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China gets another art fair

China is to get another new art fair: the inaugural Art Chengdu International Contemporary Art Fair is due to run in the Sichuan capital from 28 April to 2 May next year, organisers announced earlier this month (the location is to be confirmed). The co-founder Huang Yu, a collector and Sichuan native, announced further details last week at a press conference in Beijing.

“Southwestern art has a very special and important place in Chinese art history, with a deep influence on the development of Chinese contemporary art, and it produced many leading Chinese artists,” Huang Yu says. Hailing from the Sichuan city of Zigong, Huang is a former bodybuilding champion turned art collector; he started the Beijing Zhuanshi International Auction House in 2003, worked with fellow collector He Juxing at the Minsheng Art Museum Shanghai during its 2010 founding, and now runs the Beijing Zizi Cultural Holdings Group. His co-founder of the fair Huang Zai, no relation, previously worked as an art project director for Harper’s Bazaar Art China.

Organisers on Sunday announced that the number of galleries will be limited to about 30, including a target mix of around ten international galleries and 20 Chinese galleries, including those representative of Sichuan art. The city is home to the respected gallery Thousand Plateaus; Chengdu and the nearby municipality Chongqing are home to several museums and kunsthalles, the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, and significant artist populations. Chengdu, a historic inland capital, is now the most prosperous city in central China, and a hub for international business operations in western China.

Art Chengdu press conference (Photo: courtesy of Art Chengdu)

Art Chengdu press conference (Photo: courtesy of Art Chengdu)

Art fairs in second tier Chinese cities have proliferated rapidly since the emerging successes of Art Basel in Hong Kong and Shanghai’s West Bund and Art021, with events springing up in locales from Dalian to Sanya.  However, Chengdu’s strong economy and art infrastructure plus Huang Yu’s standing with the coastal art establishment, particularly its top galleries and his fellow young collectors, potentially give Art Chengdu a competitive edge.

Art director Shi Zheng added that while Chengdu does not have a bonded warehouse to streamline art imports and minimise taxation, discussions are under way to create a partnership. Giving an idea of the province’s importance, she adds: “Sichuan has a population of nearly 80 million, equivalent to the entire population of Germany, while Sichuan’s GDP is about $465bn.” Moreover, she claimed that Chengdu’s 15 million residents consume “two hundred million rabbit heads a year, drink enough tea to fill [Hangzhou’s] West Lake seven times, and spend 15 billion yuan a year eating hot pot.”

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