Acquired Tastes

Founder of 798 Wang Yanlin, founder of Star Gallery Fang Fang, and Inside Out Art Museum director Carol Yinghua Lu.

SPRING IN BEIJING tends to erupt with malaise: Erratic climate shifts, sandstorms, and consecutive days of precious azure sky—aka APEC blue—elevate the weather from phatic conversation topic to, seemingly, a harbinger of some international-caliber event. In this case: the Third Gallery Weekend Beijing (GWBJ) and the first edition of Beijing Art Summit. Waling Boers, director of Boers-Li Gallery, surveyed the former’s agenda with a long-winded but endearing speech during the press conference: “If Berlin is considered ‘poor and sexy,’ maybe Beijing could be ‘a tastemaker and hot.’”

Last Thursday’s roundup included a number of anticipated openings in Caochangdi and the 798 Art District, among them “China Landscape – Selections from the Taikang Collection.” Apparently, the exhibition, which is housed inside a newly renovated (yes, it’s newly renovated for temporary use) Bauhaus-esque building in the 798, and its brick of a catalogue were put together in around forty days. Before I had time to procure a glass of champagne, the CEO of Taikang Life Insurance, the seasoned connoisseur Chen Dongsheng, walked in with the octogenarian socialist realist painter Jin Shangyi, followed by Chen’s wife, Kong Dongmei (the granddaughter of Chairman Mao), and the director of Taikang Space, Tang Xin. I attempted to sneak up upstairs to see the excellent show and ran into Yishu magazine publisher Zheng Shengtian rhapsodizing to the curator of the China Pavilion for the 2019 Venice Biennale, Wu Hongliang.

Taikang Life Insurance CEO Chen Dongsheng and artist Jin Shangyi.

At the dinner gala, in addition to showing his appreciation for Taikang’s continuous effort to narrate the history of art from the past century through its collection, Zheng Shengtian remarked: “Okwui Enwezor’s proposal of building an alternative history of art in the postwar period is critical with regards to the Euro-American centric narrative, and I couldn’t agree more with him.” According to Wang Yanlin, the chairman of Beijing 798 Creative Culture Industry Investment and the CEO of Beijing SevenStar Science & Technology (aka 798’s landlord), the Beijing Art Summit was created as platform for “academic dialogue with the international art community.” Despite the organizers’ focus on the art market, artistic agency, and urban development, one always finds a moment of truth on panels, as when Galleria Continua cofounder Mario Cristiano reminisced about starting his gallery in a small Tuscan town of seven thousand people. “Although the art world, in Italy or elsewhere, has weathered political and economic shifts, the art survives,” Cristiano said. “The Medici may not exist anymore, but Da Vinci remains.”

Publisher of Yishu magazine Zheng Shengtian and Curator of the China Pavillion for 2019 Venice Biennale Wu Hongliang.

While an afternoon panel co-organized by Frieze, featuring founders from local and international midsize galleries, pondered the challenges of an increasingly polarized art market, an online auction independent from GWBJ and headed by artist Xue Feng and others in Shenzhen went live. Auctioning Spring included artists from mainland China as well as international stars, including Laurie Anderson, Luc Tuymans, and Pierre Huyghe. Instead of waiting for galleries and auction houses to occasion commercial exchange, artists and art professionals did what they do best: They took matters into their own hands.

At 7 PM, guests flooded into the 798 Art Center for the Gallery Weekend Beijing reception and gala. It could not have been more mondaine: red carpet, paparazzi, and so on. The weekend’s excitement drew a close once Gallery Weekend Beijing’s award for best exhibition was handed out to Star Gallery for its presentation of photographer Liu Heung Shing’s solo exhibition “Spring Breeze.” This was my cue to exit the extravaganza. As I tapped into WeChat, the gavel dropped for Duan Jianyu’s drawing of a man diving into an elephant’s ass—97,777 RMB (approximately $15,000). Auctioning Spring’s description of the artwork reads: “When you are feeling tremendous amounts of pressure, remind yourself of those whose work is to dive into an elephant’s anus to massage his prostate, in order to prevent his erectile dysfunctions.” Beijing may now be a hot tastemaker, but there is always more work to be done.

Director of Kunsthalle Zurich Daniel Baumann and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Ann Philbin of the Hammer Art Museum, and managering partner of the Boers-Li Gallery, Jia Wei.

Art advisor Wang Weiwei, founder of Mai 36 Galerie Victor Gisler, and art collector Uli Sigg.

Editor-in-chief of Art Review/Art Review Asia Mark Rappolt, co-founder of Galleria Continua Mario Cristiani, collector Liu Gang, and founder of Long March Space Lu Jie.

Panelists Waling Boers, cofounder of the Boers-Li Gallery; Victor Gisler of Mai 36 Galerie; Sun Ning of Platform China; Magician Space founder Qu Kejie; gallerist Eva Presenhuber; and Frieze magazine editor Amy Sherlock.

Art collector Zhou Cong with Galerie Urs Meile manager Rene Meile.

Art critic and independent curator, Bao Dong and artist Feng Yan.

Artist Zhang Peili.

Christian Boros of the Boros Collection and founder of White Space Beijing Tian Yuan.

K11 Northern Kunsthalle, Fiona Ziying Qi, and artistic director Ian Russel.

Artists Yan Lei and Hong Hao.

Artist Chen Yujun and Taiwanese collectors Stephen Wu and Cynthia Chen.

Art critic Shu Kewen and Pekin Fine Art director, Meg Maggio.

Artist Jiang Zhuyun and Hunsand Space director Jiao Xueyan.

Artist Liu Shiyuan, Chris Mondrup and gallerist Christian Anderson.

Artist Wang Guofeng and Ginkgo Space gallery director Jiang Wei.

Artists Liao Guohe and Wang Sishun.

Critic Danielle Shang with artists Zhao Yang and Xu Wenkai.

Artists Manuel Mathieu and Ye Linghan.

Curators Cedar Zhou and Wang Paopao.

James Elaine, founder of Telescope and Federica Beltrame of Galleria Continua.

Fátima González and Malik Al-Mahrouky of the Kurimanzutto Gallery.

Dealer and publisher, Jeremie Thircuir and art advisor Daniel Blaize.

Curator Magician Space Chen Li and artist Shi Guowei.