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New Shenzhen DnA event this autumn aims to fill southern China's dearth of contemporary art fairs

New art and design fair in the Chinese boom town of Shenzhen launched by organisers of Art021 in Shanghai and JingArt in Beijing

The first edition of DnA Shenzhen design and art fair is scheduled from 30 September to 4 October at the Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning Image courtesy of DnA Shenzhen

The team behind art fairs Art021 in Shanghai and JingArt in Beijing have announced plans to unveil a new art and design fair in the southern Chinese boom town Shenzhen this autumn. Shenzhen DnA (Design and Art) will run from 30 September to 4 October, overlapping with the National Day holiday, and feature 40 participants at the Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning. "Shenzhen is a migrant city, but gives people the opportunity to build a new home," says Bao Yifeng, who with fellow collectors David Chau and Kylie Ying first established Art021 in 2013 followed in 2018 by JingArt, which opens its 2021 edition tomorrow (until 13 June) with 43 galleries physically attending and another 13 digitally, after having to cancel in 2020.

Bao says the group has also worked to secure locations for additional fairs in the Sichuan capital Chengdu and in the tropical freeport island Hainan. Once the network of five large fairs in mainland China is established, Bao continues, the group aims to launch additional small fairs in places like the affluent Zhejiang provincial capital Hangzhou, an hour from Shanghai and home to the China Academy of Art. The project will be China's first art fair in a museum, beyond small pop-ups like art book fairs, Bao says, though in an event space accessed separately from the exhibition halls. "We visited a lot of venues, and SZMoCAUP is cozy and symbolic, located in the city centre and near a metro," plus "the first to combine Modern art and city planning." Last November, it hosted an Anish Kapoor show in partnership with Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Art, and for its first five years it held a historical exhibition about China's opening and reform.

Shenzhen DnA will be divided into four sections: galleries, design, an art on paper section, and Curio, a modern take on Chinese scholar objects. Some booths will be smaller, around 20 sq. m, suitable to show one piece. "We want at least a mix, with some galleries partnering with designers, and to be half-and-half art and design," such as "artists doing functional objects," Bao says, describing the latter two categories as the probable focuses of future smaller fairs. "We're trying for international participants, but it is hard to say," given China's restricted entries and current three-week quarantine. "Some galleries have representatives here, and we can help others get people for the booth," as well as obtaining entry permits.

DnA marks the second new fair to launch in the Pearl River Delta in the time of Covid-19, joining the Guangzhou Contemporary Art Fair, which debuted in December 2020. Shenzhen has been home to Art Shenzhen since 2013, also traditionally running in September. China is a big art market that still lags in the area of contemporary art fairs, says SCAF director Ai Hai, and that is doubly true of southern China. "Guangzhou and Hong Kong have a connection, they are very close but very different, with a lot of family businesses in Guangzhou. Shenzhen is young, with a growing middle class, and Hong Kong has a lot of wealthy collectors. Guangzhou also has more history than Shenzhen," Ai says. Beyond tapping a local market burgeoning from a controversial regional unification under the Greater Bay Area Plan, the local fair provides Guangzhou's artists with support and visibility.

"Traditionally, Shenzhen collectors go to Art Basel in Hong Kong," and to the galleries there, says Bao Yifeng, as have Guangzhou's, but closed borders have rendered the Special Administrative Region inaccessible.