The inaugural fair showcasing high-end works from local and international galleries proves an instant hit with the capital's art lovers. Lin Qi Reports.
Faced with a local audience who is used to large expositions held at expansive venues, the inaugural Jingart art fair instead offered up a small and delicate art fair, in the hope that its diverse style and international vision would help enrich the capital's art scene and cultivate the next generation of collectors.
The high-end fair, which ran from Thursday to Sunday, took place at Beijing Quanyechang, a three-story former department store constructed in the early 1900s in the capital's historic Qianmen commercial area.
The baroque building is infused with the ornamental art nouveau touches, the architectural movement that flourished in Europe at the turn of the 20th century. Opening in 1905, the building operated as a department store until the mid-1970s, and is now a protected historical and cultural site.
The first edition of Jingart Beijing 2018 presents a similar classic, crossover style. Some 30 galleries and institutions showed a wide range of works - from fine art and furniture to works of design - at partially opened sections of the building, sparsely arranged over three floors.
It didn't quite feel like a typical contemporary art fair where booths extend as far as the eye can see, occupying a big space. It was more like a salon, and it reminded some visitors of a similar feeling to the first edition of the annual Shanghai fair Art021 in 2013.
While Bao Yifeng was one of the three co-founders of Art021 and also helped set up Jingart, he says it was never the intention to set up a Beijing edition of the Shanghai fair. Instead, Bao says, Jingart was envisaged as a completely different brand tailored specifically to the cultural interests of art buyers in Beijing and its neighboring regions.
Organizing similar art shows in a variety of locations is common occurrence for international fairs such as Art Basel (which takes place in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami) and Frieze (in London and New York). Bao says, however, that this business model does not fit with a local exhibition like Art021 which is primarily rooted in the tastes of local Chinese art lovers. They tend to differ from place to place.
He says that while visitors to the Shanghai fair showed a collective preference for modern and contemporary art which is the primary focus of Art021, leading buyers in Beijing tended to favor "traditional, classic" works, while the young generation of buyers were inclined to seek contemporary and international products.
The inaugural lineup of Jingart was set up to address that mixed demand, and future shows will continue to do so, say the organizers.
There were top international galleries such as Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner, both of which have gallery spaces in Hong Kong and were making their Beijing debuts at Jingart. Leading local galleries also participated, including the Shixiang Gallery and Shanghart Gallery. Both Hauser & Wirth and the Shixiang Gallery worked with the Wu Dayu Foundation to show paintings by Wu, a 20th-century pioneer of modern Chinese art.