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Big Era, Small Order


Art Seasons 10th Annivesary, published by Art Seasons, 2011

Art Seasons Gallery is marking her tenth anniversary. Situated in the northeastern part of 798 Art District, Art Seasons occupied a large building. In terms of space, the gallery is among the largest of all galleries in the area - big enough. Art Seasons has a great repute, and a low and well-founded profile. Few people ever feel that it is Singapore in origin.

Seen from atop the building, the entire 798 district is noisy and shambolic, both night and day - a lively miniature of the Chinese society, with the old value system having been overthrown but the new one yet to be built. Tourists, audience, artists, art critics, dealers and gallerists congregate as if everyone sees hope but none the exit. As the new value system has yet to be established, people have to rely on their instinct and choose the most eye-striking and promising: money. Galleries, art museums, auction houses, tens of thousands of artists are all working to achieve one thing, i.e. sell the paintings and swap them for money. Since 2005, all art related newspapers, magazines and media, to the exclusion of none, discuss money and auction in every edition, almost exceeding commercial and stock and exchanges related journals. Auction charts, collector charts, authority charts etc., give the sense that prices alone dictate the quality of Chinese art. What is more, even the TV screens at the airport continuously showcase shots from certain studios with the artist working. Also, some artists craving for money like crazy pose before the video camera talking about their devotion to art and aloofness in life.

It is indeed true that China was in poverty for quite a while, or even two whiles, which make people quite apprehensive and fearful of waking up in a nightmare. After China opened up her door, the Chinese people have not changed but the system has seen some fundamental reformation and the people no longer collectively talk about ideals in life with their bellies empty, or talk about future with their doors closed. They have started to heed the present, daily necessities and what is unraveling in life. The people remain who they are but the background has changed and money has become the only standard by which to judge progress. What appears in the rearview mirror is quite imaginable, and fully in compliance with a ready-made idiom: the eight immortals crossing the sea, discharging arrows in disarray, assuming various stances, they strive to make money.

What the artists create is spiritual wealth and nobody will judge the artist’s art by the money he makes. Even fouler societies cannot make such a demand of the artists. The reason artists are respected is because his objective in life is not money or to paint while making money. Artists, like intellectuals, are the conscience and souls of the society and are there to criticize and to adjust, to balance the general trands of the society with their spiritual works. They are to make sacrifices or they mind not at all making sacrifices.

The function of galleries is to find, popularize and market art works and even artists when the occasions call for it. In the art industry, galleries are the most Avant-garde, at the forefront and the most important part. Galleries choose art at their own peril. Galleries have to rely on their know-how and knowledge to judge and discover quality artworks and artists. Art museums and museums rely on galleries to choose well-established artists rather than making acquaintance with them on their own feet or their progress will be severely curtailed. When you visit an artist who keeps a dog, you may get bitten; or when you visit a hospitable artist, you may be invited to dinner and the day will fly away. At the auction house, in theory, everything can be auctioned off, including real estate, works of art, gloves, socks, wine. Everything is accepted and sold on commission. Both in history and at the moment, overseas or domestically, no auction houses purely rely on art for a living, therefore it maybe inferred that auction houses are not charged with the responsibility of discovering and judging artists. Certainly, auction houses in China are now competing with frontline galleries to do what the latter innately must do, but that is only temporary. Sooner or later, the auction houses will learn their lesson and walk along a more professional line. However, now is not the time.

To assess a gallery, it is essential to see how many good artists the gallery has cultivated and what kind of artistic trends it has ushered in. At the same time, it is necessary to see whether a good interactive relationship is built (by the gallery) between the artists and collectors and that the gallery has a few good stable collector clientele and market.

One needs only see what has been auctioned off and the sales price to evaluate an auction house; nobody expect an auction house to make art history by the sheer act of auction sales.

To judge an art museums or a museum, it is necessary to see how many good works of art it has done for public collection, how much art facts and figures it has made known to the public, and whether it accurately documents the shift of art in a given age.

What comes foremost in judging a piece of art and the artist, is to see if he has accurately recorded the age, and if it is an original artwork and can pass the value test. In accordance with the philosophical classification of works of art, the work will have to be subject to three types of judgment: fact judgment, interest judgment and value judgment.

The so-called fact judgment refers to the authenticity and rationality of the depicted scene. The interest judgment takes better account of the interests of ordinary audience and resembles the Baihua Film Award of the popular cinema. The value judgment comprises of aesthetics, morality and history, which are used to judge the value and significances of the work, reflecting ultimate human ideals and helping people to make an judgment of right, wrong, good, evil, beautiful, ugly; it is the ultimate judgment, surpassing the interest judgment. Secondly, it is to see whether there are any innovations in the artistic techniques, and any breakthroughs in originality. Also, what is done is acknowledged to be sensible and unique. Thirdly, to see if there are any breakthroughs in the material used, without any pretense and exaggerations.

Artists and galleries work alongside each other, shoulder by shoulder. Art museums and museums are like umpire on the football field and must be objective and fair. If some players fully intend to become pals with the umpire, they would by no means be able to play well on the field. Auction houses however may become enemies of artists and galleries, as they represent a different force have little to do with art. the rise of the force will influence the artist’s work and exploration. Many artists stop their exploring steps for fear of the fluctuation of the prices. This pressure is tangible, real and can be felt, even surpassing the dominance and influence of power and ideology, and influencing the judgment of art practitioners as well as the general public alike.

798 is a miniature of our age and society, and Art Seasons is an important member of the art district, testifying to the progression and advancement of the age, which is doubtless filled with great transformation and repetitions of history. This age is a wild, reckless, blood-stained age. This age is one that requires regulation and order or it cannot function normally.


Zhu Wei
August 26, 2011

























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