City's art scene stages world-leading comeback

Wang Jie
Shanghai's art scene is staging a world-leading comeback with the West Bund Art & Design and ART021, among the best art fairs in Asia that many feared wouldn't take place.
Wang Jie

The city’s November art season has kicked off with aplomb, much to the delight of local art lovers. Because of the pandemic, many doubted the dazzling November art scene would even take place.

The most important art events of the season — the 7th West Bund Art & Design and ART021 — both considered among the best art fairs in Asia, will run from November 11 to 15.

Preparation for both began almost six months ago.

According to the West Bund Art & Design organizing team, there were regular internal meetings and discussions with partners beginning in May to prepare for different scenarios.

“We evaluated the feasibility of having the fair,” one organizer said. “What if the pandemic worsens and most overseas galleries can’t participate? What are the procedures to refund them? We tried to focus on things we could control. The success of an art fair doesn’t lie in what you say but what you do. We just follow the daily workflow and continue moving forward.”

Bringing together more than 100 leading galleries, designer brands and art institutions, this year’s West Bund event will display a wide range of art from across the globe, including paintings, sculptures, installations, photography and videos.

Not surprisingly, the number of overseas galleries taking part will be smaller than in previous years. The testing and quarantine requirements for foreigners are challenging, because the time-consuming process also includes an invitation letter and visa application.

The same challenges apply to ART021.

Kylie Ying, co-founder of ART021, said the number of overseas galleries participating is down this year.

“The impact on ART021 is not so strong, as Chinese galleries — including the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau — comprise about two-thirds of the participants,” she said. “But the absence of overseas galleries will still be felt.”

However, Ying is optimistic about this year’s art market.

“Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, nearly every big international art fair has been canceled this year,” she said.

“So ART021 has an opportunity, and I think this is our chance to ‘dig out’ quality artists and galleries in the country. As we all know, domestic demand has been suppressed for almost a year, because there haven’t been any big art fairs for collectors to visit — but that changes starting now!”

The 8th ART021 features 114 galleries from 18 countries and regions. It runs from November 12 to 15 at Shanghai Exhibition Center. Among them, 23 foreign and domestic galleries will participate for the first time.

In recent years, Shanghai has become an international hotspot for art trading, on par with New York, Paris, London and Basel. The city government has implemented favorable policies and allocated funds to encourage local art exhibitions, trading and auctions.

With the theme “Global Art in Shanghai Time,” this year’s docket includes more than 100 art events.

Lorenze Helbling — owner of ShanghART, one of the top contemporary art galleries in China — will be involved in both fairs. Although he was away from Shanghai for almost six months due to the pandemic, Helbling has actively participated in the city’s art scene since returning.

In addition to West Bund Art & Design and ART021, ShanghART will present a solo exhibition of works by Yang Fudong, one of the most internationally renowned Chinese contemporary artists, beginning tomorrow.

The exhibition features Yang’s paintings, photography and video installations.

Helbling puts a premium on selecting different types of artists and art for every event.

“At West Bund Art & Design, we will present 11 significant works by the almost-legendary ‘silkworm artist’ Liang Shaoji,” he said.

“The works include a set of his early ‘cocoon beds’ that received high accolades at the Venice Biennale, plus a recent 2-meter camphor wood piece titled ‘Sit in Meditation.’”

He added: “The selection of ShanghART for ART021 speaks to the eclectic nature of the fair. We will present works by many of the artists ShanghART is known for while also presenting many new directions, such as works by Zhang Enli, Yang Fudong, Li Shan, Yu Youhan and Xue Song.”

It’s impossible to know what the future holds — and whether the pandemic will change the traditional way of buying art — but Helbling remains optimistic.

“We don’t expect many overseas collectors and will miss them, especially Asian collectors who have become more prominent over the past few years,” he said. “But anyone who’s interested can still see our work and follow our program on our gallery website or through WeChat and Instagram.”

Citys art scene stages world-leading comeback
Ti Gong

"Trickster" by Klara Kristalova

Multimedia sections return to West Bund

One of the biggest highlights of this year’s West Bund Art & Design will be the return of Design Section, which exhibits unique works in Hall B1 of the West Bund Art Center.

The section consists of nine foreign and domestic brands, including Cindy Chao and Domus Tiandi.

This year’s fair will also feature a special online section titled “Online Viewing Room” at

Running for its fifth consecutive year, the Xiàn Chǎng section features 22 artworks of different formats — including paintings, installations and sculptures — that extends to sites around the city as a way of melding art with public life.

This year’s video section will showcase works from 17 galleries and institutions and 38 artists from China and overseas. The section’s 40 videos will be projected in Hall B of the West Bund Art Center and in the Xintiandi neighborhood during the Lumières Shanghai light festival.

VIP Preview: November 11, 1pm-7pm
Public Access: November 12-15, 12pm-6pm
Address: 2555 Longteng Avenue
Admission: 180 yuan via WeChat

Citys art scene stages world-leading comeback
Ti Gong

"Civitas Solis III 11" by Lee Bul

Solo exhibits set to shine at ART021

This year’s edition of ART021 will include several curated solo exhibitions. Gagosian Gallery will highlight artist Jia Aili, whose work combines the figurative with abstract, contemplating the human existence.

White Cube will present Qin Yifeng’s most recent works that push the boundaries of drawing. And Galleria Continua will exhibit installations by the late internationally acclaimed artist Chen Zhen.

PLATFORM is a new online presentation featuring 33 galleries from across the world, and a special section DETOUR highlights promising artists outside the mainstream.

ART021’s Jewelry and Design will showcase the world’s top design galleries and jewelry brands.

The public project section BEYOND selects Li Wei’s mobile installation work “Long Long Long Ago” and Liu Wei’s installation work “Merely A Mistake II No. 1.” The sculpture “A Fu” by artist Gao Yu will appear in Magnolia Hall at the Shanghai Exhibition Center.

Collectors Preview: November 12, 2pm-8pm; November 13, 1pm-8pm
Public Access: November 14 and 15, 11am-6pm
Address: 1000 Yan’an Road M.
Admission: 100 yuan for early bird tickets purchased before November 15 via WeChat

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