“Big galleries such as ours, will help by setting standards”

We talk to the director of Pace Wildenstein’s new Beijing gallery

BASEL. Chinese curator Leng Lin who founded the Beijing Commune in 2004, a centre showing emerging and established Chinese artists, is the new director of PaceWildenstein’s Beijing gallery.

The gallery opened on 3 August in a massive, 22,000 sq. ft space in the 798 district, converted by New York architect Richard Gluckman. The inaugural show is “Encounters”, a display of portraits by Chinese artists (Zhang Huan, Zhang Xiaogang) alongside their Western counterparts (Chuck Close, Tim Eitel, Alex Katz, Lucas Samaras). We spoke to Mr Leng at Art Basel in June.

The Art Newspaper: The speed at which the market for Chinese contemporary art has developed has created several problems such as artists working with several galleries. Will the opening of Pace Wildenstein help develop a more stable market in China?

Leng Lin: The Western art market is well protected. The Chinese, however, is not. It stems, as you say, from the rapid development and growing interest in contemporary Chinese art. The dealers, as well as the marketing around it, are not professional, but are an imitation of what happens in the West. Both the artists and the dealers cheat each other. Artists will no longer sit back while their dealers make a lot of money off them and pay them very low prices, so they approach other galleries to help their situation.

Because Chinese contemporary art is becoming more important, people are beginning to notice this situation more. More respectable people are getting involved. Artists are therefore also becoming more aware of their rights and conditions. The art market system can only be built through a process. It is a gradual development through experience and outside involvement as well.When big galleries enter, it helps the process greatly. It is a very healthy development.

TAN: There is a lot of bad Chinese contemporary art being produced and sold at the moment.

LL: Buyers today have a tendency to invest in the idea of “China” and not in the work itself. The artists which rose to prominence in the 1990s were the first generation to attract international interest. All the money tends to go to artists of this generation.

I think big galleries such as ours will help by setting standards and guidelines. I think the situation is improving. As I said, it’s a gradual process It is time we learnt from one another.

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