Art+ Shanghai Gallery
This week we have continued our Shanghai gallery tour at Art+ Shanghai on Fumin Lu, with the aim of learning something about the process of opening an art space in Shanghai.
Founded in 2007, Art + Shanghai is the story of two friends, Ana Gonzales and Agnès Cohad both respectively from Spain and France. Ana was in the fashion industry and had always been enticed and influenced by art; especially the Cubism Movement. Initially, she was hesitant. However, after travelling in and around China, she fell in love with contemporary art. She met and became friends with Agnès, who is a huge art fan, and the pair decided to open their first gallery in Shanghai.
“Opening a gallery is not easy, you need a good curator, good artists, and you must constantly promote the image of the gallery. It is sometimes complicated to choose between the commercial aspect, the financial one, and what we want to promote for the image of the gallery, which is not always what is going be appreciated. Here, 95% of our customers are foreigners. Then the question is whether to promote emerging artists or famous ones; it can be hard to know which will be appreciated by our customers.” Commented Rebecca Orteslberg the communication responsible.
Tony NG's work- "The Hanging Garden" Current exhibition
Art+ Shanghai solved this problem by promoting both emerging and established artists, focussing more on up and coming talents; 80% of the works showcased are by emerging artists. Art+ Shanghai has a mixed cliental base, with many Chinese customers coming specifically to buy famous works. In the past, the gallery has displayed collector’s works by Andy Warhol. Additionally, the gallery is currently exhibiting works by Yu Peng, who has achieved fame as a traditional Chinese ink painter.
Moreover, setting up a network is not an easy thing. “It is built by word of mouth or direct contact from the artists themselves who want to present their work to us. We also do some market research about what could be appreciated by the public; what is “in”. We get to know the artists and then we find the international collectors, who tend to be known, and then we contact them or they contact us. There is actually no specific mode of operation; we have had to create our own method of networking.” Rebecca stated.
Art+ Shanghai exhibition opening
The Artistic Director, Diana Freudl, is talented in choosing art which will be appreciated by the public. She travels a lot, in order to find a variety of emerging artists. She visits a lot of studios and focuses on getting to know the artist more personally, discovering their works in order to see what future they may have and if their style fits with the image of the Gallery.
“The artistic director is really important. It is all a question of nose… Of course the technique is important, as well as the concept and the newness. But the important thing is to “feel in love” with the artist’s work.” Commented Rebecca.
Art+ Shanghai presents many group exhibitions, which all focus on a specific theme. An example is the exhibition “Utopia Nowhere”, which follows the theme ‘the future of China’. The gallery is currently presenting “The Hanging Garden”, which is an exhibition about traditional Chinese landscape paintings, and displays artists who try to communicate modern ideas using traditional artistic techniques. One example is with successful artist Yu Peng, who uses ink in a traditional style, yet adds contemporary elements such as vivid colours; additionally Yu Pend incorporates poetry into his works.
Art+ Shanghai has been faced with several difficulties since their opening in 2007. First of all, import and export procedures are not easy in China. Each work has to have a licence for travelling and the customs charges, as well as travel costs, are expensive. Moreover, censorship is an issue here in China. Eroticism meets many controversies and the culture department can remove any painting if it is deemed outrageous toward the state and/or the image of Mao. Foreign artists can also be a problem due to somewhat subversive ideas that they wish to portray. In many ways, it can be seen that China doesn’t want to be influenced too much by other cultures.
Yun Peng's Works "The Hanging Garden"
“One of the main problems that we can encounter is the lack of honesty from some artists. The customers can come to our gallery and then go to meet the artist in his studio and buy directly from him, while we promote him. Some artists are honest and refuse that, however it is quite an issue.” Commented Rebecca.
Of course, in a city like Shanghai, there is always competition from other galleries but a lot of it can be healthy and encouraging and there is a lot to be learned from the way that other galleries do business. “Some other galleries also promote emerging artists but we don’t offer them to work with us, of course.”
The biggest lesson that passionate would-be gallery owners can learn, is patience. Be patient and tenacious, because the process of obtaining a gallery licence is long and sometimes costly. However, in the end, it is certainly worth it.
Art+ Shanghai will move to north of the Bund in June.
PICTURES: Art+Shanghai Gallery