City to become world's art trading mecca

Wang Jie
With an eye to boosting the art industry's development, participants discussed important art market issues and trends at the 6th Shanghai Dialogue Forum.
Wang Jie

Large crowds turned out last week at Shanghai’s West Bund Art & Design and ART021, two of the top international art fairs in Asia. Given that Basel, FIAC and other top international art fairs were cancelled this year due to the pandemic, the excitement surrounding these fairs was even higher than usual.

VIP days, which cater to important collectors and celebrities before the fairs were opened to the public, attracted larger than usual crowds and long entrance queues. On the first VIP day alone, 60 million yuan (US$9.1 million) worth of artworks traded hands. Some private collectors even complained they were unable to purchase artworks they wanted at ART021, because those pieces had already been sold.

Clearly, the city’s art market has come back to life, on course to become one of the world’s leading art trading centers.

The Shanghai International Artwork Trade Month took place between October 15 to November 15, and featured more than 150 events ranging from auctions, art fairs, exhibitions and forums, including the 6th Shanghai Dialogue Forum.

Held on November 9 under the theme “Art, the Gateway to the Future,” the dialogue forum attracted government officials, as well as auction house, art academy and art museum representatives. With an eye to boosting the art industry’s development, participants discussed important art market issues and trends. Topics included construction of the Shanghai International Artwork Trade Center, online art trading, IP protection and cultural and creative industries.

The city already has infrastructure in place to make it a world leader for art trading.

“The Shanghai International Arts Bonded Service Center in the Shanghai free trade zone is the largest, most advanced art trading facility in the world and will be put into full use,” said Chen Yanfeng, deputy director of the Shanghai free trade zone.

Chen added that the center will provide strong hardware support and a service model for the entire industrial chain, enabling Shanghai to become one of the world’s most important art-trading centers.

City to become worlds art trading mecca
Ti Gong

Chen Yanfeng, deputy director of the Shanghai free trade zone

On November 10, a new pact signed by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the Shanghai government kicked off a three-year reform trial for administering the exhibition, trade and appraisal of antiques. The pact makes Shanghai the first Chinese city to launch a series of new policies, practices and administration models governing effective protection of collectible antiques and cultural relics.

Among other things, the new policies will allow the Shanghai free trade zone’s bonded art warehouse to remove the existing six-month legal window for imported artworks and antiques — which will help works of art, especially Chinese antiques from overseas, find their way back to Chinese collectors.

Some guest speakers at the dialogue forum aired their concerns about the digital art market and the development of Chinese art museums. Huang Xiaojian, president of the China Association of Auction Trade, called for a multi-layered business model tailored for the art market.

“Currently, the scale of auction enterprises is almost the same in quality and capacity, and isn’t conducive to the sustainable development of the industry,” Huang said. “We should explore variations in patterns, categories, channels and services. We need to explore a multi-interval art industry for different clients.”

He also suggested expediting construction of the digital art market ecosystem.

“Since the outbreak of the epidemic, auction companies, galleries and expositions both at home and abroad have started to switch from offline to online, promoting the overall digitization and upgrade of the art market,” Huang said. “However, online transactions still appear to be in separate ‘battles’ and are regulated in different situations, lacking a developmental concept of convergence, unified industry norms and strong market support. How to build a unified standard for resource collection to complete the digital art market ecosystem is a problem we need to think about. It requires joint efforts from government departments, industry organizations, enterprises and network platforms, as well as financial, logistical and insurance support.”

Jin Wei, deputy director of the Culture and Finance Research Center at the National Finance and Development Laboratory, also called for policy and governmental support.

“In the past five years, many technology platforms have been launched, but most are still relatively small and not widely available,” Wei said. “In this case, such platforms won’t last long.”

Zhang Zikang, curator of the art museum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, stressed the importance of a shared vision among art museums, galleries and art foundations. He stressed the importance of conducting academic research for art museums around the country.

“We all know the best museums always have a voice in the art community,” Zhang said. “If an art museum aspires to be first class, it must establish its own academic voice.

“However, academic research is not so valued in Chinese art museums. That’s not to say curators don’t pay attention to it, but society in general and government officials aren’t aware of it. So many works of art move from one museum to the next. However, the function of an art museum isn’t a venue merely for displaying art. Without art-related academic research, a branded art museum can never be built.”

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