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Fair pitches small and affordable art

By Wang Jie (Shanghai Daily)

11:15, November 02, 2012

Visitors at the Shanghai Art Fair which opened yesterday at ShanghaiMart. (Shanghai Daily/Wang Rongjiang)

Shanghai Art Fair is trying to create its own Shanghai identity, attracting the newly rich in China and nurturing young, white-collar professionals as buyers of art who start small but eventually will spend big.

Overshadowed by SHContemporary for years, Shanghai Art Fair, which runs from yesterday through Sunday at ShanghaiMart, is offering more small and affordable works than in the past. Artists value in producing smaller works in limited editions that can be purchased by young people.

The fair also gives more opportunities to new overseas galleries and leading galleries in China. It used to aim, like SHContemporary, for international, world-class galleries.

This year's fair, the 16th edition, attracts 146 galleries from China, America, Europe and South Korea. It showcases paintings, sculpture, print, video, photo art and porcelain.

The big names include Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010), Wu Dayu (1903-1988), Yan Wenliang (1893-1988), Murakami Takashi, Picasso (1881-1973) and Andy Warhol (1928–1987).

"We are also very keen on cultivating the 'new elite class' who may not have a profound knowledge of art or art history, yet they have a passion or interest in art," said Wang Anwei, spokesman for the government-sponsored Shanghai Art Fair.

"Currently they might not be able to afford a work costing tens of thousands of yuan, but this doesn't mean that they won't purchase it in the future. It will be a process requiring efforts and patience by the fair organizer, artists and galleries here."

For example, local oil painter Li Yirong, known for her brilliant depiction of flowers and cats, decided not to show original works at this fair, but side products and spin-offs, such as pashimi shawls, silk scarves, canvas bags and cushions decorated with cats and flowers.

"When I took my oil paintings to previous Shanghai Art Fairs, many young people told me that they loved my work, but the 100,000 yuan (US$16,030) price daunted them," she said. "I totally understand, especially for a beginner in art."

But she wanted to spread her art to more people. Back in her studio, she used the same patterns and colors from her original works but put them onto other media and various articles.

"I bet you can't tell the difference between my original canvas and a big framed silk scarf when viewed from a distance," she says. "Last year one buyer even joked to me that my silk towel is not inferior to an Hermes scarf."

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