The buoyant market for contemporary Chinese art over the last few years has made millionaires of gallery owners, household names of Chinese artists, and art collectors of many in the country. How is the financial crisis affecting the market?
China’s contemporary art-market bubble has burst. After becoming one of the hottest things in the art world over the last decade, galleries are now struggling to sell pieces, works are failing to reach minimums at auction, and artists are having to rethink their choice of career.
Many had expected a slowdown in the market after years of explosive growth, but the slump currently hitting the global economy has had a much bigger impact than anyone had foreseen.
“I think the biggest change in the Chinese art world has come from the US financial crisis,” said Qin Feng, founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Beijing. “It has been like a tsunami. It has had a major impact on Oriental art and Asian art in general. I know two or three large exhibitions which have had to be postponed, and I have also had to postpone showings.”
Businesses in Beijing’s art quarter, Dashanzi, are all too aware of the effects of the financial crisis. The area, which helped launch the careers of many of China’s famous contemporary artists, has seen 50 galleries close in the last three months alone.
Despite the current turmoil, many believe the market will emerge from this glut stronger than ever.
Chinese contemporary art now accounts for a quarter of the global market, and the boom in recent years has attracted many foreign artists to the country to set up studios.
However, many find the overall quality of China’s artists much lower than they had expected, and many think the financial crisis may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
“I guess it is good for Chinese art, because now a lot of young artists, or people who want to become artists might consider their decision,” said Wolfgang Stiller, a German Artist living in Beijing. “Because before it was kind of a dream thing, to become an artist and make lots of money in a short time, and that will definitely change.”
Even before the financial crisis hit, there was widespread talk of the Chinese art-market bubble bursting. While many people feel that it will recover eventually, things are unlikely to improve until the global economy is back on its feet. Just another case of art imitating life.