SHANGHAI’S THIRST FOR ART
Exhibitions have become a new industry in Shanghai and audiences have demonstrated that they are willing to spend to view well organized art showcases. An exhibition of Monet paintings and sketches in Shanghai last year welcomed 400,000 people in 100 days, setting a record for visitor numbers at a public exhibition in the city. This year, Van Gogh Alive, a multi-sensory digital exhibition that offers visitors a glimpse into the Dutch artist’s ideas and life, attracted 350,000 visitors in 124 days.
Given that entry to public museums in Shanghai are often free or cost no more than 20 yuan ($3), the fact that people are willing to dish out 100 yuan — the average cost of these two exhibitions — clearly indicate their thirst for knowledge and entertainment.
“There was the time when we were told by the government what exhibitions we should see,” said Lin Mingjie, a columnist and artist. “Then there was the time when critics and scholars told us what is good and what we should see. Now audiences get to decide what they think is worthwhile by buying tickets to exhibitions.”
Zhou Yi, president of GT Culture, a new company that brought the Van Gogh exhibition to China, believes that the exhibition industry will grow significantly in the coming few years as operation costs and ticket prices are expected to drop. She compared the momentum of this industry to that of China’s film market, which recently celebrated registering annual box office revenues of 30 billion yuan in 2014, triple the amount made in 2010. Industry insiders believe that the revenue for 2015 will hit 41 billion yuan.
Xie Dingwei, president of Shanghai Tix Media Co Ltd, which organized the Monet exhibition in Shanghai last year, said that its success encouraged the company to hold more exhibitions. One of the upcoming exhibitions by Tix is “Dali’s Fantastic Universe”, which showcases about 300 art works, including bronze sculptures, paintings, jewelries, glass art and furniture, by Spanish surrealist artist Salvadore Dali. The exhibition will take place on the fourth floor of Bund 18 from Sept 26 to Jan 10, 2016.
Another Salvadore Dali exhibition is “Media Dali”, which will be held at the Shanghai K11 Art Mall from Nov 5 to Feb 14, 2016. The Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation, founded by Dali himself in 1983, claimed that this showcase will be the “only Dali exhibition in China to be authorized by the foundation since 2001”. Juan Sevillano, managing director of the foundation, had made his way to China in July for the sole purpose of announcing the upcoming exhibition.
Visitors to “Media Dali” will get to learn about the artist’s involvement with media and publicity and view 12 of his original paintings as well as a reproduction of his working environment that features some of the original utensils from his studio.
Capitalizing on potential
Jia Bu, a Shanghai-based researcher and curator of contemporary art, recently launched her new book “Times of Feature Exhibition”, which touches on the trends in the exhibition industry in Shanghai. In her book, Jia highlighted the potential of Shanghai’s industry by drawing a comparison with Taipei’s exhibition scene. The capital city of Taiwan has a population of only 2.6 million, about a tenth of Shanghai, but it manages to hold dozens of feature exhibitions every
Lin Mingjie, year, with each drawing up to 200,000 visitors.
“Shanghai is now cultivating the consumption custom for exhibitions. The business growth is foreseeable,” Jia said.
The companies behind the two Salvadore Dali exhibitions were actually once business partners — Tix was the firm that brought the Monet works to Shanghai while K11 was the venue for the show. Initially, it seemed like an unusually bold move to hold the exhibition in the basement of a commercial mall, but its success has since spurred others to follow suit.
Reel, an upscale mall in Shanghai’s prime shopping district on Nanjing West Road, will be holding an exhibition of print works by Spanish artist Joan Miro from Oct 31 to Jan 3, 2016. Miro (1893-1983) is recognized as a surrealistic artist whose works are about the subconscious mind and child-like imagism.
This exhibition will be organized by the Shanghai FTZ International Artwork Exchange Center (SFIAE), a state-owned enterprise located at the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone.
The center is building the world’s largest bonded warehouse of art works and it will be equipped with a highly advanced security system created in collaboration with Underwriters Laboratories, whose draft of safety standards are widely recognized internationally. Later this year in November, the center will celebrate its official opening, introducing itself as a test bed in China’s exploration of international art trading.
With the increased amount of art import and export through Shanghai, SFIAE hopes to provide its services to galleries, museums, and auction houses in the country, facilitating custom procedures and initiating an efficient, legal and safe transaction of artworks. The Miro exhibition will be the maiden demonstration of SFIAE’s capabilities.
Zhou of GT Culture said that her company is also looking to hold quality exhibitions for families, citing that existing projects by other companies are usually plagued by a lack of budget. One project they are working on is an exhibition of Danish author Christian Anderson’s fairytales. The company is collaborating with a reputed illustrator to create images of the classical characters in the fairytales and the expensive showcase is expected to go on tour across China.
“Parents want to spend quality time with their kids. They want to take their children to exhibitions that everyone will find interesting and entertaining,” said Zhou.
“Now when everybody talks about Snow White, Disney’s image comes to mind. We’d like to create a signature image for The Little Match Girl too. It will be an immersive experience and grownups will be involved as well,” added Zhou.
Right now, exhibition organizers are cracking their brains to figure out what exactly the audience wants to see. Getting it wrong could mean serious financial losses as transportation, insurance and venue rental costs can be exorbitant. A previous exhibition of film props from the James Bond franchise, which organizer Tix Media expected to be popular, performed under expectations.
“China’s market is evolving so rapidly, and in the age of the Internet, public opinions turn sharply every day. This forces the industry to keep innovating,” said Zhou.
“You have to give audiences something they’ve never seen,” Lin added. “But at the same time it must not be something that’s too strange.”
You have to give audiences something they’ve never seen. But at the same time it must not be something that’s too strange.”
a columnist and
Van Gogh Alive, a multi-sensory digital exhibition, attracted 350,000 visitors in 124 days this year in Shanghai.
The exhibition of Monet paintings and sketches in Shanghai last year welcomed about 400,000 people in 100 days.