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TIME Magazine 《时代周刊》

Vol.168, No.24 总168期

December 11 2006 二零零六年十二月十一日刊


TIME, Vol 168 No.24, December 11, 2006

Picture on page 5:

catalogue: p56 Chinese artists strike it rich. Artwork: The Heavenly Maiden, No.12 by Zhu Wei (Plum Blossom)

Picture on page 56:

Art Work Zhang Xiaogang in his studio. One of his pieces recently sold for $2.3 million. (Chang W. Lee - The New York Times)

Picture on page 57:

Above: Artist Yang Shaobin Work Police Series, No.46 Price of Entry His work reaches $21,500 (Schoeni Art Gallery)

Below: Artist Zhu Wei Work Utopia No.45 Price of Entry Zhu's recent painting sales average about $45,000 (Plum Blossom)


The Great China Sale

Foreign collectors want them. Newly minted local millionaires want them. The rise and rise of the country's modern artists


Zhang Haoming looks like a million dollars. Or, more precisely, half a million, the amount he spent on a recent Saturday afternoon as he strolled around Beijing's funky 798 district, a series of crumbling redbrick factories that house the Chinese capital's largest concentration of art galleries. Appearing at an opening for the painter Yang Shaobin, the 44-year-old millionaire businessman stands out from the crowd of black-clad, ponytailed dealers, critics and artists, more John Travolta than Jasper Johns. His black hair is permed into loose curls that flounce slightly as he walks, his torso covered by a tight, long-sleeved silk shirt decorated with swirling white, brown and black shapes, a large medallion bearing a golden crown clasped around his neck. 

As he moves from one gallery to the next, checking on works he has already booked and buying new ones, Zhang is treated like royalty. "That's mine," he says at a photo gallery, pointing to a picture of a man's back that has been painted with a classical Chinese landscape, then to one in which raw meat has been arranged into the shape of Chinese characters. "And that, and that." 

Zhang is one of a new breed of Chinese collectors who are helping to turbocharge the contemporary-art scene in China from within. But his competition is not just local. Contemporary Chinese art is currently one of the hottest genres anywhere. In the past 18 months Sotheby's has created a stand-alone modern-Chinese-art division, and Christie's showcases the art alongside such modern masters as Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning. And at a Christie's auction last week in New York City, pieces by Chinese painters Li Songsong and Yan Lei set record prices, while Zhang Xiaogang's A Big Family Series No. 16 went for $1.36 million, surpassing its highest estimate. The Warhol Mao, of course, dwarfed all those sales, going for $17.4 million, suggesting that there's plenty of life in Western art yet. (And that Mao is one popular guy.) 

If the incestuous, trend-conscious world of international art collectors and the hot money of the roughly 500 new millionaires that China's boom has thrown up come together, it could push prices for Chinese art to even more dizzying levels. "You are already seeing works that sold for a few thousand dollars being bought for $50,000, $60,000, $70,000," says artist and Beijing gallery director Zhao Gang. "And right now there's no end in sight." He cites the case of Zeng Fanzhi, until recently a relatively unknown artist. "Two years ago, I was selling his work for $10,000 for a large painting. The other day someone offered $200,000, and he refused it as too low!" 

The purchase of a large painting by Zhang Xiaogang at an Oct. 15 London auction by British collector Charles Saatchi suggests there's every reason to believe that the tide of interest from overseas will continue to rise. Saatchi paid about $1.5 million for one of the artist's Bloodline series. Still, New York City--based collector Larry Warsh believes he got a good deal. "Saatchi is coming in late, but he's important because people follow him," says Warsh, publisher of the magazine Museums and an enthusiastic advocate of contemporary Chinese art. "It will soon prove to be a bargain." 

There may not yet be any discerning Chinese collectors in the model of the influential Saatchi. But that's unlikely to affect the demand for modern Chinese art, since many of the newly minted millionaires simply don't have anywhere else to put their cash. "It's what I call the panic of new money," says Zhao, 45, who manages the venerable Courtyard Gallery. "The government is killing the property market, the stock market has been up and down like a bouncing ball, and people don't trust it. They can only buy so many Mercedes. They have to put their money somewhere, and right now that means contemporary art." 

Such speculative interest could evaporate overnight if the market cools, of course. But that's where the non-Chinese buyers come in. The international contemporary-art market is highly cyclical--many would say current prices are at all-time highs--but there remains a core group of wealthy art collectors who will be comparatively unaffected by external conditions. It's the buyers from that group who are now turning their attention to China, argues banker and avid collector Carl Kostyal. "About 10 to 20 collectors are at the leading edge of contemporary art globally," says Kostyal. "They are already buying in China and have been for a year or so. Then there is another group of 200 to 300 for whom this buying is bringing China into their sights." Kostyal, who recently flew into Beijing for two days of gallery tours and visits to artists' studios, believes that a second--and larger--group will soon begin to buy, further bolstering the market. 

Skyrocketing prices have left galleries and dealers scrambling to keep up with the demand. Sotheby's held its first sale of purely Chinese contemporary art in New York City only last March. A dozen or so foreign galleries from New York, London and Hong Kong have opened branches in Beijing and Shanghai in the past 18 months. Meanwhile, scores of local galleries have sprung up. 

Inevitably, the flood of money has left some members of the art world in China unhappy. "Modern art in China has become a monster," says respected collector Guan Yi. "People's attention is no longer focused on the art itself but [on] what kind of return they will get on their investment, like the stock market." 

The contrast between such sentiments and the attitudes of the current crop of leading artists, like Zhang Xiaogang, Zhu Wei and Fang Lijun, couldn't be starker. Mostly now in their 40s, many of the artists suffered through the tail end of the Cultural Revolution. The cultural flowering that followed in the '80s was another casualty of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Many artists left the country. Now back, they're thrilled at being rewarded instead of hounded for expressing their feelings in their work. Fundamental issues like politics, ideology and spirituality remain important themes. Images of Mao Zedong, the Red Guards and other icons of the recent past are central to the works that have brought many of them fame. 

For the young artists just breaking into the scene, such images have little resonance, except as tools to raise their prices, says gallery director Zhao. "To them it's like being in manufacturing--they are cranking out a commodity," he says with a sigh. "But then, at prices like these, you can hardly blame them."

Time Magazine Link 








目录页:56页 中国艺术家走运了。配图:朱伟作品 天女散花12号 (Plum Blossom画廊供图)


工作中 张晓刚在他的工作室。他的一幅作品最近卖出230万美元。(纽约时报Chang W.Lee供图)


上图:艺术家 杨少斌 作品 警察系列46号 最低报价 21500美元 (Shoeni画廊供图)

下图:艺术家 朱伟 作品 乌托邦系列45号 最低报价 45000美元 (Plum Blossom画廊供图)






10月15日伦敦的一次拍卖中张晓刚作品的买家Charles Saatchi认为,有很多理由相信海外收藏界对中国当代艺术品的这股痴迷还方兴未艾。Saatchi花了150万美元买下张晓刚“血缘系列”中的一幅作品。另外,纽约收藏家Larry Warsh则相信他做了笔好买卖,Warsh是《博物馆》杂志的出版人,也是中国当代艺术的热情鼓吹者,“Saatchi出手的时机有些迟了,不过他的举动很重要,因为后边还会有人以他为榜样,”Warsh说,“很快他会发现这笔买卖划得来。”


诚然,一旦市场冷却,这股投机的兴趣能一夜之间蒸发得无影无踪。但到了那个时候,非中国买家就会介入。国际当代艺术市场是风水轮流转的——很多人说无论如何当前的价格都过高了——可别忘了,总有那么一群核心的富有买家不那么介意外界的风云变幻。银行家兼收藏家Carl Kostyal就是这群核心买家中正开始对中国感兴趣的一位,“全世界大约有10到20个藏家是当代艺术收藏界的领潮者,”Kostyal说,“这些人从一年前开始收藏中国的作品,然后另一群200到300位藏家会追随着他们把中国纳入自己的收藏视野。”Kostyal最近飞到北京进行他的画廊、艺术家工作室两日之旅,他相信第二批——更大的一批——收藏家将会很快进入,最终支撑起整个市场。