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Fall Art Fair Preview & The Rain Room Reviewed

Photo Shanghai, West Bund Art + Design, Art021, Art In The City...Can't stop, won't stop.
By Sep 1, 2015 Arts & Stage
Confirmation earlier this year that SHContemporary won’t be going ahead came as little surprise to anyone who made it to the 2014 fiasco. In a case of "out with the old, in with the new", a trio of fledgling fairs are joining forces this month for a Shanghai Art Week that promises coherence, diversity and a whole lot of art. Following impressive debuts in 2014, Photo Shanghai, West Bund Art + Design and Art in the City are back for the weekend of September 12-13, prefaced by a bunch of gallery shows opening this week and next. Here’s what you need to know about each of those fairs, including November outlier ART021, plus YUZ Museum’s just-opened rockstar exhibit, Rain Room.

Rain Room

Dates: Sept 1–Dec 31 @ Yuz Museum

London-based studio Random International’s Rain Room arrived at YUZ Museum this weekend to no small amount of fanfare. Previous incarnations of the work have been shown in London and New York, but for its China-side debut, collector Budi Tek commissioned what’s now the biggest Rain Room to date -- 150sqm, no less -- to match the gargantuan proportions of his West Bund museum, not to mention proven penchant for massive artworks.

The installation uses 3D tracking cameras to clear a path through a steady downpour, allowing visitors to navigate their way through the rain while staying [mostly] dry (at the opening, museum staff were helpfully on hand with paper tissues to dab dry shoulders and sleeves). Low lighting distorts depth of field, making for an unnerving experience that simultaneously calls for a whole lot of trust in this disturbingly clever machine; as well as inspiring the sort of buzz that actually having the omnipotence to control the weather might bring.

As with Rain Room’s previous editions, this one’s sponsored by Volkswagen: a match made in engineering heaven, the car brand is pushing an ecological interpretation of the work that somehow feels lost at YUZ. Context probably plays a part in that, and certainly, its November unveiling at Los Angeles County Museum of Art in drought-stricken California will put a very different spin on the work. Still, it’s very cool. Pro tips from the artists include walk slow, and avoid shiny black clothing: apparently the sensors have difficulty spotting that. Maybe leave the latex at home; likewise, stiletto heels.

Something else to bear in mind: you’re probably going to have to queue. They're only letting in 20 people at a time, and each session is 10 mins. Rain Room seems set for the kind of all-over-your-WeChat levels of hype of, I dunno, Yayoi Kusama at MoCA last year, or at the same museum, those zillions of Dior selfies jamming up your social media. But if the heart-sinking queues for Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room last year are anything to go by -- a similarly "contained" installation -- lines are going to be loooong.

At Rain Room in New York, patient culture vultures waited an average 4–5 hours to see the piece. Such is the price of rockstar art exhibits, and it’ll be interesting to see how YUZ responds. Then there’s the cost: an eye-opening 150rmb a pop, with discounts available if you’re buying two or three tickets. Book online right here. As you’d hope, that includes entry to the museum’s other ongoing shows, including the rather excellent Yang Fudong retrospective.

So is it worth it? Depends. Not sure I’d want to pay 150rmb just for Rain Room, but throw in everything else on at YUZ right now and the price becomes less outrageous. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to how the museum manages the inevitable lines, an efficient ticket reservation system, and maybe the foresight to bring snacks, books or fully-charged phones for the wait. The experience itself? Undeniably special, strangely disorientating, and beautiful.


Photo Shanghai

Dates: Sept 11-13 @ Shanghai Exhibition Center

The biggest of Art Week’s three fairs, Photo Shanghai promises 50 galleries specializing in - you guessed it - photography. Spanning con-temporary and archival works, this one’s pretty international in scope with no fewer than 12 coun-tries represented. Organizers and exhibitors will be hoping for strong sales, but even if you’re not looking to buy, there’s lots to get excited about - not least the China debut of Taryn Simons’ Birds of the West Indies.

The series was inspired by an eponymous 1936 taxonomy written by one James Bond. Author - and avid bird watcher, apparently - Ian Fleming chanced upon the name and deemed it a great fit for his protagonist - “anonymous… a blunt instrument in the hands of the government.” Conflating Fleming’s fictional narrative and Bond’s factual account, Simons’ series is an inventory or visual database of women, weapons, vehicles and other recurring elements featured in the James Bond films between 1962 and 2012. Should be good.

On what sets Photo Shanghai apart, Fair Director Alexander Montague-Sparey explained:

"We are the only fair which offers such a strong edit of both western and eastern work at the same time. People enjoy coming to Shanghai and exploring a medium which is accessible. I have always made sure the approach is a very curated one - by that I mean one where each work is hand-picked for its quality and relevance in the history of photography and its importance and relevance in today’s market."


West Bund Art + Design

Dates: Sept 9-13 @ West Bund Art Center

Also back for its second edition following a pretty awesome 2014 debut is West Bund Art + Design. This one ticks all the boxes of the area’s creative credentials: Top notch art? Check. Monied collectors? Check. Gargantuan, post-industrial space? Check, check, check. It also oozes credibility thanks to returning Fair Director, Zhou Tiehai. Not only is he a super famous artist in his own right, he also over-saw the first-ever SHContemporary back in 2007, and after that, was director of Minsheng Art Museum. Guy knows art.

Backed by Shanghai West Bund Development Group, this one differs from other offerings about town thanks to its dual focus on both art and design. Last year, that translated to a maybe 70/30 split, with confirmed design studios this time round including ABALOS+SENTKIEWICZ, Atelier Deshaus, Archi-Union, Atelier Z+, Atelier GOM, One Design Inc, TM Studio and UNDEFINE. The fair's overarching theme, organizers tell us, is "Art to inspire life, design to emulate it."

Gallery-wise, they’re mostly established China stalwarts. From Shanghai, you’ve got the likes of Pearl Lam and BANK; from Beijing, Magician Space and Pace; as well as internationals like White Cube and Hauser & Wirth. Newcomers this time round include Arario Gallery, Galerie Urs Meile, and in a special showcase, Brit-based CASS Sculpture Foundation. They’re bringing over a bunch of newly commissioned outdoor sculptures by contemporary Chinese artists, as well as archival models and sketches.

A (comparative) steal at 60rmb, online tickets are available at a discounted price of 40rmb on Gewara.


Art in the City

Part fair, part festival, Art in the City is the spunky alternative to its more traditional counterparts. Also two-years young, the fair's 2014 debut was top-notch. Organizers include SHContemporary veterans Donna Chai and Massimo Torrigiani, as well as super-curator and BizArt founder Davide Quadrio. Chuck the city’s most boundary-busting arts venue K11 into the mix, and you’ve likely get something pretty great.

This one’s got four main components, all revolving around the theme of Stop Making Sense: cities, landscapes, the environment and communities. At K11, there’s a series of exhibitions featuring both established and up-and-coming artists and galleries in China. Chai, managing director, explained:

"In the first year we only collaborated with Shanghai galleries. This year, our aim is to provide a platform for emerging artists, galleries and independent art spaces. The past two years have seen a new generation of galleries -- places in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou that we really didn’t know about before starting this process. Because we’re relatively small, we can be flexible and very fresh."

Off-site happenings include BLAST! over at MoCA Pavilion and the BMW Brand Experience Center. All digital imagery, interactivity, and computer-generated magic, that sees eight short film projects selected by a who’s-who jury of artists, editors and curators. Art in the City is also organizing a series of Shanghai tours around various museum and gallery hotspots, as well as other fairs. Tickets for those are available right on SmartTicket.

On what sets the fair apart from other Art Week offerings, Chai said:

"We wanted to do some-thing totally different. Art fairs have their own way of doing things with a very clear goal of selling artworks. We wanted to do something fun, something to engage the public who are interested in art -- not forgetting about buyers!"



Dates: 18 - 22 November 2015 @ Shanghai Exhibition Centre

Veteran of the bunch, ART021 is bucking the Art Week trend and setting up shop at Shanghai Exhibition Center in November. Distant though that may seem, as yet another fall art fair it's well worth a date in the diary. This one started quietly back in 2013. Last year made more of a splash, once again taking over the classy environs of the Rockbund complex. Initial half-hearted PR aside, this is one to watch - case in point, here’s what we made of the 2014 edition.

Some background: this one’s founded by collector and PR honcho Bao Yifang, and Kelly Ying, former gallery directer and partner at Huayi Fashion. Together, they’re something of a perfect storm: last year’s affair saw a host of international galleries alongside the likes of Xu Bing’s "store", offset by Louboutin’s Christian’s Atelier -- shoes, cupcakes and all.

Although this one’s still some way off, Ying was able to divulge a few pointers:

"Art should not be for a small group of people. Perhaps that’s been the case in recent years, but it should be for everyone. To keep engaging with more and more new people, we have a platform for emerging galleries and curators called 1+1."

On the change of venue, she explained that Rockbund was simply "too small" for this year’s planned artsravaganza. New hire Thomas Wüstenhagen -- formerly of Art Basel -- has big plans for transforming the Shanghai Exhibition Centre space into a suitably different arena for the fair, we’re told, with some 75 galleries confirmed to attend. That includes several newcomers, including Paris’ Galerie Chantal Crousel, London’s Timothy Tay-lor Gallery and Vienna’s Galerie Krinzinger.

Looks good.



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