Archives for November 2014

Antiques in China, is anything real?

Walking around the many street of China, it’s impossible not to notice all the vendors and stores selling antiques., antique furniture, antique paintings, antique sculptures, etc. Everyone claims their antiques are authentic, but after doing some research, it turns out that China also produces a lot of fake antiques. There are even people who specialize in creating fakes. I’ve realized that the only place one will definitely find real antiques are history museums. Personally, I believe that authentic antiques from China’s past are better left in museums where everyone has an opportunity to view them. If the antiques were privately owned it would be much harder for the general public to have access to them. When it comes to buying antiques I feel the same way about them as I feel about jade, as long as it is aesthetically pleasing I don’t necessarily care if it is authentic or not. However, for someone who’s hobby or life’s work is collecting authentic antiques the amount of fakes in China can be very frustrating. This being said, it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate and enjoy all of the many authentic antiques China has to offer.

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An Artist’s Insight into the Shanghai Art Market

IMG_3815-e1382278155941Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with Katy Roseland, an American artist, to discuss her first hand experiences with creating art in Shanghai and the Shanghai art market. Katy moved to Shanghai 6 years ago and has been working here as a freelance artist. She is primarily a painter but also works in multimedia creating installations. In the past few years Katy has dedicated a majority of her time to founding Basement 6 an artist collective. As an artist collective Basement 6 offers studio, gallery and other multifunctional spaces for artists.

After drilled Katy with questions about Basement 6 and how an artist collective works, we talked about her general views of the Shanghai art market. Katy addressed a few issues she saw within the art market; how many of the key figures in the Shanghai art market are ex-patriots, the type of art being produced and government regulation of art.

Most artists Katy knows in Shanghai are either expatriates or internationals and most gallery owners and curators are as well. She attributes this to the art education westernized societies provides to youths and the art appreciation instilled in these societies. Katy experienced this first hand when she had the opportunity to teach a few art classes to Shanghainese children. “Nobody has ever taught them that being creative is cool. In art there are no rules, and the kids are blown away by this idea. You should have seen heir faces when I told them they could mix colors”.

The types of art being produced in Shanghai was another issue Katy spoke passionately on. She identified photography and more modernized artistic styles (silk screens, digital, video works, installations) as art forms that she had seen done with great skill throughout Shanghai. Painting, drawing and printing on the other hand are art styles she doesn’t see often and are typically of a low quality. These styles are considered to be traditional Chinese art forms. “I think it’s hard for Chinese to experiment in these are forms because they don’t want to challenge tradition.” Katy believes that experimenting with these styles could be seen as a form of rebellion and thus newer art forms, with no traditional relevance, are a safer method of artistic expression.

The last issue we touched on was Katy’s experience with government intervention in the art market. Katy said that usually government intervention isn’t an issue, but it occasionally comes up. “If the art being displayed is clearly challenging the government or societal norms, or if an art movement gains to much support and can’t be regulated the government will step in and shut it down.” We talked about how this kind of government regulation has potential to stunt the development of the art market.

In the future Katy hopes for the art and the art market to become more diversified; integrating more local Chinese and Shanghainese artists, collectors and administrators as well as the display of more artistic styles. Both of these aspects of the art market however are contingent on the actions of the government. Katy thinks the Shanghai art market has a long way to go if it’s going to compete with New York and Paris, but that at the rate the city is developing she think’s its bound to happen sooner rather than later.

Shanghai’s “Art Districts”

Among the many great things we had the opportunity to do while in Beijing one of my favorites was getting the chance to wander the streets of 798, Beijing’s premier art district. 789 is made up of abandoned factories from the 1950’s which have now been renovated and are used as galleries, museums, artist studios and small independent stores. Although 789 is advertised in almost every travel guide as a must visit Beijing destination the area has managed to withstand commercialism, capitalism and continues to produce independent, compelling art. The art districts ability to keep it’s focus on art is not something I’ve seen is in Shanghai’s art districts, Red Town, Tianzifeng and M50.

Red Town

Red Town

Red Town is set in a renovated steel plant. It’s construction was planned out as part of the Mater Plan for Urban Sculpture and endorsed by the municipal government. Red Town is intended to be an epicenter of Shanghai Sculpture as a space to create and display sculptural works.

A 15 minute cab ride away is Tianzifeng an old neighborhood made up of Shikumen style houses and small interlocking alleyways. In 1988 Chen Yifei, renowned contemporary artist, moved his studios to Tianzifeng. After Chen Yifei both accomplished and emerging artists began setting up studios in Tianzifeng.

Often compared to 789, M50 is also located in old abandoned factories. M50 is home to several well-known Shanghai art galleries and claims to have over 100 artists working in the district.

Prior to visiting 789 I had been enamored with the vibe and aesthetics of Shanghai’s art districts, however, after seeing 789 it is had to feel the same about Shanghai’s art districts.  789 has a certain gritty feel to it which can be attributed to it’s grass roots development and the sometimes controversial art it produces. In comparison Red Town, Tianzifeng and M50 all feel polished and planned. Red Town was developed as part of a government initiative and all art pieces displayed here are endorsed by the government. Under these conditions artistic exploration has the potential to be stunted and develop homogeneously. In contrast while Tiazifeng’s development happened independent of the government the district appears to be dominated not by art, but tourism. The area claims to have 53 galleries scattered among it’s small alleyways all of which are nearly impossible to find. Bars, restaurants, boutiques, gift shops and throngs of tourists on the other hand can be found with great ease. The galleries which can be tracked down all feature commercialized art; cheap to produce, easy to sell, and could be found in most cities or even in somebodies living room. M50 suffers from a simialr issue as it is filled with deign firms, boutiques, and furniture stores. These stores are designed to cater to the upper class Shanghai craving for decorative arts. People come to M50 to feel like patrons of the arts, but who really just want something pretty to hang up in their living to show off to their friends. The art produced in M50 is not created with the intent to make a cultural artistic impact but to sell at extremely high prices and fuel the capitalist economy.

Entrance to Tianzifeng

Entrance to Tianzifeng

The art districts in Shanghai attempt to combine art, creativity and entrepreneurship, but instead the result is art that is made to generate capital and comply with the government.

“In China, the art market boomed during a transient era, when the country witnesses several parallel processes: the transformation to market economy with macro-level monitoring, the shift to consumerism- driven society and the emergence of New Rich, and experimental reform of former socialist institutions that is constantly re-interpreted by the state” – Jun Wang

For the Shanghai art market to continue to develop it’s art districts are going to have to either undergo drastic changes or relinquish their titles as “art districts” and be replaced with a new district with the aim of actually producing compelling, cutting edge art.

Jade

When I came to China in 2010, I remember going to a fancy jade store in Beijing. The store was huge and had very modern architecture. I remember looking at all of the jade animal figures, the earrings, necklaces, bracelets, bangles, and so on. There was so much jade, and so many different colours. There was green, pink, red, and even black jade. I bought a jade dolphin for my mom and a jade bangle for myself. However, I’ve never actually worn the bangle. It sits on my dresser at home in Nashville. The main reason I bought it was because growing up many, mainly older Chinese women, always had a jade bangle. I remember my Chinese teacher telling me how she was given her bangle when she was a young teenager and how it was so small it was very painful to get on her wrist. Due to this and the fact that she was told the bangle is supposed to protect her, she never took it off. At this point my friend, Jenny, said that her mother’s friend fell down a flight to stairs and was totally fine, but her jade bangle broke. Jenny says that this is a prime example of how a jade bangle protects a person. I was actually given a jade bangle when I was very young, but like the one I have now I didn’t wear it much. When I was younger I think I was more afraid of breaking it than anything else.

Skipping forward to the present time. Jade is still everywhere. There are fancy jewellery stores like the one I visited in 2010, but there are also street vendors and small shops that also sell a variety of jade products. With some of the jade it is very easy to tell what is fake. However, there are some jade items that look authentic even though you know they are fake. This is especially true if you are shopping at a small shop or vendor. In other words, don’t get your hopes up because there is a lot of fake jade in China. None the less, to me it doesn’t matter if the jade is actually real, all that matters is if it looks and feels real. My favourite kind of jade is a natural light green or a dark green colour. I also like the pink jade. However I strongly dislike the jade that is bright green. To me that jade looks even more fake than it already is. So far on this trip I’ve bought two dark green jade lions for my dad, a dark green jade pendent with my friend’s name engraved on it, another red jade pendent that doesn’t have any engravings, and a small green jade turtle which I gave to my friend for his birthday. I’ve been tempted to by another bangle, maybe in pink, but I know that this bangle is justing going to sit on my dresser and collect dust next to my other one.

With the amount of jade I see in stores I wonder how much of it is 100% pure jade and what kind of stone the fake jade is made out of. I also wonder if any of the jade is a mixture of real jade and another material. In addition, I wonder where manufacturers get all of this real jade and the material used to make fake jade. There are thousands of stores that sell jade and each store has hundreds, thousand, or many even ten thousand pieces of jade in various forms. Before writing this post I wasn’t interested in buying anymore jade products, but now after I’ve written it I want to go buy more jade.

 

 

 

Why Feng Shui is bad for Economics.    

lillian Too gained international fame, and boatloads of money, by writing books claiming that Feng Shui provided the catalyst that allowed her business success. She claims that Feng Shui was more important than the social connections and skills she gained at Harvard. Lillian too proves that broken clocks strike right twice a day, but little else. There is no evidence to suggest that her business success is due to the arrangement of her house, and cosmic intervention, when supply/demand, chance, and good management skills provide a much simpler, coherent, and meaningful explanation. Economics require social scientists to adhere to an objective, verifiable method that contradicts and disproves superstitious nonsense like Feng Shui.

The scientific method underlies the practical value of Economics. Economics studies how limited resources interact with unlimited wants. Economists derive different strategies to rearrange resources to best satisfy society’s needs. To make these claims Economists rely on the scientific method. For example, John Maynard Keynes posited that massive government spending could stimulate economic growth because of what he saw during the Great depression and World War Two. Keynes observations are replicable. Walking around Shanghai illustrates Keynes results, the PRC has pumped money into Shanghai and as a result Shanghai’s economic growth increased. Feng Shui can not explain Shanghai’s economic bloom. Less people practice Feng Shui now than ever before, and therefore if Feng Shui held sway, less people should reap economic rewards, but everyday the standard of life increases in Shanghai. Feng Shui and economics are mutually exclusive. Good Feng Shui can generate good Qi. This cannot coexist in a scientific world where energy cannot be created or destroyed. If one applies Feng Shui’s logic to Economics than Unlimited wants could be met by the boundless Qi. This does not correspond to reality.

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If China is included into the Transpacific Partnership China’s GDP will increase due to increased exports and spending, not Feng Shui

Feng Shui does not have the same methodological framework, and therefore is only feudal superstition. Flying Star Feng Shui practitioners claim that if you sync your life, your house, and the Bagua you can fix the specific area of your life that is deficient. This untestable indirect claim wilts under the mountain of its own internal contradictions. Each aspect of the Bagua is poorly defined, and therefore immeasurable. This allows practitioners to claim that minor changes in wealth resulted from Feng Shui when there are a myriad of other possible reasons, like domestic spending. The scientific method is humble, it doesn’t prove that increased domestic spending increases economic growth, but it does provide further evidence to support a very strong hypothesis Feng Shui lacks the scientific method’s humbleness, it makes outright direct claims about nature.

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The construction of the Terracotta warriors increased Qin China’s GDP more than Feng Shui ever has.

 

 

 

 

 

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