Late night TV in Beijing

Found myself idly channel flipping at 1am last night here in Beijing (sad I know) and came across “The Art Auction” a regular TV series covering (last night at least) a chinese contemporary art sale held recently at Poly Art Auction. The entire auction seemed to be covered (I didn’t stay to watch the whole thing) with a post-buy discussion (for each piece sold!) by a two man expert panel back in the studio. As far as I could work out with my nascent Mandarin they were discussing bid prices, people in the room and reasons for interest or lack thereof. I think this was the recent record breaking sale by Poly Art Auction. The commentators certainly seemed excited.

I mention this because it is an interesting example of the government here indirectly supporting the promotion of contemporary Chinese Art and Culture as a means of boosting pride in the country, and supporting social cohesion (through pride and nationalistic fervour) in general. Poly Art Auctions is owned by the same Chinese State Owned Enterprise that owns the Poly Art Museum (reputedly better than some of the directly state owned museums) here in Beijing. The programme, and other Chinese state owned media, cover each new record price set for a Chinese artist as an indication of the rise in stature of Chinese Art in general, paralleling the rise of China in other domains in the world. Buyers at these local auctions come from all over the Asian world (a recent record Chinese work was bought by an Indonesian Chinese businessman) but many are young succesful businessmen with new money. The heat of the contemporary market, and the source of the new money, parallels current (Art) affairs in the West. The government (indirect) support of rising prices does not. Another interesting factor in todays market bubble.

1 thought on “Late night TV in Beijing”

  1. Wow. Running commentary on live auctions. With the right production values, that might make really good TV. Because however soulless a process an auction sale may be, it’s exhilarating to watch. I wonder how much the intensity of the room can translate to television. Remember David Letterman’s “monkey-cam?” We need “Meyer-cam,” a camera mounted at Tobias’s temple, so we can follow his eye movements, live, during an auction. Like that NFL epic “The Violent World of Sam Huff.” It would be fascinating to insiders, although far too revealing of professional trade secrets to ever happen.

    More seriously, the Chinese promotion of its arts market seems somewhat akin to France’s recently announced € 100 million state bid to promote itself back into being taken seriously on the international ConArt stage. Which begs the question: Are the Chinese subsidizing the artmarket in any way, or just spotlighting its organically occurring triumphs?

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