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An Interview with Thomas Wüstenhagen, Fair Director of ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair


An Interview with Thomas Wüstenhagen, Fair Director of ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair
Mr Wüestenhagen, the new fair director of ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair (Image courtesy of ART021)

ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair was founded in 2013 by two young Shanghainese, Bao Yifeng and Kell Ying. Since then, it has gone on to become one of the most important contemporary art fairs in Shanghai and has been hosted at the Shaghai Exhibition Centre since 2015. With their carefully curated project shows such as 1+1 Projects for emerging artists and BEYOND Public Projects, ART021 has become the place to see and buy cutting-edge contemporary art.

This year, the fair has announced that Mr Thomas Wüstenhagen, who has previously served as a member of the ART021 Executive Commitee, has been appointed as the new Fair Director. Mr Wüstenhagen comes from a strong background in the arts, as well as art fairs, having previously served as a Management Board Member and Head of Gallery Relations for Art Basel. In the following interveiw, he speaks to us about the future of ART021 and how one should go about starting an art collection.

A previous edition of ART021 that was held at the National Industrial Bank of China
Image courtesy of Artnet News

Tell us a bit about your experience in the art industry and how you came to be appointed as the new Fair Director of ART021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair.

I have been in the art world for more than 15 years now. After studying history and art history in Vienna and London I started working in one of the best galleries in Vienna. I opened my own space in 2002. After ten years as a gallery owner I moved on and became the Head of Gallery Relations and Member of the Management Board at Art Basel. Afterwards I decided to move to Hong Kong and there I met the founders of ART021. This is how it started. For the 2015 edition of ART021 I joined the Executive Committee.

"Puzzle-ε" by Liu Wei, part of the Beyond Public Projects by ART021
Image courtesy of ART021 and Long March Space

You have previously sat on the ART021 Executive Board and have observed how the fair is managed and curated. Are there any specific things that you want to implement or change for this year’s edition of ART021?

ART021 is already a really well organized fair of high quality. But there are always things you can streamline and improve. For example, there will be a special sector this year called "Approach" which is for galleries showing solo presentations by artists of any age or shows with a curatorial approach. This will be a really interesting part of the fair to discover.

Also, ART021 is about diversity, which makes it so special. We will provide an in-depth overview of the region with some of the best galleries showing both high quality material and cutting-edge works by leading and emerging artists.

An interior view of ART021's main hall
Image courtesy of ART021

ART021 is known for the international standard of original projects including special exhibitions and cultivating young collectors. How do you plan on continuing and building on this legacy?

We will of course continue to develop special projects and strengthen our relationship with collectors and especially cultivating young collectors from the region. The founders of ART021 have built an amazing network over the last three years and we will keep working on that.

"Book From the Ground Concept Store" by Xu Bing, a special project by BANK Gallery
Image courtesy of Artnet News and Sam Gaskin

China’s art fair scene has grown exponentially in the last few years with new art fairs springing up almost every year. How do you think ART021 fits in to the burgeoning art scene in China?

There are many art fairs across Asia but as I have already mentioned above, the strength of ART021 is the quality and diversity of the galleries from the region is an intersting and exciting mix with some high quality galleries from Europe and the US.

Fair-goers checking out the exhibiting gallery booths
Image courtesy of ART021

Most people view the contemporary art market as quite volatile due to market speculators and are quite cautious when it comes to collecting contemporary art. What sort of advice would you give people going to art fairs for the first time, looking to start their collections?

Going to an Art Fair for the first time is maybe an overwhelming experience, but it is a great place to get an overview of the art market. You should take time to develop your eye, go to see as many exhibitions at galleries and museums as possible.  An experienced Art Advisor would also be very helpful to get a collection started. Try to build up relationships with galleries and artists.

Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai
Image courtesy of Guiddoo

For someone looking for a taste of the arts and culture scene in Shanghai, which contemporary art institutions and galleries would you recommend that they visit?

There are many things to do and see in Shanghai - I would definitely recommend to visit galleries like ShanghART, Leo Xu Projects, Antenna Space, Matthew Liu and some of the private museums like The Rockbund Art Museum, The Long Museum and The Yuz Museum, only to name a few.



Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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