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2011 6th Affordable Art Beijing Festival

2011 6th Affordable Art Beijing Festival(AAB)

When Tom Pattinson and Tamsin Roberts started Affordable Art Beijing Festival (AAB) in 2006, Chinese art was fetching record prices at auction. Students at The Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), some of whom had never had a solo show, were asking up to 100,000USD per painting from any old speculator at the school gate. Famed collector Uli Sigg, when pressed on how to become an art collector at the height of the boom, seemed to offer little hope for those starting out. To become a collector in these times, he said, ‘you need to have very deep pockets.’

‘Prices for contemporary art were skyrocketing,’ says Pattinson, ‘and what we noticed was that in every other country, and major city – like London or New York – there was a wide range of art available at a wide range of prices. We noticed that that type of service was missing here in Beijing.’ Pattinson says he wanted to both ‘provide the artists a platform so that they get could their work to a wider audience; and to provide art within means for intelligent everyday collectors who were just starting out – to provide normal people a chance to take the elitism out of art.’

Of course, prices have gone up since the founding of AAB, even for pieces from the fair itself. Some of the best works will fetch up to 20,000RMB, with Pattinson explaining that ‘it’s become increasingly difficult over the past few years to find the same standard of quality for the previous bar set at 10,000RMB.’ Even so, AAB will still live up to its name. About half of the works will go for under ten grand and many for under a thousand. The range of works will include everything from sculpture fresh out of the firing kilns in Songzhuang to photography snapped by skaters and rockers from inside the Second Ring Road.


2011 6th Affordable Art Beijing Festival(AAB)

One popular theme among artists this year is vehicles – that might have something to do with the same phenomenal traffic issues that have driven Beijing to the top of the international pollution ratings. Works such as Wang Bo’s ‘Hummer’ and Zhang Yinnan’s ‘Limo’ manage to appeal to viewers’ most opulent consumerist desires but also suggest that these desires, taken to their extreme, are ephemeral and empty. The interior of Zhang’s stretch may be plush, like the mansion behind it, but the driver is faceless and the driveway ominous. The roseate warmth of the sky is undermined by the eerie opaqueness of the limo’s windows. We want to be in the car and we don’t. The narrative possibilities are even richer when we consider it a hinge piece. Are we meant to be the passenger after all, or are we waiting for a mysterious passenger to emerge? It’s the kind of painting, the best kind, that people make up lies about after dinner and pass them off as knowledge.

Pattinson and his team have scoured the starving-artist trenches of Songzhuang, finding the best emerging talent from the villages. But AAB is also a magnet for emerging talent from the city’s art academies. Cheng Zhuo, a graduate student at CAFA, presents a finely controlled, unadorned and designdriven study of yet another type of vehicle in her painting ‘Firetruck’. Cheng Chen, a recent graduate of Qinghua’s Academy of Art and Design, and Yang Rui, fresh out of the prestigious Lu Xun Academy in northeast China, create paintings and drawings that indicate just how influential animation has become among China’s younger artists.

The most effective collectors at a fair such as AAB are the early birds who have done their research ahead of time – get there before the crowds, know what you want and don’t deliberate is our advice. ‘Last year,’ says Pattinson, ‘we sold an average of two pieces per minute for the first several hours of the fair.

Affordable Art Beijing is at 798 Space on Saturday 14 May 2011 and Sunday 15 May 2011. Visit for more inforation.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 23:32