Chinese art market confidence

ArtTactic, Chinese Art Market Confidence Survey, Dec 2009

If anyone has a copy of this report, I would be very interested in taking a look (I might even cook you dinner). It would be fascinating to know what their criteria are for measuring “sentiment.” The report appears to look at a good range of artists1, so each one’s comparative results would be interesting to see. I’ve been hearing (mainly from auction results, so that’s pretty selective) that established names are recovering quickly, but the market for younger, less established artists is struggling (as one would expect). Most people I’ve talked to about this subject see these periodic downturns as, by and large, a “good” thing. I’m not denying the pain involved, but it’s a time in which everyone is forced to re-focus on their core strengths and if these aren’t sustainable then, perhaps, it’s time to move on.

The confidence in the Chinese Contemporary art market has strengthened significantly since February 2009, and is now back above the 50 level. The ArtTactic Confidence Indicator has increased from 16 in February 2009, to 57 in November 2009. The current level signals that there is more positive than negative sentiment in the art market. This is the first contemporary art market that ArtTactic has surveyed since the downturn, in which the Confidence Indicator has come in above the 50 level, which implies that the Chinese art market could be one of the quickest to recover.2

  1. Ai Weiwei, Cai Guoqiang, Cao Fei, Chen Wenbo, Fang Lijun, Feng Mengbo, Feng Zhengjie, Gu Dexin, Gu Wenda, He Duoling, He Yunchang, Hong Hao, Li Shan, Li Songsong, Liang Shaoji, Lin Tianmiao, Ling Jian, Liu Wei (B. 1972), Liu Xiaodong, Liu Ye, Lv Shenzhong, Mao Yan, Nie Mu, Qiu Zhijie, Shi Jinsong, Song Dong, Sui Jianguo, Tan Ping, Wang Gongxin, Wang Guangyi, Wang Jianwei, Wang Qingsong, Wang Wei, Wang Xingwei, Wu Shanzhuan, Xu Bing, Xu Zhen, Yang Fudong, Yang Shaobin, Yin Xiuzhen, Yu Hong, Yue Minjun, Zeng Fanzhi, Zhan Wang, Zhang Dali, Zhang Huan, Zhang Peili, Zhang Xiaogang, Zhong Biao, Zhou Tiehai, Zhou Xiaohu.
  2. ArtTactic (2009), Chinese Art Market Confidence Survey, Dec 2009. Retrieved from on 12 January 2010.

New iPhone apps for China

Explore Beijing Subway map ($0.99/£0.59)

This is the latest release in exploremetro’s series of iPhone apps, complementing their online interactive maps, and Beijing’s turn follows the already released app for Shanghai (Guangzhou and Hong Kong versions are also due).

As with most of subway apps I’ve seen, the entry view is the overall plan of the routes. At first I was a little confused as there was no icon strip on the screen – all the other maps I had used relied on a menu bar to guide the user to the various functions. However this difference shows the creativity that has gone into this app, so much functionality has been incorporated into the map itself simplifying the interface as much as possible.

On the map you can find the important information you’ll need when taking these routes through Beijing, including bi-lingual subway names (plus audio recordings of the Chinese name to save any embarrassing pronunciation faux-pas); first and last train times in each direction and for each line the station serves; and an intuitive route planner with journey times and fares.

Some things which would be nice to see in an update would be information about entrances to the stations; the presentation of the routes could be a little clearer than just the orange dots as it is at the moment; and the ability to double-tap on the map to zoom in (a strange omission).

Overall, if I was a first-time traveller in Beijing, this would make travelling on the subway much less of the daunting experience it could be. And as a (relatively) seasoned traveller here, I’ll also be keeping this app on my iPhone as its ease of use beats the other Beijing subway apps I’ve tried. Recommended.

The Financial TImes Little Book of Business Travel (free)

In these straitened times, China is obviously still a business destination with potential, as evidenced by the fact that the Financial Times has entered the travel guide marketplace with their Little Book of Business Travel (LBBT) for China.

This simple app includes a fair amount of information and data about the cities of Beijing, Hong Kong/Macao and Shanghai as well as providing well presented background about various aspects of business life in China in general. Although not extensive, the level of the information is appropriately pitched at the requirements of the high end business traveller.

LBBT includes a series of articles by experts, including members of the FT team past and present, and various guest writers for added depth in some of the subjects. The app starts with background information about the country – covering the politics & economy, business etiquette, a China constitutional guide (facts and figures), a sheet of economic data and a map of the country. One criticism I have is that these last two are rather tricky to use – the data is presented on a single page which can’t be zoomed into, making reading difficult.

The app then covers the cities in more detail, addressing the essentials of transport, business info, sleeping and eating. These are essentially small directories of the better quality restaurants, hotels, and business services organisations, with a short review and basic data for each one. The “Activities” sections gives introductions to the various extra-curricular sides to the cities, from shopping, sightseeing, spas and culture, with some fair recommendations to start the visitor off.

Given my background I was interested to see how art faired within the FT’s scheme of things. Given the limited space available, art actually fairs pretty well, at least it is not completely excised – there is obviously hope for the future of this sector! In the section for Beijing, I noticed that 798 Art District gets it’s own small entry within the “Shopping” section, recommending that the “financial crash” makes it a “great time to look around and buy” there. It’s evident that 798 has found its niche as a shopping district rather than one of Culture (which forms another section dealing mainly with the performing arts and museums) for the app’s potential audience – which does lead to the anomaly that in the Hong Kong section you will find the Asia Art Archives also listed under Shopping – AAA being a library and archive which has no commercial side.

To begin with I was skeptical about this app. Its focus seemed very superficial, but the more I investigated its content the more I appreciated the solution FT had come up with for the mountain of data from which they had to choose. This app does not trying to rival the Lonely Planet or Rough Guides for example, the motives of its audience are quite different. Aside from my quibble about classifications, for the business person who still has enough cash after the crash, and not enough time to go in depth, this app will serve as a useful starting point.

Adam Smith and World Trade

I’m currently reading David Harvey’s Spaces of Hope, which was inspired by the reading material for Vitamin Creative Space’s reading group.

Within a discussion of the realisation of “spaces of utopia” Harvey quotes eighteenth-century economist Adam Smith proposing the global effects of a free market:

[B]y uniting, in some measure, the most distant parts of the world, by enabling them to relieve one another’s wants, to increase one another’s enjoyments, and to encourage one another’s industry, their general tendency would seem to be beneficial. To the natives, however, both of the East and West Indies, all the commercial benefits which can have resulted from these events have been sunk and lost in the dreadful misfortunes which they have occasioned. These misfortunes, however, seem to have arisen rather from accident than from any thing in the nature of those events themselves. At the particular time when these discoveries were made, the superiority of force happened to be so great on the side of the Europeans, that they were enabled to commit with impunity every sort of injustice in those remote countries. Hereafter, perhaps, the natives of those countries may grow stronger, or those of Europe may grow weaker, and the inhabitants of all the different quarters of the world may arrive at that equality of courage and force which, by inspiring mutual fear, can alone overawe the injustice of independent nations into some sort of respect for the rights of one another. But nothing seems more likely to establish this equality of force than that mutual communication of knowledge and of all sorts of improvements which an extensive commerce from all countries to all countries naturally, or rather necessarily, carries along with it.1

The situation is now similar to that predicted by Adam Smith, but rather than the “East and West Indies” being in the ascendant relative to Europe, we have China taking their place against the perceived Euro-American block. But Smith’s utopian vision of “natural,” or “necessary” commerce, which will work towards an equality, when we look at the Chinese implementations seems to have hit on some uneven developments on the ground.

I think this unevenness is part and parcel of David Harvey’s “uneven geographical developments,” and is one of the reasons why, I think, capitalism will never stabilise – local conditions will always adjust the expected ideals into their realities, in this case realities “with Chinese characteristics.” For one thing you can’t say China practices a “free” market, but it partakes in the WTO who expect certain definitions of freedom (of trade) which, as I understand it, are very unevenly applied between China and the rest of the world.

I’m no apologist for the way things are, just commenting on the way things develop, and as such it’s unfair of me to single out China, as the trade relations between countries are never “free” but are practical realisations of idealised structures: “…the purity of any utopianism of process inevitably gets upset by its manner of spatialization. In exactly the same way that materializations of spatial utopias run afoul of the particularities of the temporal process mobilized to produce them, so the utopianism of process runs afoul of the spatial framings and the particularities of place construction necessary to its materialization.”2

  1. Adam Smith, quoted in Harvey, David (2000), Spaces of Hope, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, p.179 (originally cited in Arrighi, G. (1994) The Long Twentieth Century, London, p.19)
  2. Harvey, David (2000), ibid.


…techno-utopianism – the thought that getting around internet restrictions and using social media will somehow lead to government upheaval and massive social change – is mostly a sham.1

…this is an anachronistic view of the world. Modern authoritarian states have eagerly (but selectively) embraced globalisation to provide their citizens with at least a modicum of self-actualisation without ever abandoning their authoritarianism. Their young people travel the world, learn English, use Skype and poke each other on Facebook – all while competing for comfortable jobs with state-owned companies. We are entering the age of “accommodating authoritarianism” – and the internet has played a crucial (though hardly the only) role in providing many of the accommodations.2

  1. Chow, Elaine (2010). Internet memes: The GFW Flow Chart, Shanghaiist, January 5, 2010 5:00 PM Link.
  2. Morokiv, Evgeny (2009). [title unknown], The National, 31 December, Link. Quoted in: Chow (2010)