In its inaugural Richest Artists in China list, the China Times, a state-owned weekly newspaper, declared that, as far as the market is concerned, “the influence of contemporary art is dying” in China. On the basis of 2015 auction figures along with input from galleries and other experts and lists, the paper found that sales are declining of the once dominant cynical realists like Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Xiaogang, Fang Lijun and Yue Minjun. It also revealed that there has been a surge in sales of artists working in
China’s traditional media of ink painting and calligraphy. The newspaper’s findings came with a warning that the frequency of bribery and money laundering within the market makes some of the numbers uncertain.
Meanwhile, a new book by the art market academic Iain Robertson looks in detail at how a shift in taste from the conceptual to the traditional in China could affect the global market in the longer term. “An order rooted in the past, if not governed by the past, will inform the future taste and contemporary creation in emerging markets; and so it will the global market,” Robertson writes. Understanding Art Markets: Inside the World of Art and Business was published by Routledge in January (370pp, £34.99 paperback).