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  • Writer's pictureFrancisca Theo

Exploring Shanghai on West Bund and Art021

In a bustling November art scene in Shanghai, the ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair has made its return to the Shanghai Exhibition Center in the city's central Jing'an district. Since 2013, the fair has grown from 29 exhibitors to 150 this year, representing 16 countries worldwide. More than 100 of these exhibitors were from 17 cities and regions in China, reflecting ART021 goal of bridging local and global influences and capturing the diverse landscape of contemporary Chinese art.

The West Bund Art & Design fair and the 14th Shanghai Biennale are also taking place in the Shanghai art scene a day before along with so many exhibitions going on around the city.

Outside West bundart center building
West Bund Art Center | Photo by Author


This year's ART021 features a diverse range of artworks in terms of medium, size, and price point. Blue-chip artists like Dan Colen, Josef Albers, Maurizio Cattelan, and Imi Knoebel are showcased alongside heavyweight galleries such as Gagosian, David Zwirner, Perrotin, and White Cube. International galleries returning after the pandemic expressed excitement about reconnecting with collectors and friends, underlining the fair's importance in their global strategies.

Outside the building of Art021 art fair 2023

View of installation Art021 2023
Art021 2023

According to participants, the energy at ART021 was palpable, with excitement resonating among both global and local participants.

I was asked many times how my trip to Shanghai was and how the art market there bla bla bla. Honestly, I don't even know how to answer. "Bizarre" is the only word I can think of to describe the art scene in Shanghai. In a good way of course. The things I'm about to say are just my take and thoughts. Even though many art fairs aren't thriving this year, I was amazed by Art021. You can find a bit of everything there without any repetition. A true visual striking, seamlessly navigating the realms of Chinese traditional artworks to contemporary art. The infusion of designer fashions collaborating with local artists adds a unique flair, blending the essence of local Chinese ambiance with Western contemporary influences. If this amalgamation does not qualify as bizarre, I am uncertain what does.

There's only one thing that is a bit of disappointment. There are a lot of International exhibitors who ended up not making enough sales due to the payment restriction. UnionPay was the only accepted payment method, but not all international exhibitors had access, causing widespread frustration. Many exhibitors did not make sales and return. They exclaimed that they would never come back next year.

On the other hand, many local gallerists are making good enough to cover their expenses. There are a lot of young collectors or potential collectors to be precise are getting their first collection of art during Art021 this year.

Few leading galleries have showcased solo exhibitions of some of the best artists. Gagosian presented Dan Colen with nine new entries from Colen’s Mother series (2009–) alongside two paintings from the Woodworker series (2021–). These works refer to the Disney films Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Bambi (1942), and The Fox and the Hound (1981).

Gagosian Dan Colen's Mother series Shanghai Art021
Dan Colen's Mother series refers to Disney Bambi
Gagosian presented Dan Colen in Art021 Shanghai 2023
Dan Colen's Mother series refers to The Pinocchio
Oil on canvas 42 x 56 x 1 1/2 inches (106.7 x 142.2 x 3.8 cm) © Dan Colen Photo: Rob McKeever Courtesy Gagosian
Dan Colen "Mother" (Flowers), 2023

On the other hand, Whitecube Gallery presented a dual presentation of artists Imi Knoebel and Rachel Kneebone and even received the best booth reward from Art021.

Whitecube presented Imi Knoebel at Art021 Shanghai
Art021 Best Booth reward goes to Whitecube Gallery

To sum up, at the Art021 Art Fair in Shanghai, it is truly limitless possibilities of art are showcased, providing participants with a creative and inspiring experience. Looking forward to meeting again next year.


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