Cultural power shifts :: China

In 2010, China reached first place as the largest art market “with 33% of global fine-art sales stemming from auctions based there.”* (Crains)

“Four Chinese artists made it into the top 10 ranked by auction revenue for 2010, up from just one in 2009.” (Crains)

If US fairs featured more galleries that represented Chinese artists, that would give Chinese artists the opportunity to visit the US.  Simply visiting the US during an at fair and taking that experience back to China is a great way to cross pollenate ideas and culture.

A gallery owner from Shanghai said that he would not be coming to New York for Art Week because the US economy is still feeling the recession.

The Armory Show 2010
This year for New York Art Week, Eli Klein Fine Arts, one of the most prominent US galleries representing Chinese artists, was rejected from The Armory Show.  I specifically did not make it to The Armory Show nor VOLTA this year because I did not see any Chinese focused galleries listed.  Not having representatives from the most populated country and the largest art market not only stems potential financial flow, but also cultural flow.

 Last year during New York Art Week, I met Zhang Gong and Liu Ye.

Zhang Gong’s most recent exhibition, features cityscapes of New York and Beijing. “Zhang Gong was fascinated with New York City on his first visit which was his debut at Eli Klein Fine Art; he became inspired to portray this metropolis as a counterpart to his Beijing cityscapes.”

 Zhang Gong’s “Beijing – New York” at Eli Klein Fine Arts

Crain’s states that Zhang Gong’s current exhibition is “three-quarters sold out after just three week.”

Power doesn’t just shift, it flows.  And if people are concerned that power in a specific market is being shifted to China, what can be contributed to this current?
What do we want to carry in that power, or more importantly where do we want to carry that power to?

Joseph Nye of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government takes the concept of “soft power” which is used to describe development of infrastructure, hospitals, energy plants, or schools. Soft power is in contrast to the “hard power” of the military.

Nye suggests furthering the soft power to development of art and media that represents culture.

So why are so few in the US supporting another nation’s development of culture?

Nye states that, “Great powers often try to use culture and narrative to create soft power that promotes their advantage.” In a global and international context, the effort is less about promoting one’s advantage as it is about increasing a dialogue.  In this age, it is increasingly difficult to sell one form of corporate or nationalistic propaganda to the people of that organization, let alone to people in a different market or country.  Art is a great means for creating a dialogue, especially outside of a highly rigid framework, hopefully New York will embrace it in 2012.

Crains, Art-world power shifts to China, 艺术世界的权力转移到中国 – http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20110327/SMALLBIZ/303279971
Eli Klein Fine Art – http://www.ekfineart.com/html/exhibinfo.asp?exnum=713
Washington Post – http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chinas-repression-undoes-its-charm-offensive/2011/03/24/AFdlxRYB_story.html

*Art Info says that “China has outpaced the United Kingdom to become the second-largest art market in the world.”