Fairs exemplify Shanghai's global art influence

Wang Jie
It's best to arrange a preliminary schedule on your own, and wear a pair of comfy shoes to walk through a series of dazzling exhibitions and fervent art shows this month.
Wang Jie

Take heed, the frenzied art November is under way!

It's best to arrange a preliminary schedule on your own, and wear a pair of comfy shoes to walk through a series of dazzling exhibitions and fervent art shows this month.

As a lead event of the Shanghai International Artwork Trade Month, West Bund Art & Design, which runs from November 11 to 14, is a must-see. In addition to Halls A and B of the West Bund Art Center, the West Bund Dome is set to open to the public – as a new venue this year right behind the center.

Fairs exemplify Shanghai's global art influence
Ti Gong

West Bund Art & Design runs from November 11 to 14.

Beginning with only 20 participating galleries in its infancy, today West Bund Art & Design is one of the biggest art fairs in Asia with a dynamic influence.

The fair now features more than 120 galleries, designer brands and art institutions from 45 cities in 18 countries despite the global pandemic.

Divided into the gallery, design, video, perspective and xian chang (on-site) sections, the fair is a visual feast of masterpieces created by renowned artists and the latest art from emerging stars.

"We are excited to rejoin West Bund Art & Design this year," said Pearl Lam, the founder and owner of Pearl Lam Galleries, which didn't participate in last year's fair due to the pandemic. "We believe the Chinese art market is resilient, with collectors wanting to see and buy works in person. Even though fewer galleries participated in the fair last year, it was encouraging to see there were still significant sales."

Wahei Aoyama, owner of A Lighthouse called Kanata, which has participated in the fair for several years, agrees with Lam.

"Every year we feel the show gets better, and we expect this year's edition to be the best one yet. The Chinese market knows no limits, and we hope to sell to wonderful collectors and museums throughout China once again at West Bund," Aoyama said.

However, the effort and time required to run an international art fair, especially during a pandemic, is very taxing on the organizing team.

"All the work began shortly following the end of last year's fair. In fact, we 'rehearsed' different plans to address different scenarios that might arise this year. Every detail was considered carefully and cautiously," said a member with the organizing team, who also revealed that nearly 70 percent galleries came from the overseas.

Different from its peers, the xian chang section reveals the fair's "ambition" to be a top global art fair.

In fact, the xian chang section has long been a key part of the fair, providing exposure for art projects conducted by galleries and institutions beyond the usual space demand through exhibition booths. This year, 14 impressive paintings, installations and sculptures will run through the inner and outer spaces of Halls A and B in the art center, extending to the West Bund Dome.

For example, the augmented reality project "Digital Human Remains" by DATALAVA invites viewers to enter a digital world with references to real scenes through their phone cameras.

While outside the West Bund Dome, "Nomad Wanderer 2," created by Qiao Xiaodao, resembles an outer space wagon that failed to fly, evoking a special link between the space and viewers.

Fairs exemplify Shanghai's global art influence
Courtesy of Sadie Coles HQ, London

"East China Sea" by Ugo Rondinone, 2021

Fairs exemplify Shanghai's global art influence
Courtesy of Luiz Zerbini and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London

Luiz Zerbini's "Optocinético," 2020

In recent years, Shanghai has become an international hotspot for art trading, on par with New York, Paris, London and Basel.

Among the 20 galleries making their debuts at West Bund Art & Design, CoBra Gallery, Christine Park Gallery and Bluerider ART have opened new spaces in Shanghai this year.

The city government has implemented services and allocated funds to encourage local art exhibitions and trading.

Apparently one international art fair during Shanghai International Artwork Trading Month doesn't satisfy the demand from collectors, gallerists, art dealers and local art lovers.

The 9th ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair, running from November 11 to 14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, well manifest the city's art vitality and openness.

Featuring 134 galleries from 29 cities in 14 countries, ART021 boasts that this year's fair will be its biggest to date.

Fairs exemplify Shanghai's global art influence
Ti Gong

The 9th ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair runs from November 11 to 14 at the Shanghai Exhibition Center.

"About 30 percent are overseas galleries," said Kylie Ying, one of the three founders of ART021, which opened in the city in 2013. "More than 40 galleries will make their debuts here. Unlike other countries, art fairs in China are not all the same."

The differentiation in art fairs begins inside "ART021's Empire."

The ART021 team now operates three art fairs in China, including the first DnA Shenzhen Design and Art Fair that opened last month and JINGART in Beijing, which commenced in 2018.

"ART021 in Shanghai Focuses on chic art, JINGART on classic art and DnA on the design part," said Ying.

One of the highlights of ART021 is "China Art Now," which features a variety of canvases and sculptures, as well as digital and pop art, in limited editions created by five artists – Dennis Chan, Dong Shubing, Kzeng Jiang, Yang Mian and Zhu Hui.

Chan, co-founder of jewelry brand Qeelin, infuses art with Chinese elements. He reinterprets traditional symbols with new meanings, and reflects life aesthetics through a pop style. His series "HAHALULU" in the shape of a traditional gourd is personified like a cute creature, which according to Chan "is a return to real happiness."

Fairs exemplify Shanghai's global art influence
Ti Gong

"HAHALULU" sculpture by Dennis Chan, 2021

It's said one might easily bump into movie stars and other celebrities at ART021. Because of the social web of the founders, a cluster of celebrities and movie stars like Jay Chou and Zhang Ziyi often visit the fair, making it a trending topic on social media.

"It's always our priority to serve the exhibitors and gallerists," Ying said. "We don't purposely promote the star effect to the public. However, some celebrities and movie stars are real art collectors who unwittingly spread their influence on art fairs."

The fair's DETOUR section is an exploration of multidimensional perspectives beyond mainstream Western ideology, and includes five galleries from Tehran and Kuala Lumpur.

Visitors who frequent both West Bund Art & Design and ART021 will find some crossover, as some galleries will be participating in the two fairs simultaneously. Gallerists have well-designed plans to promote artists with different artworks at art fairs with different images.

"The Chinese art market is far from saturated. The capacity and potential of Chinese collectors are beyond your expectations," Ying said.

West Bund Art & Design

Venue 1: Hall A and Hall B, West Bund Art Center

VIP Preview: November 11, 1-7pm; November 12, 12-1pm

Public Days: November 12, 1-6pm; November 13-14, 12-6pm

Address: 2555 Longteng Avenue

Venue 2: West Bund Dome

VIP Preview: November 11, 12-7pm

Public Days: November 12, 12am-7pm; November 13-14, 11am-7pm

Address: 2350 Longteng Avenue


VIP Days: November 11, 2-8pm; November 12, 1-8pm

Public Days: November 13-14, 11am-6pm

Venue: Shanghai Exhibition Center

Address: 1000 Yan'an Road M.

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