Chinese Contemporary Art (part two)

Contemporary Art in Beijing

So, Chinese Contemporary Art part one must have left you somewhat overwhelmed and uncertain about what to do next, not to mention you must be inclined to just chuck it all and go back to concentrating on the Dow or the Hang Seng. But before you are tempted to throw your money into something that, as profitable as it may seem, will not give you one enjoyable moment, hold off a bit. Go check out CAFA and the surrounding areas and do not forget about Baiziwan – which has some great stuff. Look all you want, and think about what really got your attention. Those photos? Those paintings which you vetoed because they were on paper? That fabulous collage of pottery shards which looked so alive but maybe would not fit on your wall?

Now go back to those galleries and talk to the owners (take someone to translate, if you need to). Tell him/her/them that you really like their items and that you are beginning a collection and would like to learn more. You will probably get shown more works by the same artist. Look at them. Do you like all of them or just the one you saw first? If you like all of them then this artist will probably be the one whose work you would enjoy collecting over a period of time. Find out what information you can about him and his previous work.

Now it is time to start narrowing things down. Decide which Chinese Contemporary Art piece you like best. Get a price. Ask for a discount. Ask again. And again. Think about it overnight if that’s your decision-making style. And then, go ahead and BUY. Go back home, move the table, the sofa and whatever else you have to move, so to get the art to be displayed to your satisfaction. Better yet, sell the sofa and sit on the floor — unless you bought the neon cushions that is.

Uptick in value? You might get lucky. An auction sale might go really well, and you might find that the 2,000 RMB collage that was done when that intense-looking kid with the glue-spattered hair was 21, will 15 years later sell for $US 8 million. That’s thick icing on anybody’s cake.

But appreciation and investment: those are different things altogether. Appreciation? Appreciation is what makes you a collector. Appreciation comes from sitting on your floor every day looking at something that you find beautiful or significant on your wall or in your own space. Looking at it in the high summer light and in the low gray of winter. One day, 15 years from now, someone will come along and say: “I like that, how much does it worth?” and you will reply “Yeah, isn‘t it great. And who knows what it‘s worth.” Then, you know you are truly appreciating the Chinese Contemporary Art that you have collected.

As for successful investment, well, here is a fact about successful investment in Art in general and in Chinese Contemporary Art in particular. Take that day in Beijing. That day when you really could not afford what you had to spend, but you went ahead and spent it anyway, because you really liked the piece. That day when you maybe threw out half of the furniture just so you could get a collage onto the wall of your room and have some space to see it. That was the day when you began investing successfully in Chinese Contemporary Art.

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About the Author

After 25 years in Modern and Contemporary art collection development in the US and Europe, Charlotte has spent weekdays the past 3 years studying Chinese language and culture in Beijing. On weekends she heads out to absorb the energy of the Beijing art scene -- and to practice Mandarin, of course.