Tom Pattinson, Beijing-based Director of Affordable Art China, lets us in on where to find the freshest faces of contemporary Chinese art.
Courtesy of the Red Gate Gallery
Housed in the 600-year-old Dongbianmen Watch Tower, which formed part of the old city wall during the Ming Dynasty, Red Gate Gallery is celebrating its 21st year as a leading contemporary art gallery in China. Australian director Brian Wallace represents both emerging and established artists whose work spans from photography to oil painting and even electronic works. "Artists to watch out for include photographer Zhou Jun, whose dark black and white photographs of Chinese urban landscapes see key buildings swathed in red," says Pattinson, "as well or digital artists Island 6 who produce humorous and witty interactive LED works."
Kong Lingnan "O Brambles, O Brambles No.1" -- Courtesy Yang Gallery
Beijing's thriving 798 Art District in Dashanzi, northeast of the city center, features hundreds of galleries in multiple blocks of a Revolution-era Bauhaus military factory complex. (Think a Los Angeles-ified version of '70s Soho in New York City.) Says Pattinson: "Tiny Gallery Yang stands out from its pricier neighbors for its collection of virtually unknown artists, like 28-year-old Kong Lingnan, that harbor hopes of becoming the 'next big thing.' Her paintings—which look like they've been created using neon lights—are quietly being snapped up by savvy art collectors for a few thousand dollars." In a few years, they could become priceless.
Jia Aili painting -- Courtesy of Platform China
The more bucolic Caochangdi Village, an arts center on the outskirts of the city colonized 12 years ago by the authority-bucking Ai Weiwei, trades in the dense commercialism of 798 for scruffier experimentation in a maze-like collection of galleries. "Among the avant-garde offerings is Platform China, whose most recent success story is Jia Aili, who has shot to fame with his dark, almost post-apocalyptic paintings," hints Pattinson.
Affordable Art China hosts annual art fairs in Beijing (April), Hong Kong (May), and Shanghai (October), presenting curated works by young, emerging artists at accessible prices. You can also browse and buy one-off pieces online.