Recent reports about the market for Chinese contemporary art have made some collectors understandably wary, including instances of forgery, fraud, and even money laundering. However, there are many aspects of this market that are reliably transparent, representing an exciting arena both for investment and for education.
The Chinese contemporary art market is still evolving as a vibrant contender in the global art world. Chinese and Western cultural institutions have become increasingly interwoven as the market for art has globalized. Institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art are sponsoring large shows focused on Chinese art, such as “Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China,” and this year’s Armory Show had a special “China Focus” section where prominent Chinese galleries and art were on display at Pier 94.
Several months earlier, renowned Miami collectors Don and Mera Rubell unveiled an extraordinary exhibition, “28 Chinese,” at The Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation in Miami, FL (on view through August 1) where the opening was scheduled to coincide with Art Basel Miami Beach. A number of artists on exhibition have piqued the interest of collectors. The cover of their catalog, as well as the publicity around the exhibition (notably in the The New York Times this past December), show the Rubells in front of a bold, geometric painting by artist Liu Wei, who is now showing with Lehmann Maupin gallery. Wei is a perfect example of a younger contemporary Chinese artist whose use of various media —video, drawing, painting, and sculpture— has contributed to the growing popularity of Chinese contemporary art, as a whole.
In addition to Liu Wei, the buzz and energy around a well-respected and more established artist, Huang Rui, is why we love collecting works from his Space Structure works. Rui is known for his social and cultural criticism. He founded a pivotal Chinese contemporary art movement called “The Stars,” along with Ai Weiwei and Wang Keping. Born in Beijing in 1952, Rui’s works are daringly simple, alluding to a style similar to Mark Rothko, which is evident in the work’s frank beauty, in its minimalism, both geometric and soft-edged, and in the soothing variations of its palette. Rui is currently showing at Gallery Magda Danysz, located in Shanghai, until May 2014. He previously has shown with 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, in Hong Kong, as well as Chinese Contemporary Gallery in New York City.
The current market for his work is solid and demonstrates clear staying power. Not surprisingly, prices for Rui’s work have risen over the past ten years. Recently, one of his pieces sold at auction at Christie’s Hong Kong for more than three times the estimated sale price and achieving the current record (over $170,000 for a work with a high estimate of $65,000). This is a trend we expect to continue; as the next generation of Chinese artists draws global attention, Rui will be viewed as an established master who paved the way.
The near synchronicity of the Metropolitan’s “Ink Art” show, the Armory’s “China Focus” Section, and the Rubells’ “28 Chinese” is no coincidence. The market for Chinese contemporary art may seem nascent, but it has generational weight behind it, in the works of artist’s like Huang Rui, and it is here to stay. The art world is now a global market, and Chinese contemporary art has a permanent place there, commanding more attention and drawing more crowds, everyday. If you have not done so already, this is time to explore!
Astrid T. Hill is the president of Monticule Art, which provides art advisory services to private collectors. She specializes in contemporary primary and secondary market works of art.Follow artnet News on Facebook.