Buying original art in china
May 21, 2009 5:03 PM   Subscribe

I will be in Shanghai and Beijing for 2 weeks. What are the best places to look for and buy original chinese art?

I know china has become famous for their knockoff paintings. I also know there is plenty of touristy street art available everywhere. I am looking for neither of these.

I am wondering if anyone knows specific places I can go to see and buy original chinese art, including paintings, prints, and possibly sculptures. I have a very diverse set of tastes, so feel free to recommend anything.

(Plus points for affordability. Or at least let me know how much I can expect to pay.)
posted by typography to Travel & Transportation around Shanghai, China (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In Beijing, 798 (Dashanzi) is a good place to start. It's a sprawling former industrial complex with tons of galleries with contemporary artists.
posted by acidic at 5:29 PM on May 21, 2009

Seconding 798, there's quite a bit to choose from there. Its also a very cool place to just walk around and visit.
posted by Scientifik at 6:31 PM on May 21, 2009

Thirding 798 in Beijing although it's becoming a little too known with cafe's and restaurants as well as staged shows. There is also an Artist community in Shanghai I've been to a few times. Original, edgy stuff. I'll get the details and post them later.
posted by michswiss at 7:18 PM on May 21, 2009

There were several shops selling paintings in the Panjiayuan 'antique' market in Beijing if I remember correctly. They had lots of paintings of various sizes and it all seemed to be original. I don't remember seeing any fake Van Gogh or stuff like that. The paintings weren't very expensive from what I remember either. Maybe 500 RMB for a medium sized painting that seemed to be acrylic on canvas. Sorry I'm a bit hazy on the details. It's a huge place and I was just wandering around, not looking into paintings in particular. I also didn't haggle for any paintings, so I'm not sure what the real price is. What I mentioned was the starting/sticker price. I'm less sure about prints and sculptures. You can certainly find them there, but I'm not sure how original they'll be.
posted by benign at 8:17 PM on May 21, 2009

You might consider traveling 1.5 hours or so from Shanghai to Suzhou. There you can go to the Su embroidery museum (Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute), and also purchase Su embroidery. It's at 272 Jingde Road, Suzhou.

This is a very old, and dying, art form in China. The embroidery is amazing -- it looks like paintings, but done with thread. In fact, I just purchased a piece and had it delivered to the States, for a gift. Amazing work. Here's a write-up about the different qualities available, and how to tell the difference.
posted by Houstonian at 8:51 PM on May 21, 2009

I've done a bit of translation work for the galleries at 798 and my impression is it's pretty much mainstream now and not where you're going to get real bargains, but other than translating those critical essays I'm not expert. An acquaintance works for this website though, and they are when it comes to Beijing. Should have some pointers.
Otherwise, various of the cafes and bars around Nan Luoguxiang will show the work of one or two artists, often friends of the owner etc., and that might be a better chance to get somehting cheap from someone up and coming.
posted by Abiezer at 2:01 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Relatedly, do not buy art from the "art students" who will approach you at the big tourist sites. This is a scam. They really do sell art, but it is not good quality and you will be pressured to buy what you don't really want. They aren't going to rob you directly, but just tell them, "no thanks."
posted by Pollomacho at 5:11 AM on May 22, 2009

Thanks folks. I'll definitely check out 798.

@michswiss: If you manage to get the info for that community, I'd be grateful.
posted by typography at 6:23 PM on May 22, 2009

Ok, I'm 98% certain this is the same area I've been to a couple of times. I was taken by friends the previous two and didn't pay attention to the name of the area. Here are two links to cooperatives / galleries off Moganshan Road next to the SuHe Creek.
Art Scene Warehouse, M50.

I intentionally linked to the past galleries section of Art Scene so you can get a sense of the types of works you will find. The whole place is very much about contemporary artists working in a variety of media, but also some that apply traditional methods and techniques to modern topics.

Let me know when you're here. It'd be nice to meet a mefite in Shanghai.
posted by michswiss at 7:37 PM on May 22, 2009

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