China-New York, an exchange of visual and market phenomenon

by leslierankowfinearts

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ART BASEL IN  HONG KONG WAS LAUNCHED THIS MONTH TO GREAT SUCCESS.  HALF OF THE PARTICIPATING GALLERIES CAME FROM ASIA AND ASIA-PACIFIC PROVIDING A PORTAL TO THE REGION’S ARTISTS. \INTERNATIONAL GALLERIES, DEALERS AND COLLECTORS CONGREGATED FROM AROUND THE WORLD  AND THE FAIR PROVIDED GALLERIES FROM ABROAD  A PLATFORM FOR THEIR ARTISTS AND INVENTORY  TO THE NOW  MARKET DOMINANT CADRE OF  ASIAN COLLECTORS.

HONG KONG IS A MARVELOUSLY  VITAL CITY.  I HAD THE GREAT GOOD FORTUNE TO BE INTRODUCED TO IT  SOME YEARS AGO BY A COLLECTOR CLIENT/FRIEND WHO GREW UP IN SHANGHAI AND  NOW HEADS  HIS FAMILY BUSINESS IN KOWLOON – THE BEST POSSIBLE  INTRODUCTION TO A DYNAMIC CITY AND PART OF THE WORLD.  MANY GALLERIES FROM NEW YORK AND LONDON HAVE NOW OPENED IN ASIA.

THE PACE GALLERY WAS THE FIRST TO ESTABLISH A BASE IN CHINA IN 2008.  TODAY, WE HAVE THE PLEASURE OF OUR CONTINUED DIALOGUE WITH PETER BORIS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AT PACE, http://www.pacegallery.com/, WHOSE GREAT UNDERSTANDING AND FAMILIARITY WITH ASIA MADE THIS POSSIBLE FOR THE GALLERY.

PETER,  PLEASE TELL US THE THINKING BEHIND THE GALLERY’S OPENING IN BEIJING AS A FORERUNNER IN 2008  AND THE PROCESS BY WHICH THESE PLANS WERE FORMULATED AND DEVELOPED.

I think of it as a second, separate Pace.  It is not the Pace Gallery in Beijing, it is Pace Beijing.   I think its greatest success will come if it presents exhibitions rooted in the living history of Asian contemporary art, and builds an eclectic group of important Asian artists that attract a broad base of Asian collectors.  I am not one who believes that Western art will be a priority for Chinese collectors – at least not now.  Maybe it will change but that is not what I expect to happen. However, it is very important for Pace  to show western art in Pace Beijing for the benefit of the art community there.  The artists need to see western art in person whether it is Sugimoto or Rothko, de Kooning or Chuck Close.  They need to deconstruct how these paintings are made.   That is universal- all artists benefit from seeing other art.  Pace Beijing will
function like a museum at times.

DO ASIAN CLIENTS WORK DIRECTLY WITH THE GALLERY? IT WOULD SEEM TO BE THAT IN AMERICA TO THE GREATEST EXTENT AND IN EUROPE, TO SOME EXTENT, COLLECTORS WORK WITH ADVISORS IN BOTH THE SELECTION AND NEGOTIATION  OF WORKS FOR THEIR COLLECTION.  IS THAT TRUE AS WELL WITH ASIA AND INDIA?

We have much more experience in China than in India.  And yes, the collectors do work directly with Leng Lin.

WHO ARE THE INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS THAT COMMAND THE MOST INTEREST IN ASIA?

It  seemed that every artist studio we went into had a book on Chuck Close.  Warhol, Richter, Koons, and Hirst are of interest, at least their success.   But there is a general interest in all of western art history evident when you talk to the artists.  It shows up as postcards pinned to their walls and the books in their libraries.  They are absolute information junkies.

YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ART WOULD BE INVALUABLE. IN MY TRAVELS THERE AND MY EFFORTS TO STAY CURRENT WITH THE CHINESE ARTISTS WHO HAVE GAINED EXHIBITION AND AUCTION PRESENCE IN LONDON AND NEW YORK, THE WORK IS, IN GENERAL, FIGURAL AND NARRATIVE IN NATURE.

The first Chinese contemporary artists that gained acceptance in the west were figurative and /or photography and video.  Interestingly, the new generation is moving toward more abstract work. We recently showed Wang Guangle in New York.  See the website for example but this was abstract and conceptual.   It is very hard to stay absolutely current with contemporary Chinese art because it is so dynamic and has so many moving parts – thousands and thousands of artists often with extreme ambition. It is not matched in the west but that may change soon.  New York is bubbling with exciting stuff – at least before the flood. (Hurricane Sandy destroyed so many galleries and so much art work as it flooded the Chelsea area and lower Manhattan, now just starting, late November at the time this blog was written, to recover).

WoULD YOU AGREE WITH THAT? HOW DO YOU CHARACTERIZE THE AESTHETIC OF THE WORK? WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? HOW MUCH OF THE WORK IS POLITICALLY BASED AS A REACTION TO POST-MAOIST RELATIVE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION?

I would characterize the work as narrative and figurative, telling the story of the Chinese present and past.  Mao Zedong tried to destroy history but failed.  The window that was opened by Deng Xiaoping’s embrace of modernity has allowed the artists to animate the entire history of China as needed.  It is political but indirectly.  Other than Ai Wei Wei, contemporary art does not stand directly in front of the tanks.  It seems to engage in an indirect critique of culture and government.  I think the flexibility of visual language allows for contemporary art to maintain a tense but sustainable relationship with the Chinese government.  The government get to project soft , cultural power in exchange for letting the artists, writers and film makers pursue their work.  But it is a very different and much more dangerous game they
are in, life and death sometimes.  Nothing like that exists in the west yet but we should not take freedom of expression for granted.

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WHAT IS THE SELECTION PROCESS FOR THE WORK?  IS IT ALWAYS INTENTIONAL TO INTRODUCE THE WORK IN BEIJING AND THEN IN NEW YORK OR LONDON OR DO YOU REPRESENT SOME CHINESE ARTISTS SOLELY IN DIFFERENT VENUES?

The intention is to find real artists working in China and Asia in general.  If we think the work  can be understood in New York or London, we want to show it there.  We rely on Leng Lin to identify important artists and then we discuss where they can be exhibited to the artist’s benefit.

HOW DO YOU INTEREST ASIAN COLLECTORS IN BROADENING THEIR INTEREST IN AMERICAN AND INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS? IS THERE A SPECIFIC EDUCATIVE PROGRESS THAT PACE HAS DEVELOPED?

It is a long process that is grounded in presenting important  exhibitions.  We publish catalogues and books to that end but, in Pace Beijing, our focus is primarily on promoting Asian art. Of course we are always trying to figure out how to motivate a Chinese collector buy a Kiki Smith, but we do accept certain limitations.

HOW DO YOU FORESEE THE FUTURE OF THE GALLERY IN BEIJING AND THE FUTURE OF PACE GALLERY IN GENERAL? ARE YOU CONTEMPLATING  OPENING IN OTHER EUROPEAN , ASIAN OR MIDDLE EASTERN CITIES?

I think Pace Beijing will continue to grow and attract important artists to its roster.  We have been there since 2008 and we will be
there as long as Beijing is an art making center in China.    The Chinese have been very gracious to us and we try to be gracious to them.  We are guests in their culture and we respect that fact.   As for other spaces in Asia, I would bet that we will be in Hong Kong very soon.  And Pace in general?  With London, it feels like we now have a second wing, Pace Beijing being the first.  I love that those operations are relatively small and mobile, everyone doing  lot of different things in the gallery.  Each is developing their separate programs and artist representations. They are old school galleries that have and will establish their own identities in relationship to the Pace mother ship in New York.  I think Pace is headed in a very good direction.

PETER, IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO SPEAK WITH  YOU AND I APPRECIATE VERY MUCH YOUR WONDERFULLY INFORMATIVE CONTRIBUTION TO THE BLOG AND YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON ASIA IN THE CURRENT ART MARKET.

SO MANY THANKS!

AN AUCTION WOULDN’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT THE PRESENCE OF JOSH BAER, PUBLISHER OF THE BAER FAXT, THE INSIDE SCOOP TO AUCTION SALES, BUYERS AND SELLERS, GALLERY APPOINTMENTS AND NEWS.

IN THE NEXT LRFA, JOSH WILL SHARE WITH US HIS INFORMED AND INFORMATIVE SLANT ON THE CONTEMPORARY ART SCENE.

UNTIL THEN, THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS, SUGGESTIONS AND SUPPORT.