3.20.2019

分享|中國藝術最後的邊疆也許是紐約
Share | Chinese Art’s Final Frontier Might Be New York

中國藝術最後的邊疆也許是紐約:當西方藝術市場積極地計畫進入中國時,為何反之卻不是如此?

文/ 詹姆士塔米,2019年3月,Bloomberg

在90年代中期,趙剛如許多畢業於人文藝術的前人一樣,有所保留地在金融產業工作。「我是藝術家,我沒有學習過經濟。」這位生於中國,在荷蘭馬斯垂克學習繪畫,最終在瓦薩學院獲得人文藝術學士學位的藝術家趙剛如此說。

在紐約以藝術家身份創作了幾年後,趙剛為了生計做出了改變。他受僱於56街一間目前已停業的精品投行,並從事併購、收購、與公開募股等業務。在經濟情況許可後,他進入巴德學院工讀藝術創作碩士。

「作為一位藝術家,我總是試著要賣出一些畫作給國際藏家,」趙剛說,「但不多。」2000年初,他回到了中國,而藝術事業開始逐漸成功 。

15年後,趙剛重返紐約,並在位於雀兒喜區的Greene Naftali藝廊舉辦自3月15日至4月19日的個展。

這些年來,國際市場對於中國當代藝術的需求大幅提升。去年九月,趙無極的「Juin-Octobre 1985」在香港蘇富比以6520萬美元售出。而根據UBS香港巴塞爾的藝術市場報告,2018年總體中國藝術市場更是佔據了全球市場的19%。

即便如此,趙剛那些描繪「腐敗宮廷、社會頹廢、娛樂場景、政治宣傳與風景」的豐富人物畫作仍是在紐約開啟了一個不明確的市場。

趙剛2018年作品Ménage à trois攝影: Elisabeth Bernstein,版權由藝術家與紐約Greene Naftali所有

「中國當代藝術居乎都由中國藏家收藏,」任職精日傳媒、同為艾未未作品藏家的賴瑞華許說,「西方藏家大多是10至15年前購藏的,他們那時認為中國藝術應該會爆炸性的如日中天。」

「也的確如此,」華許說,「很多人購藏了好的作品,但我不相信他們是真的在紐約收藏作品。美術館與國際藏家的確會想要中國藝術,但大多的銷售還是在中國。」

不平等的交換

 藝術經紀們會這樣說:90年代後,許多的中國藝術家都在國際上獲得了成功。2016年,崔如琢的一件作品由香港保利以396萬美元賣出;曾梵志2001年的畫作「The Last Supper」由香港蘇富比在2013年以233萬美元賣出;艾未未的12生肖頭像在2015年由倫敦富藝斯以45萬美元售出。

但即使西方畫廊如此踴躍地想進入這個豐腴的中國市場—近來,卓納畫廊、豪斯沃夫、厲為閣、高古軒,都如佩斯一樣在中國與香港設立了據點—但這是一個不平等的交換。

趙剛2018年作品High Tea攝影: Elisabeth Bernstein,版權由藝術家與紐約Greene Naftali所有

「要知道兩者的歷史情況是完全不一樣的,」任職於設點北京與紐約、專攻中國當代藝術家的前波畫廊歷史研究員與顧問約翰譚卡克說,「中國對西方開放的時候,經濟迅速起飛,一些藝術家的創作開始大量的被西方藏家看見。」

「而今日,」譚卡克繼續說道,「已經不如以往,對於中國早已沒有那種因未知而有的興趣。」

艾未未則是一個顯著的例外;作品在拍賣會上都能達到超過50萬美元的劉野最近由卓納畫廊代理;張洹,曾以9張攝影組成的家庭樹作品(8版次)在2014年香港佳士得達到6.4萬美元,由佩斯代理;其他一些的藝術家也有國際藏家的基本盤。

但這些藝術家的出頭都是在90年代,超過20年之前。起碼在美國,後起的藝術家們便都不如他們成功。「某種程度上這和日本當代藝術的情況一樣,」譚卡克說,「某些藝術家成為了國際寵兒—但就只有那一些。」

友善的市場

不過對於在Greene Naftali將作品定價為3.4萬至7.6萬美元的趙剛,他的作品是有可能受到歡迎的。

譚卡克引述了兩位前波畫廊最近被成功帶進美國的中國藝術家—塔可與嚴善錞。更重要的是,趙剛並非毫無名氣。他早已因2016年在Tilton Gallery所舉辦的展覽而在紐約擁有藏家。與其他同儕不同的是,他在此已有基礎。

「他有國際藝術家所有該有的,」Greene Naftali的共同創辦人卡蘿格林說,並提及了趙剛在荷蘭與紐約所受的藝術教育、他與呂克圖伊曼斯的相似、以及他的美學,「趙剛的作品闡述歷史,但也與當代社會議題相關。他正破壞傳統地繪畫。」

在為畫廊挑選藝術家的時候,「我注重的是作品的再現是否能與國際對話。」卡蘿說,「對我來說,能找到一位有淺力製造這種交織的中國藝術家是令人無比興奮的。」

趙剛並不擔心。「我覺得我很好,」他說,「起初,人們不太能了解我的藝術。而現在,正如我意的轉變。」

Chinese Art’s Final Frontier Might Be New York: The Western art market is desperate to get into China. Why hasn’t the reverse occurred?

By James Tarmy, March 2019, Bloomberg

Like many liberal arts graduates before him, in the mid 1990s, Gang Zhao found himself, with some reservations, working in finance. “I was an artist, I didn’t study economics,” says Zhao, who was born in China, studied painting in Maastricht, the Netherlands, and then got a B.A. from Vassar College.

After a few years working as an artist in New York, he needed to pay the bills, so Zhao made the switch. He was hired by a now-defunct boutique firm on 56th Street, working on mergers and acquisitions and initial public offering advisory projects. Once he had made enough money, he enrolled in an MFA program at Bard College.

“As an artist, I always managed to sell a few paintings to international collectors,” he says. “But not so much.” In the early 2000s, he moved back to China, where he developed a successful art practice.

Fifteen years later, Zhao is returning to the New York market with a solo show running from March 15 to April 19 at Greene Naftali Gallery in Chelsea.

In the interim, global demand for Chinese contemporary art has grown dramatically. Last September, the work Juin-Octobre 1985 by Zao-Wou-ki sold for a record-setting $65.2 million at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, while the overall Chinese art market accounted for 19 percent of global art sales in 2018, according to a UBS/Art Basel art market report.

Even so, Zhao, whose rich, figurative paintings depict “court figures, leisure scenes, social decadence, political propaganda, and landscapes,” is opening his New York show in an uncertain market.

Gang Zhao’s Ménage à trois, 2018. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein, courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York

“Chinese contemporary art is really collected by China,” says Larry Warsh, the publisher of Jing Daily and a collector whose Chinese art includes work by Ai Weiwei. “The activity from western collectors was 10 to 15 years ago, and people who bought [Chinese] art then really thought China was going to explode.”

“It did,” Warsh says, “and a lot of people did well, but the point is that I don’t believe the actual collecting base is here [in New York]. Museums collect, and selected global collectors will want Chinese art, but the real action is in China.”

An Unequal Exchange

 That, dealers say, is the real issue: Since the 1990s, a handful of Chinese artists have had global success. A work by Cui Ruzhuo sold for $39.6 million at Poly Auction in Hong Kong in 2016; the 2001 painting The Last Supper by Zeng Fanzhi sold for $23.3 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2013; Ai Weiwei’s 12 Zodiac heads sold for £3.4 million pounds ($4.5 million) at Phillips in London in 2015.

But even as Western galleries attempt to break into this lucrative Chinese market—recently, David Zwirner, Hauser and Wirth, Levy Gorvy, and Gagosian have joined early players such as Pace in opening outposts in China and Hong Kong—there hasn’t been an equal exchange.

Gang Zhao’s High Tea, 2018. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein, courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York

“You have to remember that the historical situation is completely different,” says John Tancock, a historian and advisor to Chambers Fine Art, a gallery that pioneered the market for contemporary Chinese artists in both New York and Beijing.

“China was just opening up to the West, the economy was booming, and a handful of artists started producing work that was of tremendous appeal to Western collectors.”

“Today,” Tancock continues, “that is no longer the case, and there’s no longer quite the interest in China as a sort of unknown phenomenon.”

There are obvious exceptions. Ai Weiwei is the major one; Liu Ye, whose work has sold for more than $5 million at auction, was just picked up by David Zwirner; Zhang Huan, who’s nine-photograph piece Family Tree (edition of eight) sold for $640,000 at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2014, is represented by Pace; and several others have a robust international collector base.

But those artists came of age in the 1990s, more than 20 years ago. Their followers have been less successful, at least in the U.S. “I think to a degree what has happened is the same as with contemporary Japanese art,” says Tancock. “Certain artists have become international favorites—but only a handful.”

Welcoming Market

Yet there’s reason to believe that Zhao, whose prices at the Greene Naftali show range from around $34,000 to $76,000, could be welcomed.

Tancock cites two recent Chinese artists that Chambers introduced to the U.S. who’ve been met with success—Taca Sui and Yan Shanchun. More important, Zhao isn’t a total unknown. He already has some collectors in New York, thanks to a 2016 show with Tilton Gallery, and unlike some of his peers, Zhao is working in an established vernacular.

“He has all the touchstones of an international artist,” says Greene Naftali co-founder Carol Greene, referencing Zhao’s education in the Netherlands and New York, his affinity for artists such as Luc Tuymans, and his existing aesthetic. “The work is so deeply historically informed, but it’s so contemporary in dealing with social issues. He’s painting in a disruptive tradition.”

When she considers an artist for her gallery, she continues, “I approach representation based on how I see them fitting into an international dialogue. To me, it’s super-exciting to find a Chinese painter who can potentially make the crossover.”

For his part, Zhao says he’s not concerned. “I think I’m OK,” he says. “In the beginning, people didn’t really understand my art. Now it’s shifting in my favor.”