Yang Yongliang, ‘A crocodile and shotgun’, 2012, “Silent Valley”, digital print, 66 x 119cm
Inevitably, the time arrives to take notice of the descent of what was for a moment (or perhaps a bit more) seemingly endless upward trend of Chinese art market. Estimates vary (as estimates will), but since a peak in 2011 Chinese art sales on world market have dropped by something like %50. Now comes the interesting game of trying to pinpoint why. While the intelligent, if not just informed, answer is that a number of factors are at work, the tendency to push towards which factor leads the way is strong indeed. Here are my top three, though I can’t say in which order:
1. The Chinese economy has slowed bringing all activity down a notch or two. Down %50? no, but a downturn in gangbusters economy like China’s would perhaps tend to hit fastest those whose money came the most quickly in recent years, coincidentally the ones (domestically) most inclined to be buying art.
2. Fraud. Chinese cultural scene has been for some time rife with the knock-off. Indeed, so pervasive is this that one might (actually, should) be given to wonder what the “original” really means in this day and age, if in fact it ever meant that much at all. Our fetishistic attention to original object, in my humble view, often if not usually an act of faith. On the other hand (and here’s the one that matters!), “original” does mean a lot monetarily. Everything, in fact, and the ever increasing presence of false merchandise is not helping the Chinese art market much at all.
3. Taxes. The Chinese government is stepping up its game in the tax collection department, with art and real estate taking primary position in the spotlight of national revenue. A new adjustment in luxury goods, which fantastically art belongs, has kicked in, and that is going to send investors in particular, if not the committed collectors, running for some other commodity.
The major caveat in my “report,” here is that this is not the first time pundits have proclaimed the death of the Chinese (art market) miracle, as David Barboza of the the New York Times, wrongly, in 2009 reported. A bit more judiciously, then, “what comes up, must come down…at least for a while.
Ok, now, for anyone who actually read all the way to the bottom of this post trying to figure out what Yang Yongliang‘s image has to do with current art market I can now tell you: nothing. I just love his work… (sorry?)