Shanghai brimming with art…


Shanghai is a superb artistic destination this November with – among other events– the inauguration of the Shanghai branch of the Pompidou Center… a Pierre Soulages exhibition at the city’s Perrotin Gallery… Zhou Chunya at the Long Museum… and the prestigious West Bund Art & Design Fair (7-10 November).


Image Courtesy of West Bund Art & Design

In the field of auction sales, Shanghai has seen a drastic fall in turnover: in just one year the city’s secondary market sales of Contemporary art contracted 80% from $26.1 million in 2017/18 to $5.1 million in 2018/19, moving Shanghai from 7th to 16th place in the global ranking. Christie’s – for the time being – has put its sales on hold… Meanwhile Shanghai seems to be deploying the richness of its artistic identity and the intensity of its market by other means.

Apart from the drop in secondary market sales, the bubbling megalopolis of 26 million inhabitants is in fact increasing its artistic attractiveness. The number of museums has more than doubled in the past five years (from 34 to 78 museums), with some events achieving truly global notoriety like the spectacular Yayoi KUSAMA exhibition at the Fosun Foundation from March to June last (All About Love Speaks Forever). Another of the city’s leading museums is the one founded by Wang Wei and her husband Liu Yiqian (who in 2015 acquired one of Modigliani’s best known works at the record price of $170.4 million: Nu couché). The former taxi driver has opened two branches of his Long Museum (one in Pudong and the other in West Bund) with a surface area of more than 430,000 sq ft, half of which is reserved for exhibitions. Currently showing is a retrospective of work by ZHOU Chunya that goes back to his very early creations, rarely exhibited, including Sheepshearing, acquired in 2011 in Beijing for $4.8 million.

Shearing Wool Artist- Zhou Chunya Oil on canvas, 167.5×234 cm, 1981. ©Zhou Chunya, Long Museum

Zhou Chunya (1955) – Sheepshearing

Among the Western galleries in Shanghai, Magda Danysz was one of the first, opening there 10 years ago. More recently, in 2018, Emmanuel Perrotin chose the city of the future to open his second space in China, a country that accounts for more than a third of the gallery’s business. As of November 5, the gallerist will be using the 13,000 square feet of his Shanghai gallery to exhibit works by Pierre SOULAGES and Jean-Michel OTHONIEL. The timing is of course strategic with two other major events during the same week: the official opening of the Pompidou Center in Shanghai and that of the major fair, West Bund Art & Design, at the West Bund Art Center.

After months of delays, the inauguration of the Shanghai Pompidou Center marks the culmination of an agreement between France and China establishing a temporary Pompidou Center for Contemporary Art for five years renewable (2019- 2024) in the West Bund Art Museum. The 270,000 sq ft museum – designed by British architect David Chipperfield – opens with the exhibition “The Shape of Time”, exploring the notion of time through a hundred or so works from the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, including works by Picasso, Miro, Duchamp, Pollock, Richter and Boltanski. The curator is Marcella Lista, head of the New Media Department at the National Museum of Modern Art, who says that “the Pompidou Center has a role to play on the Chinese art scene”, and that its presence is essential to an enrichment of the dialogue between Contemporary art in China and the West.


Rossi Martino. Emilio VEDOVA (1919-2006). Courtesy of West Bund Art & Design 2019 edition

Driven by the same energy, the West Bund Art & Design Fair opens its doors to the public from 7 to 10 November bringing together a hundred major galleries from Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America. Ben Brown Fine Arts, Sadie Coles, Continua, Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Gladstone, Xavier Hufkens, Simon Lee, Marlborough, Pace and David Zwirner are among the prestigious names at this fair. With galleries from 18 different countries, no less than 28 galleries are participating in the fair for the first time, proof of the interest it has elicited throughout the art world. Indeed, while auction sales may have contracted, the bulk of Shanghai’s Art Market appears to have migrated to this fair which has succeeded in convincing the most demanding and most powerful galleries. Having been an eldorado for Chinese artists who set up their workshops in vast wastelands, Shanghai is now offering another face, intense and multiple, and has become an unavoidable reference point in the international landscape of art and its market.