias said that the regional focus was a positive aspect of this year’s event: “It is precisely why we have decided to participate. We are willing to start building connections with domestic audiences.”

The main sector was held across seven locations and included 29 participants (21 galleries, seven nonprofits, and one independent institution), which represents a 32 percent jump over last year. Meanwhile, the a dedicated section for non-local galleries brought together eight domestic and overseas galleries, including A Thousand Plateaus Art Space (from Chengdu), Bank/Mabsociety (Shanghai), Gladstone Gallery (New York and Brussels), and Pilar Corrias (London).

Installation view of of A Thousand Plateaus in the Visiting Sector at Gallery Weekend Beijing 2021

Installation view of of A Thousand Plateaus in the Visiting Sector at Gallery Weekend Beijing 2021

“The mood was quite festive but well-paced and the format of the event, with one-month exhibitions in proper gallery spaces, made it a lot more organized and easier to experience the work and have more in-depth conversations with clients and visitors,” said Matthieu Borysevicz, co-founder and director of Shanghai’s Bank/Mabsociety.

Besides one gallerist from New York who went through hell and high water to attend the fair it was all local attendees,” Borysevicz added. “But Beijing and China have enough art lovers alone to have made it a great success.”

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