The Art World in China: A Forum Hosted by Sotheby’s Institute of Art

Sotheby's Institute of Art
Mar 12, 2014 8:44PM

On Friday, March 14, Sotheby’s Institute of Art will host a forum on The Art World in China: Recent Developments and Future Prospects during Asia Week New York. Held at Sotheby’s and organized by Sotheby's Institute Art Business faculty member, Natasha Degen, this exciting event will bring together diverse perspectives on China’s expanding cultural infrastructure and dynamic art market. We sat down with Natasha to learn more about what to expect during the forum.

What kinds of topics will the Forum cover?

The Forum will address two of the most significant issues affecting the cultural landscape in China today: the proliferation of new museums and the evolution of the mainland’s art market. For the past decade, China has built about 100 museums a year; 2012 alone saw the opening of 451 museums. But what kind of art are these museums acquiring and displaying? What challenges are they facing? Do these challenges differ if they are publicly or privately funded? Simultaneous to this, the Chinese art market has grown rapidly; from 2003 to 2012, reported auction sales increased some ten times. Why is this? What kind of impact is China’s expanded buying power having internationally? How is taste evolving? What are the issues that have been overlooked by the international press?

There is a diverse slate of panelists – from scholars to auction house specialists to individual collectors. Anything you’d like to tell us about the group of people you’ve assembled for the Forum?

My aim was to assemble a group of diverse voices, ranging from those intimately involved with Chinese institutions, to journalists and scholars who have observed the situation in China from a more objective vantage. Our first panel, on museums, includes two museum founders, who themselves have very different experiences: Miriam Sun, who co-founded MoCA Shanghai, has been involved in running the museum since it opened in 2005, whereas the museum Lu Xun co-founded – the Sifang Museum in Nanjing – only opened in November 2013. They will be joined by the curator Daisy Yiyou Wang, who has worked on collaborations with Chinese and American institutions; Barbara Pollack, who has written extensively on the art world in China, most recently an in-depth article on museums in Shanghai in the March issue of ARTnews; and Clare Jacobson, who authored New Museums in Chinanamed one of the best architecture and design books of 2013 by Architect magazineThe second panel concerns the Chinese art market and features a variety of perspectives: from the auction business (Henry Howard-Sneydof Sotheby’s), from the gallery world (Claudia Albertini of Platform China), from collecting (Cai Wei), and from economics (Ben Mandel).

What’s the most interesting thing going on in the Chinese art market right now? What makes this Forum so timely?

The Chinese art market has seen remarkable growth in recent years, with its market overtaking that of the United States to become the largest art market in the world in 2011, according to research by the economist Clare McAndrew. Even though it then contracted in 2012, the last year has seen a number of exciting developments – from the entry of Christie's and Sotheby's into mainland China (where foreign auction houses were previously forbidden to operate independently) to Poly Culture's IPO (the first listing for a Chinese auction house). Now is an ideal time to take stock of the current state and future outlook of this increasingly influential and dynamic market. 

To register for the China Forum visit

Sotheby's Institute of Art