Its bubble burst, Chinese art is down but not out

Wed Apr 1, 2009 8:31pm EDT
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By Simon Rabinovitch

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese art bubble has burst. Long live Chinese art!

Or so seems to be the refrain of artists and galleries in China, where prices are sagging after a decade when the country's contemporary paintings were the hottest segment of a booming global art market.

Yue Minjun is among those with a distinctly unfurrowed brow.

His trademark paintings of men with outlandish grins went unsold at auctions last autumn, months after similar works fetched millions of dollars in feverish bidding.

"There are some who think that in this kind of market, art will sooner or later be finished. That's a very pessimistic view," Yue said. "This is nothing to be afraid of."

Puffing on a cigar outside a Beijing gallery, he described the emergence of serious Chinese collectors, a tectonic shift that could put China's art on a solid footing for decades to come.

"At first, people might have thought of art like stocks," he said. "But they have discovered art is more than just a stock investment. It has more significance and they are getting deeper into it."

In the short run, though, Chinese art more closely resembles the U.S. housing market, with prices driven down by questions about quality and oversupply.   Continued...

<p>Creations by Chinese artist Yue Minjun are seen outside the Today Art Museum in central Beijing in this March 26, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/David Gray/Files</p>