Pace Beijing- a forerunner in China’s international gallery scene

by leslierankowfinearts

45728_ZHANG_HUANPACE GALLERY NOW ENJOYS SEVEN LOCATIONS, ONE OF THE MOST COMPELLING THEIR BEIJING GALLERY, OPENED IN 2008, A FORERUNNER FOR EUROPEAN AND AMERICAN DEALERS ESTABLISHING A PRESENCE IN ASIA.  THE ART WORLD IS FLAT, CERTAINLY. ARTISTS, DEALERS, COLLECTORS HAVE INFINITE OPPORTUNITIES TO FAMILIARIZE THEMSELVES WITH THE WORK AND THE MARKET FOR ARTISTS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. THIS EXPOSURE IS BOTH LIBERATING AND DAUNTING FOR COLLECTORS AND DEALERS TO DETERMINE WHAT CHOICES TO MAKE THAT WILL HAVE AN INTERNATIONAL PRESENCE AND QUALITY.

PETER BORIS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE PACE GALLERY,  INITIATED MANY OF THESE FORAYS, ON BEHALF OF PACE, THANKS TO HIS GREAT RESPECT FOR AND LOVE OF ASIAN CULTURE AND PHILOSOPHY,  HIS PRESENCE IN ASIA WAS, I AM CERTAIN, A CATALYST IN PACE’S LAUNCH OF ITS REMARKABLE PACE BEIJING. http://www.pacegallery.com/

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PETER, PLEASE DESCRIBE PACE BEIJING AND THE OPENING AND INITIAL EXHIBITIONS? WERE THE EXHIBITS LIMITED TO CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ARTISTS OR DID THEY INCLUDE THE INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS THAT PACE REPRESENTS?

Pace’s original idea was to represent a few of the major contemporary Chinese artists in New York.  And we were fortunate to begin working with Zhang Xiaogang, Zhang Huan and Hai Bo.  But, on this first trip we went to visit a friend’s gallery in the 798 Art District.  TO get there we walked through a space that was really remarkable.  798 was a military research and manufacturing community that was taken over by artists, galleries and little shops in the 1990’s.   798 was like an island within Beijing that had been built by East German architects.  The buildings were spare and muscular with lots of natural light.  What became Pace Beijing was 22,000 square feet of basically open space with very high ceilings with northern light coming in from 6 banks of windows. There are installation photographs of it on the Pace website.  We negotiated with the Chinese government for months in order to get it.  It was very hard to charm the Chinese government landlords.  But in the end, we were able to rent
the space.

So we had met the artists, secured a great space and, once we convinced the President of Pace Beijing, Leng Lin to join us, we had everything we needed to open Pace Beijing.  And we did so in August of 2008, just a few months before that economic implosion in America and Europe.   It didn’t matter.   We got off to a great start and it has kept going.   Leng Lin is an extraordinary talent- an art dealer, critic, historian, curator and, at times, an artist.  He had been part of the contemporary scene from the early days of the Chinese contemporary art scene and was very well respected.  He also knew how to navigate.  He is something like a Chinese version of Arne.  Both are rooted in art history but are also entrepreneurs, something well respected in China.  As for me, I connected the resources.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH DEALING WITH FAR EASTERN CLIENTS?  HOW OFTEN DID YOU TRAVEL TO ASIAN AND INDIAN CITIES BEFORE THE MOMENTUM OF OUR CURRENT MARKET TOOK HOLD?

A lot of it came from participation in art fairs.  I met collectors but most of the contact was with Asian dealers and later, artists and dealers in India. Language and business practice was impossible for me to navigate efficiently.  So dealers who understood both sides were very important.  They still are.   Again, I saw my role as one who connected resources so this was very agreeable.  I met a lot of the clients but I never tried to jump between them and their dealers unless they asked.  And most of the time, the Asian clients are more comfortable with an Asian dealer overseeing transactions.  There are a few exceptions, especially in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In the 1980s and 90s I would go to Asia four times  a year. Then, in 2007 and 2008, I went to China about a dozen times while Pace Beijing was being built.

IN OUR NEXT BLOG, PETER WILL EXPLORE THE CURRENT CLIMATE FOR CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ART, ITS MARKET AND ITS FUTURE.  THE FIRST ART BASEL HONG KONG OPENS WITH GREAT EXCITEMENT TOMORROW.

A COLLECTOR FRIEND IN HONG KONG JUST INFORMED ME THAT THERE ARE LINES AROUND THE BLOCK FOR THE BASQUIAT OPENING AT GAGOSIAN. I DON’T DOUBT IT. ALL EYES ARE (AND HAVE BEEN FOR SOME TIME) FACING EAST.

PLEASE CONTRIBUTE ANY QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS. PETER IS GENEROUS WITH HIS TIME AND KNOWLEDGE AND HAPPILY CAN ANSWER SO MANY QUESTIONS, FROM ARTISTS, DEALERS AND COLLECTORS ALIKE, ON THE NATURE OF THIS MARKET AND CHINA’S VITAL PRESENCE IN THE INTERNATIONAL ART WORLD.

LOOKING FORWARD TO OUR CONTINUING DIALOGUE.

THANKS FOR FOLLOWING!