Chinese Contemporary Art

A painting of horses. Painted in 798, Beijing's Art District

The Chinese Contemporary Art market is not the hottest art market in the world. Read this excellent two-part article about how to wisely choose the right Chinese Contemporary Art piece in China

We’ve all read it. The place to wade into, the hottest marketplace on the planet, the index that’s rising 1000 percent per annum: The Chinese Contemporary Art market.

Whether you’re into Yang Shaobin, QiBaiShi or merely hanging around the current crop of art school grads hoping to spot--and, of course, to buy--China’s David Hockney or, as he is known in Chinese “Dawei Huokeni”, China is where you should be and Chinese Contemporary Art is what you should be looking at.

So, you jump on a plane to Beijing, but once you are on the street with the doors of the hotel shut behind you, it hits you that you actually do not understand a whole lot of what’s going on in the Chinese Contemporary Art scene. Or maybe you have actually been living in China for a while, and friends and family back home are inquiring — you are right there in China, why the heck aren’t you developing an art collection? Why no one has yet to write about you in the artiznes as the chick with the insight or the guy with the eye?

So, you finally arrive to 798 (Beijing’s art district) on a lovely morning with nothing to do for the next nine hours but to get serious. Friends have recommended galleries — even one that will give a discount — and you have the names of some artists. It’s go time.

Four hours of serious looking and tramping later, you are lost somewhere in the maze; You see a cafe so you stop and collapse into a chair with a beer in one hand and a club sandwich in the other. You are overwhelmed. You have Never-Seen-So-Much-Art-In-One-Place-In-Your-Life. You have seen some things that you sort of liked from an artist you have never heard of, but his paintings were REALLY small on paper (and you think that serious investors buy oils) and were not necessarily cheap. The gallery with the discount had an exhibition of what appeared to be neon styrofoam cushions, and the discount brought the price down to around $US 15,000 a piece. You have a stack of gallery cards with scribbled notes, but you can’t seem to visualize anything except neon styrofoam cushions.

You spend the afternoon doing more of the same. You like the big white saw tooth-ceilinged spaces, but the Chinese Contemporary Art, well . . . actually . . . truthfully, those photos in that corridor in that tiny gallery that you had to duck past the step ladder to reach --  those were what you really liked.

You decide to check out Caochangdi and Feijiacun. More manageable layouts. It seems that everything is organized in your head -- But you have yet to actually buy something. Why? Because there is still the Central Academy of Fine Arts -- you have heard that there are studios in that area. Oh, and there is also Baiziwan which is just outside the third Ring Road. Maybe Thursday?

Ultimately you recognize that none of the above deals with the issue that has bugged you from the beginning: How can you be sure to pick a Chinese Contemporary Art piece that is going to appreciate in value? Or at the very least not depreciate by 50% two minutes after you have taken delivery? In Part II I will suggest how to pick out winning items and how to actually seal the deal for your first investment.

Continue reading: Chinese Contemporary Art part two

Directions (All places are located in the Beijing area):

798 - East of Airport Expressway at the Dashan Bridge. Take bus 915, 918 or 934 to Dashanzi then walk.

CAOCHANGDI -- About 5 km north of 798. Take bus 418 from the Dongzhimen Long-Distance Bus Station or pick up bus number 402 from anywhere on the 3rd Ring Road. Get off at Caochangdi.

FEIJIACUN -- West of the airport expressway at the Beigao Bridge. Metro line 15 to Cuigezhuang. Then taxi. By Car: Airport Expressway to Beigao Bridge. Come off onto Jingmi Road, then go north to Laiguangying East Road. Keep going for about 500 metres and follow gallery signs which will point south.

BAIZIWAN - Northeast of Shuangjing, surrounding the Today Art Museum. Take Metro line 10 to Shuangjing and take the NorthWest exit. Walk north (back towards Guomao) on the 3rd Ring Road for about 400m. Turn right on Baiziwan Road. (just before the railroad). Walk to Museum.

CENTRAL ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS - 8 Huajiadi Nanjie, just outside the fourth Ring Road at Wangjing Bridge. The campus is located just to the East of Nanhu Park. Metro line 10 to Taiyanggong and then a taxi.

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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.