At some point in their lives many people tire of dogeared posters on their wall and desire something more permanent and meaningful to display at home or work and start buying original art to fill this gap.
Collecting art can enrich your life and home as all as acting as an opening to a new social world of creative, talented people. For those with commercial instincts buying and selling contemporary art can definitely make you money, but those looking for a quick buck are usually disappointed and there are plenty of pitfalls to consider when looking at art as an asset.
Although considered an expensive hobby, acquiring art can be easier than many think if you do your homework, as there many lesser known galleries where prices are lower and upcoming artists are usually open to negotiation on price.
For those serious about buying art building relationships with artists is critical, learning about their motivations, ambitions and methods will make their art more revealing and give you an inside track into new works or those which are stored away waiting for the right buyer.
The Rise of Chinese Art
Chinese contemporary art has entered the global public consciousness through artists like the political Ai WeiWei, the ink washes of Gao Xingjian and the stark photographic works of Rong Rong. But of course there are new artists emerging all the time who have yet to achieve widespread recognition and are waiting to be “discovered”.
The Chinese contemporary art scene has flourished in the couple of last decades as the country shook off the extremes of the Cultural Revolution and emerged into a more cosmopolitan society. It might be simplistic to use the term contemporary Chinese art (in one sense there is just contemporary art) but there are some characteristics which distinguish art from China apart such as references to Chinese classical art and calligraphy and of course interpretations of Chinese spiritual and political themes.
I was lucky enough to talk with the inspiring Katrine Levin who has recently launched a new venture to showcase Chinese artists from the Southern Chinese province of Yunnan, she is planning her first major show in London this June with another planned for the autumn. Katrine is a passionate advocate for the artists she plans to showcase and her determination to bring them to a wider audience was palpable.
She told me how she was introduced to the Kunning artistic community by her Chinese step father – something which would have been impossible for most foreigners. This unique introduction gave her a rare insight into a new world and luckily she now plans to share this talent with the rest of the world. Katrine has a fascinating background encompassing working as a copyright lawyer, an education in art history as well working at Christies and in art galleries in London and Amsterdam giving the ideal experience to launch her own gallery.
The first show to be organised by Katrine will display the works of Chen Li, an artist who was inspired by the spiritual history of Yunnan and whose work encompasses both abstract and figurative and combines Chinese and Western techniques. The show is in on from 18 June – 1 July, by Katrine Levin Galleries at the Coningsby Gallery in the heart of London
Larry Warsh Veteran Chinese Art Collector
Larry Warsh has been a collector and advocate for Chinese contemporary for many years – founding AW Asia to help with this ambition. AW Asia promotes Chinese art through acquisitions and loans as well as educational and curatorial projects. Larry currently recommends Chinese contemporary photography as particularly collectible and affordable and makes the excellent point that the Chinese art scene and market for this work is still young.
The Ins and Outs of Collecting Art
Some say the skill in collecting art lies in taking opportunities, because the art world is fragmented and lacks transparency relationships with artists are key, buying early on in their careers and seeing their work develop and mature can give you an edge.
When it comes to collecting art there is the obvious caveat that with emerging or even established artists there is of course no guarantee of a good return, but this is true of any asset. The unique beauty of art is that you can of course enjoy looking at it and that should always be a factor when buying.
With Chinese contemporary there are established artists who are the equivalent of blue chip stocks, there is much less risk, but of course there is much less (financial) reward as these artists are well known and the value of their work is well established and usually very expensive, you may well see an appreciation in price, but not necessarily a spectacular rise.
Emerging artists are a different kettle of fish, these might be well known only locally and therefore the value of their works will be much lower. What we cannot see is the future, an artist can fade into obscurity or establish themselves and become highly collectible. Picking those that make a name for themselves is of course a mixture of judgement and luck and it can also be a very slow process as careers are defined over decades rather than months or years.
Chinese artists may find they have two advantages, the China going global phenomena and the large numbers of Chinese people living abroad could help inflate the demand for Chinese contemporary art for years to come. One thing is for certain, China will continue to generate talented artists and their works will captivate and inspire those who seek them out.