November sees the return of Shanghai’s annual arts season, and it’s bigger than ever, with the new Design Miami / Podium x Shanghai boutique fair (November 4-14) and a new edition of Photofairs Shanghai (November 3-6) alongside the flagship Art021 and West Bund Art & Design Fair (both November 11-14). The government-backed Shanghai International Art Trade Month (SIATM) returns for a third year, offering additional customs support and tax exemptions for artistic transactions, while the many institutions and galleries of the city hold their biggest exhibitions and events of the year.
“The pandemic has made Art021 and the West Bund the ‘bridgeheads’ of the Chinese market,” said Ray Dong, who heads the Art Market Research Center at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. “Because people can’t go abroad, we have to come [to Shanghai]. Its position in the market and in the minds of Chinese collectors is becoming increasingly important. Dong adds, “Everyone loves to get together in November, collectors from Shanghai and art lovers from all over the country. Design Miami / Podium x Shanghai chose November to coincide with Art021 and West Bund and to inject design into the artistic mix, said founding director Chris Shao. “We want to be part of this festive scene and offer something different from painting and sculpture. “
In addition to restricted borders and sporadic localized epidemics, since the end of the national lockdown in spring 2020, mainland China has largely resumed its activities. Last year, Shanghai Art Week was hailed as an intoxicating revival that kept Chinese galleries in business and spurred a proliferation of new galleries opened in the city and beyond.
For its eighth iteration, West Bund will expand to a third hall, the former West Bund Dome circular cement plant. Despite the pandemic, the fair still has 120 galleries, designer brands and artistic institutions, with 22 new exhibitors and 48 foreign galleries.
Art021 received “over 400 applicants and accepted around a quarter,” said co-founder David Chau. He adds that while remaining cautious, international galleries “are learning to deal with the pandemic. Many have expressed confidence that they will participate next year even though the world is still closed, as the growth of the market in China is something they cannot ignore. Chau says SIATM has improved in leaps and bounds since its inception to help dealers navigate customs and tax matters. “For example, this year’s VAT and import tax exemption for art passing through the fair channel is the result. “
Canceled in 2020, Photofairs Shanghai resumes with 24 galleries, two-thirds of the usual number, including nine international galleries (six of which have no space in mainland China). Photofairs also features galleries from Chinese cities with more emerging scenes, such as Changsha, Chengdu, Lanzhou, Suzhou, Urumqi and Zhengzhou. In addition to a series of new collectors, the art director of the fair, Fan Nin, claims that established buyers who were “unable to travel so easily [as before] paid more attention to local art events and explored different types of art for their collections, including photography.
However, the PU letters necessary for foreign nationals to obtain visas would be difficult to obtain this year. “We requested many PU letters, but unfortunately none of them were granted,” Shao said. Therefore, no foreign gallery can attend in person. Still, Shao says that “the economy as a whole is very optimistic, as China is going through a great transition from mass production for foreign brands to establishing local brands and a cultural identity. There must be declining industries, but the art and design market is growing exponentially.
Since collectors are unable to easily travel abroad, they could invest more time and money in Chinese artists, Dong hopes. “Many cultivate a more independent knowledge of artists, works and the market. However, the growth is mainly fueled by newcomers: “A lot of the new faces in galleries, fairs and auction houses are young collectors, mainly interested in contemporary art, especially works by artists born in the 1970s, 80s and even 90s. “