The first edition of Shanghai’s Art021
in 2013 was scrappy—just 29 galleries filling up a space in the Rockbund Complex. But it proved its art market mettle quickly, and by 2016, fellow Shanghai art fair West Bund Art & Design
moved from September to November so that both events could happen simultaneously. Art021 takes a different approach to the internationally-focused West Bund, having committed to reserving at least half of its booths each year for Chinese galleries. And it has become increasingly important to rising Chinese collectors who have started buying art as a lifestyle.
“When we started it, November was nothing—there wasn’t an art thing then,” said David Chau, who co-founded Art021 with PR maven Bao Yifeng and collector Kelly Ying. “People forget that we started before West Bund, and people forget that West Bund started in September and had to move to November. You know, there’s a reason for that.”
Both fairs have grown rapidly—a testament to the market power in mainland China—and attract international galleries aiming to sell to the growing number of collectors in Shanghai and others who travel here from across China. West Bund jumped from 39 to 87 galleries participating in its main section this year. The sixth edition of Art021, which opened to VIPs Thursday afternoon, hosts 103 galleries in three wings of the Shanghai Exhibition Center. But, while West Bund is part of a larger, government-funded initiative to turn a previously industrial stretch of the Huangpu Riverfront into a cultural epicenter, Chau said the privately owned Art021 has been able to become a power center on its own terms.