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Chinese art makes a splash in Florida

By HONG XIAO and KONG WENZHENG in Miami Beach, Florida | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-12-06 00:19
Visitors browse a painting inspired by the state dinner that former US president Richard Nixon had during his historic trip to China in 1972, during Art Basel Miami Beach on Wednesday at the Miami Beach Convention Center. This year, 269 of the world’s leading modern and contemporary art galleries are displaying artworks by more than 4,000 artists at the fair through Sunday. [Hong Xiao / China Daily]

The contemporary art of China is getting a warm reception in Florida.

"China has such a richness of the most talented artists," said Ethan Cohen, an American collector and art dealer based in New York City who specializes in contemporary Chinese art.

Cohen spoke Wednesday at a panel discussion for SCOPE Miami Beach, a contemporary art fair held annually in New York City, Basel, Switzerland, and Miami Beach. The panel was part of FOCUS | ART CHINA, a new premier program featuring Chinese contemporary art by SCOPE.

The discussion, hosted by China Daily USA's President and Editor-in-Chief Ji Tao, retraced the path of the development of Chinese contemporary arts, explored its transformation and looked ahead through the lens of artists, gallerists and curators from the two countries.

The panel was one of many events unfolding as Art Basel Miami Beach kicks off this week, with 269 of the world's leading modern and contemporary art galleries displaying artworks by more than 4,000 artists. At least 18 other fairs are taking place during Miami Art Week.

From left, Ji Tao of China Daily USA; Alexis Hubshman, founder and president of Scope Art Show; Wang Chunchen, deputy director of CAFA Art Museum; Bruce Orosz, founder of FOCUS | ART CHINA; gallery owner Ethan Cohen discuss Chinese contemporary art at the Scope Miami Beach on Wednesday.  [Hong Xiao / China Daily]

Cohen, who began his career 35 years ago, recalled at that time that Chinese artists were considered "outsider artists".

However, "today's contemporary artists are so different than even three years ago or five years ago or 10 years ago — it's almost like we feel it's almost been five generations in the last 10 years," he exclaimed.

"You should look at the talent of Chinese artists," Cohen said. "They have their own unique expression, their own unique style that is distinctly Chinese and is significant for the global art market."

"Chinese art is so quick, is so evolving, that you really have to be in Beijing, in Shanghai, in Guangzhou every few months to see what's going on, because that's what is really happening," he said.

Bruce Orosz, founder of FOCUS | ART CHINA, witnessed the development of Chinese contemporary art during his involvement in the art industries of the two countries for decades.

So he created the China-themed program to celebrate the global expansion of Chinese contemporary art by presenting museum-quality, cutting-edge work from established and emerging artists spanning disciplines.

"There are so many elements of China that influence behaviors around the world," he said. "I think the East meets West, and vice versa, West meets East is being unleashed."

Seeing more Chinese contemporary artists debut on the international stage, Alexis Hubshman, founder and president of the SCOPE show, said "it was something that was organically evolving as China itself is becoming a powerful engine, and its soft power mandate of bringing culture and art across the ocean, across its borders is coming to bear".

"It took some of us a long time to notice this, but certainly, in the art world, the market itself began to pick up, and there is a more consistent influx," he added.

Wang Chunchen, deputy director of CAFA Art Museum and renowned art critic/curator, attended Miami Art Week for the first time, saying he saw some Chinese artworks, "actually there are many great Chinese artists, their artworks have not been shown here, have not been known by the world", he added.

Wang believes contemporary art is one of the best ways to understand what's happening in real life in China and the world. He said China is quite different now. "Today's China is a new China," he said, adding that through contemporary art, which underlines contemporary feelings, artists could help build an image of a new China, "not the China you learned from newspaper, TV," but artwork built on real life.

Asked if the distinctive Chinese narrative was somewhat discarded in the artistry of Chinese contemporary art, Wang said that even as heritage and tradition have always been emphasized, "it's impossible for people to come back to redo the past", he said.

Cohen praised China's art education, which provides young students a global vision. And he pointed out that the art-collecting market is booming in China as well.

"Ten years ago, 15 years ago, there were not many Chinese collectors — very few, maybe on my hand I can count them," Cohen said.

"Now today, with the internet boom, the richness of the internet, many, many more millionaires in China, young entrepreneurs, they are beginning to collect," he added.

Cohen said he is glad to see the Chinese government embracing contemporary art. "They've realized [that] it's soft power; it's culture; it's something that is important for the world."

And at a time when China and the US are having trade and political disagreements, Cohen said, "Art can basically break through the barrier.

"No matter where we are, art is something we all going to understand and appreciate," he said.

Contact the writers at xiaohong@chinadailyusa.com

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