Visiting SH Contemporary, Shanghai, 2011

Giant Lego cat 'Xiao Sui' by Yan Cong at Star gallery booth

SH Contemporary is alive and kicking. Badly affected by the rise of Hong Kong Art Fair (now Basel), the successful newcomer Art stage Singapore and the market slow down of 2009, SH Contemporary is not giving up. The fair opening evening was crowded, collectors were present and deals were in evidence.  Pace Beijing sold a Li Songsong ‘portrait’ and a Zhang Xiaogang recent painting before the opening. The dominant piece in their booth was an impressive large metallic blue sculpture by Yue Minjun.

Chen Fei at Star gallery

Not far from Pace, its sister gallery, Beijing Commune exhibited 2 large monochromatic paintings by Wang Guangle and two very small works by Liang Yuanwei. Yuanwei has become very desirable in recent years and it’s nearly impossible to get her works. Her canvases looks like traditional wall paper packed with flower patterns painted with thick oil layers. Beijing’s Star Gallery exhibited a great selection of works by their leading artists. From a very large and impressive work by Chen Fei to works by Wei Jia, Chen Ke and a lovely Qiu Jiongjiong. The most exciting piece was an unusual large painting of Ouyang Chun. His painting was created in many sections that looked like separate small works appearing like a uniform collage. The work reminded me of the clusters of small paintings he used to install in many of his previous exhibitions.

Yang Maoyuan Marble classic figure

Other works that caught my attention were the marble sculptures of Yang Maoyuan at Pin Gallery. I like his works and I’ve followed this series for years. His works are made of carved marble or bronze casts of classical heads of Western or Eastern appearance whose facial features are later erased in part and polished, leaving just marks and details of their noses, ears and other parts. Some of the heads look like fine smooth eggs with very minor details revealing the origin of this weird looking shapes.

Liu Xiaodong at Hanmo gallery

Beijing Hanmo art gallery featured a good early work of Liu Xiaodong from the Mid 90s. The gallery owner, Li song, is well known for his sharp eye in finding secondary market works by top contemporary artists. In art Beijing earlier this year, he exhibited a great Fang Lijun 40x40cm painting of a swimmer from 1995 next to a couple of good Liu Wei’s on paper.

Lin Lin gallery from Taipei exhibited a number of works by Yin Zhaoyang including a beautiful large, warm coloured oil painting of a mountain. In recent years Zhaoyang is dealing with more tranditional subjects, going back to his earlier works of red stones and large semi naked figures. The main change is that the large figures are missing and the painting is more detailed with heavy & thick layer of oil paint.

The two works by Liu Shih-Tung they exhibited were sold early at the beginning of the fair.

You might need a bit more time and effort to find the interesting works here, but SH Contemporary art fair is still exciting and worthy of a visit. From what I’ve learnt, the contemporary art scene in Shanghai is getting stronger with a growing number of new local collectors entering the market. New contemporary art themed Hotels are also in the planning, private and corporate collections are becoming more accessible not to mention new private museums in this Chinese city. Shanghai deserves a good annual platform for its contemporary art scene and this fair is well needed. Lets hope that it will keep reinventing itself and continue to succeed.

Eli Zagury, September 2011

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