With a burgeoning gallery district and an increasing number of local collectors, the art scene in Shanghai has been heating up. So it’s no surprise that two pairs of energetic fair organizers have planned debuts for this fall. Up first is ShContemporary, September 6 through 9, and next month brings the Shanghai Fine Jewellery and Art Fair, October 12 through 21.
ShContemporary is the brainchild of one-time Art Basel director Lorenzo Rudolf and Geneva-based dealer Pierre Huber. “We are not doing an Asian art show,” emphasizes Rudolf. “But still, 60 or 65 percent of the work will be Asian contemporary.” Just over 100 galleries from 25 countries are coming to do a fair that Rudolf promises will be “on a new model.” That means special curated sections overseen by Huber. “Best of Artists,” for instance, brings together big names like China’s Ai Weiwei (from Lucerne- and Beijing-based Galerie Urs Meile) with lesser-knowns, like Indian Sudarshan Shetty (from Bangalore Gallery SKE). Rudolf wants to keep the focus on discoveries, rather than on the standard blue-chip material that turns up at established fairs. Zurich- and Berlin-based gallery Arndt & Partner is bringing a new, site-specific sculpture (est. €65,000; $270,000) by Chinese-French artist Wang Du, and Dutch artist Mathilde ter Heines installation project (est. €195,000; $270,000), which was inspired by China’s Mosuo people.
While Rudolf and Huber were hatching their fair, Maximin Berko (whose family owns Berko Gallery, in Paris and Brussels) and his Hong Kong-based businessman friend Nicolo Mori devised one of their own, an encyclopedic offering along the lines of TEFAF Maastricht. Material will range from Chinese antiquities offered by Brussels dealer Gisel Croes to Western-style furnishings from Paris antiques gallery Steinitz to contemporary art from Paris’s JGM gallery. Rounding out the participants is a handful of high-caliber jewelry dealers like Sabbadini (Milan and New York), Lorenz Bäumer (Paris), and David Morris (locations worldwide). The organizers are banking on the idea that, with next year’s Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai turning the global spotlight on their country, the Chinese are ready to invest in art. “We met the director of Shanghai’s culture bureau,” says Mori. “And Maximin asked, ‘How many Picassos does your city have?’ The reply was zero.” That will change.
"Next Art Capital" was originally published in the September 2007 issue of Art & Auction magazine.