China’s contemporary art-market bubble has burst. After becoming one of the hottest things in the art world over the last decade, galleries are now struggling to sell pieces, works are failing to reach minimums at auction, and artists are having to rethink their choice of career.
Many had expected a slowdown in the market after years of explosive growth, but the slump currently hitting the global economy has had a much bigger impact than anyone had foreseen.
“I think the biggest change in the Chinese art world has come from the US financial crisis,” said Qin Feng, founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Beijing. “It has been like a tsunami. It has had a major impact on Oriental art and Asian art in general. I know two or three large exhibitions which have had to be postponed, and I have also had to postpone showings.”
Astronomical speculation led to the expansion of the contemporary art bubble. From Bloomberg:
Chinese contemporary-art prices had shot up as much as 15 times in the past four years, largely on speculative trading. As liquidity dried up later in the year, scores of artworks went unsold.
Yet, it is also generally agreed that the financial crisis is conversely one of the best things to happen to the Chinese contemporary art scene. It is expected that creativity and innovation will once again be strongly reemphasized. From AFP:
“The prices were exaggerated. Young artists, still in school, were selling their paintings for 100,000 dollars,” said a gallery manager at 798. “It had lost touch with reality. The crisis will put this straight.”
[…]Meg Maggio, manager of Beijing Fine Arts in Caochangdi, another Beijing art district, agreed that the crisis could help rid the Chinese art market of some of its less savoury characteristics.
“In the end, the Chinese market will do well. It will emerge healthier and more locally focused,” she said.
“It is to be hoped that in the coming months the salons and galleries will become less commercial, more experimental and, in the final analysis, more exciting for the public and the collectors,” she said.
For an introduction to contemporary Chinese art, see the video below. In this 2008 video, Asia Society’s Melissa Chiu, Vice President of Global Art Programs and Museum Director of Asia Society, notes major themes and trends in contemporary Chinese art.