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Celine Zhuang on the Chinese Art Market


Celine Zhuang on the Chinese Art Market
Celine Zhuang, Image courtesy of Studio Gallery

Celine Zhuang is the founder of Studio Gallery in Shanghai and Asia Director for Galerie Krinzinger in Austria. She is also an experienced art dealer and has participated in many of the top art fairs Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Taipei. Last month, The Artling and Studio Gallery presented 'Extro-Science Fiction Notes' in our Shanghai private viewing space, and we had the opportunity to learn more about Celine's experiences as an art dealer, and her perspectives on the global art industry.

Exhibition View of 'Extro-Science Fiction Notes' by Li Wenguang

How did you start Studio Gallery? Tell us about the artist residency projects.

Well, I started learning art at an early age. From traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy to contemporary art, I ended my study with a master's degree in sculpture. While I thought I would be an artist, I was very fortunate to work in world-class galleries and organizations. These experiences opened up my perception and imagination of the art world entirely. 

Then, with this double experiences, I came back to my hometown Shanghai. May be affected by the art environment in Shanghai, in 2016/17, I started to realize that: if I did not begin working on representing the artists that I wanted to, or the exhibitions and projects to express my own opinions and understanding about art, I might have lost the opportunity forever. So I began my gallery adventure valorously under the encouragement of several artists.

The artist residency project is the externalization of our gallery’s core attitude. Studio Gallery is not simply a studio + a gallery. It really values the artist's working process, deeply explores and understands the motivation of the artist’s work, and strives to help artists transform values generated from their work into a consensus. So the artist residency project is a great opportunity for us to explore these values. Till August 2020, we've completed 14 artist residency projects and their OpenStudio from 6 countries, and have recorded 14 issues of “Artist Talk” newspapers.

Image courtesy of Studio Gallery

Why did you decide to work with The Artling and an Art Consultancy? What was it like working with us? 

To my awareness, there are very few professional art consulting agencies in China. We collaborated with The Artling long ago. To me, they are very professional; they understand the positioning of different galleries and abide by the industrial corporation principle. It was quite easy to collaborate with them while gaining attention from new clients outside of the current gallery collector group. I am willing to try new collaborations.


Talisman 1 - Li Wenguang

Why did you choose to do a pop-up exhibition for the 'OPEN STUDIO' residency? 

Two reasons:
2. "OpenStudio" is a featured program of our gallery residency space intended to present the artists' work results in residency. The artists' work results often include their creative process that, in some degrees, shows the artists' achievements of a period. Therefore, "OpenStudio" is a perfect stage for the public to experience contemporary art. Holding our residency newspaper, Artist Talk in hands, even the audience that has viewed very few exhibitions can understand the artists' creative process from our written records. So "Open Studio" is a perfect program for a short-term pop-up exhibition.

2. The second reason is space. The Artling Shanghai space is special; it is not a standard gallery space, which is more suitable to present artist’s solo project.  In this way, the space refreshes people's inherent perception of art consulting agencies.


Water of Radical Signs 2020-13 - Li Wenguang

What was it like presenting the 'OPEN STUDIO' residency in an exhibition format? 

I think the exhibition matches my expectation; I am very satisfied personally. The artist was able to communicate with The Artling team smoothly. They understand and execute our concepts well. 

Image courtesy of Galerie Krinzinger

As the Asia Director of Galerie Krinzinger, tell us more about the gallery and your role. 

Galerie Krinzinger was founded in 1971. It is a top-level European gallery with an international reputation. With an operating history of over 50 years, it has held over 400 important topical exhibitions since its establishment. The gallery main line in one aspect takes the basis of Viennese Actionism (Representative artists: Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, Hermann Nitsch, Rudolf Schwarzkogler), in the other aspect centers on performance artists that focus on the body and discuss related international issues (Chris Burden, Mike Kelley, Paul McCarthy, Nancy Rubins). I think, to a certain degree, the gallery has become the "intangible cultural heritage" of the art world. It is irreplaceable, especially in western art realms.

As their Asia Director, my responsibility is to introduce the gallery spirits and excellent artists to both the senior and the new collectors in China. I want to help collectors to build up a world first class collection through approaching and understanding real western contemporary art in a deep way.

Image courtesy of Galerie Krinzinger

Could you share your experience of managing both Studio Gallery and Galerie Krinzinger with us?

I think this is a precious learning process. During my cooperation with Galerie Krinzinger in the past 6, 7 years, the owner Ursula Krinzinger has a significant influence on me. She always encourages me and shares her authentic experiences selflessly. All the things enhance my view of questions like "what is a gallery," "what value can galleries provide to collectors," and "how to establish our own value and influential power," etc. , and thus build up a methodology of my own gallery step by step.

Of course, the Chinese market is way different than Europe. In my many years of work experience, I see enormous possibilities; I hope to be a good "translator" of this value system.

Image courtesy of Galerie Krinzinger

Tell us more about your background as an art dealer and the art industry in China. 

It was an accident. To be honest, I have never thought about myself "selling artworks". Like I mentioned before, I started learning art at an early age. I always dreamed about becoming an artist; art to me was pure and priceless. I have never thought that people would buy it after adding a price tag. But after entering the profession, I get into the "art dealer" role quickly. I like this job very much. I find myself more in dealing with than making art. 

More importantly, being an art dealer gives me a new identity and angle to examine the art and art industry. Obviously, the Chinese art market is growing to be more mature, more subdivided, more professional. The collectors become more and more cultivated; only more astute and more fussy clients can produce a more professional market.


Talisman 2020-17 - Li Wenguang

Could you share some tips for first-time art collectors? 

I think this is somewhat like finding a companion. It is actually very personal. If they are my friends, I will advise them to not look for “handsome or beauty at first sight” which means to find a less pleasing piece at the beginning, but it deserves to be inspected repetitively and communicate with them. Sustainability of looking is an important tip.

Exhibition View of 'Extro-Science Fiction Notes' by Li Wenguang

Given the COVID-19 situation, could you share with us what you envision for the future of the art industry in China as well as globally?

People may receive many negative influences under the pandemic; undeniably, I have also experienced some pressure.

But maybe I am an optimist. The pandemic leads me to see many possibilities. Nationwide, a lot of students overseas come back to China and bring fresh energies. They have various new opinions and vitality to a large extent, will supply and change the current industrial condition's lack of talents and revitalize the art community. I think vitality is the critical basis of industry development. At the same time, this group back overseas may contain many future collectors. So I look forward to the future changes in the domestic art market.

Globally, the pandemic certainly affects the big galleries, but the western veteran galleries will keep a solid basis of collectors with loyalty. Because I believe collectors' ultimate goal is to have a meaningful piece in their collection, these galleries with good artists will remain their dominant position for a period in the future.


To browse available works from Studio Gallery, click here.

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