Auction Sales From July 1, 2008 To June 30, 2009 Send Zeng To The Top Of The List, As Chinese Artists Make Up 16 Of The Top 50 In The World
Artxun (Chinese) reports this week that Zeng Fanzhi — one of China’s top contemporary artists — has gained the title of “Number One” Chinese artist in terms of auction prices over the last year, leapfrogging longtime title-holder Zhang Xiaogang. While some of this may be down to the slower pace with which Zhang is producing new works, Zeng’s growing popularity within China and, ostensibly, among New Chinese Collectors, could have something to do with it. Zeng, who sprang to prominence in the 1990s mostly through his “Mask” series but has since begun experimenting with more abstract pieces, recently sold 5 of 6 pieces up for grabs at Sotheby’s autumn auction of contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong well above high estimates, indicating that his popularity among the primarily Mainland Chinese bidders remains strong.
The Artxun piece, rather than focusing only on Zeng’s auction prices, does an excellent job of looking into the artist himself and some of the personal projects he has undertaken, including the “Zeng Fanzhi Art Scholarship,” which awarded 10,000 yuan to a disabled university applicant in July of this year. From the article (translation by CLCB staff):
Compared to last year’s [Artprice] list, Chinese artists comprised 16 of the top 50 artists in the world, down from 18 the year before. Among Chinese artists, Zeng Fanzhi was the highest selling, surpassing Zhang Xiaogang by 1,010,000 yuan, becoming China’s most “expensive” artist of 2009. Zhang Xiaogang slipped from the top five this year down to #7. Chinese artists who made the top 50 list last year, namely Yin Chaoyang, Liu Wei, Fan Dehai, and Guo Hai weren’t strong enough to make the list this year, although Yan Peiming is expected to enter the top 50. Another interesting thing to look at is Chengdu’s growing power — aside from Zhang Xiaogang, Chengdu-based contemporary artist Zhou Chunya was ranked 17th in the world and #11 in China in 2008, and in 2009 rose 3 places in the world ranking to #14 while rising 6 places in China to #5 there. Another Chengdu artist, Luo Zhongli, ranked #38.
Art helping the disabled: Highest donation by Zeng Fanzhi, to the tune of 350,000 yuan
This year, 45-year-old Zeng Fanzhi is the illustrious representative of contemporary Chinese art. His “Mask” series sold at Christie’s auction for a surprising price of over 70,000,000 yuan, setting a new record for a Chinese contemporary artist. Zeng Fanzhi and [Artxun] actually have some common threads. Artxun and [contemporary Chinese artist Zhou Chunya]’s jointly created “Multicolor Fund” (“五彩基金”) donated some 350,000 RMB to establish the “Zeng Fanzhi Art Scholarship,” the largest single donation. At that time, Zeng Fanzhi expressed in an interview with Artxun journalists that he’s an artist, so he pays particularly close attention to charitable activities directed toward youths with dreams of becoming artists who were seriously injured in the Sichuan earthquake (of 2008). Said Zeng, “When I went through hard times myself, I received help from others, so since I now have the ability to help other people, I’m going to do everything I can to do so.” This July, Deng Yu, who was severely injured in the Sichuan earthquake, became the first recipient of the “Zeng Fanzhi Art Scholarship,” receiving a 10,000 yuan annual scholarship after completing his university exam.
“Bullish” News Gives Chinese Contemporary Art A Shot In The Arm
Some art organizations and galleries have closed [in the wake of the global economic crisis], causing many critics to think the contemporary art bubble’s time has come, but world famous art monitoring organization Artprice found after a survey that there is reason to be “bullish” about the developmental tendencies of the Chinese contemporary art market, and that the Chinese contemporary art market has unexpectedly risen to the third largest in the global ranking. Last night, a Chinese contemporary artist ranked in the top 20 — who declined to give his name — told a reporter that the economic downturn had a major influence on the whole world, not only China, saying, “The data from this survey is a real shot in the arm for the Chinese contemporary art market.”
Chengdu-based contemporary art critic Chen Moze said, “In terms of all of Asia, Chinese contemporary art is worthy of the title ‘Big Brother,’ because there are lots of Chinese artists, and the overall strength is great. Since domestic contemporary art became integrated internationally, and the market got on track, it’s easy to see how an exceptional artist like Zhang Xiaogang can build up global fame after 30 years. [To me] there’s nothing unusual about that.”