2023 The Video Art Market, Worthy of Being “Seen”

The recently concluded 8th Shanghai Art Fair reaffirmed the fact that China’s contemporary video art market is on the rise. The talent and creativity of countless artists is now being seen by collectors. According to the Contemporary Art Market Report 2020 published by Artprice, a database of art prices, the number of collectors and buyers attracted to photography and video art creations has grown, with the number of sales of photographic works almost quadrupling in the last twenty years. Under this wave, the creation and collection of photography in China has also seen rapid development.
The just-concluded 8th Images Shanghai Art Fair accurately confirms this viewpoint. A set of data proves it: Image Shanghai 2023 attracted more than 50 domestic and international galleries, institutions and publishers, and welcomed 16,000 visitors including collectors, media, artists, curators, and organization managers during the four-day fair; the hashtag #ImageShanghai2023 generated more than 45 million views on the ShakeNote platform. The “Dialogue” series of lectures organized by the fair had a total of over 700,000 live online viewers. This series of high attention undoubtedly reflects the significant increase in the acceptance of the medium of photography and video art by the Chinese audience and art market.
The 8th Images Shanghai Art Fair brings us the message that “images” as a segment of the art category has a fast-growing collector group or audience, and the market force is maturing day by day.
1. Rapid rise of local galleries and video art forces
Since its inception in 2014, Image Shanghai Art Fair has been held eight times. Unlike other art fairs, its focus on the medium of video art, as well as its focus on developing and cultivating the Asia-Pacific video art market, especially the Chinese video art market.
In terms of the exhibitor line-up of Image Shanghai Art Fair in recent years, not only have more and more strong galleries based in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other cities that specialize in photography participated in the fair, but also professional galleries focusing on video in newer first-tier or second-tier cities, such as Suzhou, Nanjing, Changsha, Chengdu, Lanzhou, Zhengzhou, Urumqi and other cities, are actively involved, and make frequent appearances, with a lot of good results. In terms of artist composition, in addition to Rongrong, Wang Qingsong, Yang Fudong and other leading figures of Chinese contemporary photography, who have carried the banner of this image market as in the past, Chen Wei, Shi Guowei, Cai Dongdong, Jiang Pengyi, Bird Head, Yang Yongliang and other stalwarts of the third generation of emerging photographers have also risen to prominence in recent years, injecting new creative vitality into China’s contemporary image art market.
Taking Yang Yongliang as an example, his single works sell for $25,000 – $65,000, and have formed a very stable art collection market, almost reaching the point where they are sold on their debut. 2021, Magic Kingstone Space (Beijing) will exhibit Shi Guowei’s large-scale “Photography and Painting”, which will sell for $100,000 – $300,000, and will also be sold basically at the pre-sale stage. In 2021, Magic Kingstone Space (Beijing) presented Shi Guowei’s large-scale “Photographic Paintings,” priced at 100,000-300,000 RMB, which were also sold at the pre-sale stage. At Images Shanghai 2023, May Park (Chengdu), M Art Space (Shanghai), and see+ Gallery (Beijing and Shenzhen) coincidentally presented works by Luo Dan (single paintings priced at around $20,000 – $100,000), all of which sold on-site, while works by Bird’s Head, Sun Yanchu, and Jiang Zhi presented by Xie Gallery (Changsha) ultimately achieved sales of nearly one million dollars. The works of artists such as Bird’s Head, Sun Yanchu and Jiang Zhi presented by Xie Gallery (Changsha) eventually achieved sales of nearly one million dollars.
Of course, the works of the younger generation of outstanding artists, such as Hu Weiyi, Chen Ronghui, Xu Guanyu, Ma Helen, Li Shun, and Lai Yushi, have received great attention from domestic and international professional organizations, collectors, and the media due to the diversity of their creativity and eye-catching stylistic characteristics. For example, Chen Ronghui, a young artist who is also represented by Three Shadows +3 Gallery (Beijing and Xiamen) and Out of Print Image Gallery (Hsinchu), has won such prestigious awards as the World Press Photo Award, BarTur Photography Award, and Houdounkor Award for Documentary Photography and has been featured in The Guardian, The New York Times, and other media outlets. Not long ago, his works were also collected by M+ in Hong Kong.
Similarly, Xu Guanyu from Gaotai Contemporary Art Center (Urumqi) was awarded the Exposure Prize at Images Shanghai 2020 for “Temporarily Censored Home”. “Xu Guanyu was awarded the Exposure Prize at Images Shanghai 2020 for Temporarily Censored Home, and his work has been exhibited at Aperture Society in New York, the International Center of Photography in New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Li Sun, presented by Jingu Space (Beijing and Shanghai), also has an excellent collection history, and his works have been collected by the White Rabbit Museum (Australia), Hao Art Museum (Shanghai), Zhi Art Museum (Chengdu), Guangdong Museum of Art (Guangzhou), Foundation Tichy Ocean (Switzerland), and the HL Art Collection (U.S.A.), among other institutions. In this year’s exhibition, Li Sun’s series of works “The foothold of our existence is nothing but the fading reality” attracted much attention. The works contemplate the relationship between time and objects through the conversion of positive and negative images, and the abstract light and shadow in the images are similar to the art of cursive writing, which is highly sought after by collectors.
2. Domestic video art exhibitions and organizations continue to grow
In 2004, Professor Wu Hong and Christopher Phillips, curator of the International Center of Photography in New York, co-curated the exhibition “Between Past and Future: New Images from China”. This exhibition, which was recognized by Art in America magazine as “the exhibition that defined the millennial generation,” brought Chinese contemporary photography into the international limelight. Since then, more and more leading art museums, galleries, independent curators, and artists have begun to curate and organize exhibitions related to Chinese photography, which has become a highly regarded “contemporary language,” and the number of local photography exhibitions in China has increased by 250% compared to a decade ago.
In 2019, the establishment of the Alliance of Chinese Photography Museums (ACPM) is another milestone in the development of Chinese photography. The first and four founding members are Xie Zilong Museum of Photography (Changsha), Shanghai Photography Art Center, Three Shadows Photography Art Center (Beijing), and Chengdu Contemporary Image Museum. As a non-profit organization, the cooperation aims to gather influential video art institutions in China, to unite the power of national video art elites, and to realize the sharing and complementation of video art resources. The cooperation has set two main goals: first, to jointly plan domestic and international quality exhibitions, so that excellent video art exhibitions can be more effectively and widely disseminated to the public; second, to set up a video collectors’ club to promote the development of China’s video art ecology.
In order to further highlight the important role played by art museums, art institutions, and even more cultural organizations in the development of video art and culture, Images Shanghai Art Fair not only works closely with ACPM, but also cooperates with organizations such as Kuangshe Imaging Center (Beijing), Harmonic Art Museum (Shunde), Shanghai Bund Museum (Shanghai), Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art (Shanghai), Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (Beijing, Shanghai, Qinhuangdao), Experimental Imaging Center (Beijing, Shanghai), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Beijing, Shanghai), to promote the development of China’s video art ecosystem. The Center for Experimental Imaging (Shanghai), Oil Can Art Center (Shanghai), Cervantes Library (Shanghai), Swiss Cultural Foundation Shanghai Office, Swatch Art Peace Hotel (Shanghai), University of Salford, and Fotografiska (Stockholm, New York, and Tallinn) will collaborate with each other to bring the quality of these institutions’ video art projects and their collections to the fair, thereby promoting the development of video art institutions, especially those in the field of video art, as well as the development of a new image culture. This will promote the collection building of video art institutions, especially those in China.
In 2019, the fair will present Taking the Leap, a special collectors’ exhibition curated by Ying Kwok, an independent curator, who will organize the University of Salford’s art collection. From Mishka Henner’s abstract, high-resolution composite satellite imagery to Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead’s alternative aesthetics of the photographic light box, from Liam Young’s photographic stills based on the first-ever full-laser-scanning movie to Luke Ching’s conceptual work with a pinhole camera, all of these digital landscapes are part of the Salford University collection. From Liam Young’s photographic stills based on the first ever full laser scanning film to Luke Ching’s conceptual works with a pinhole camera, these digital landscapes are representative of the University of Salford’s art collection.
For this year’s Imaging Shanghai Art Fair, the Duolun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai has focused on the theme of “Iteration”, showcasing 38 pieces/groups of images from the museum’s collection since its establishment in 2003. In addition to some of the best video art works related to Shanghai’s urban development, there are also a number of works focusing on identity and environment, as well as China’s unique network ecology and language issues. This provides a glimpse into the future direction of institutional video collecting and its perspective on contemporary video art. Over the past decade, Images Shanghai has embedded photography and visual arts in Shanghai’s cultural DNA. In April this year, local art institutions, including ShanghART Gallery, M Art Space, Dumontang, Studio Gallery, Ruipin Gallery, Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai Center for Photographic Art, Hao Art Museum, chiK11 Art Museum, ZiWU Zhiyu, etc., all launched exhibitions related to image art during the fair, once again promoting and building the photography and image culture atmosphere in the city of Shanghai. The city’s photography and video culture is once again being promoted and built up.
In any case, photography and video art is on the rise, and as China accounts for 20% of the world’s art sales each year, its ever-optimizing and maturing market system, and its ever-growing number of galleries, auction houses, and private museums, all offer exciting artistic prospects for the development and collection of local video art.

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