Hai Gallery

Hai Gallery Hai Gallery works to showcase the finest Contemporary Chinese Art to a European audience, introducing established Chinese artists to the West.

Founded in Marble Arch, central London, in 2007 by Joy Hai-Qin Zhang, Hai Gallery was created to showcase the finest Contemporary Chinese Art to a European audience, introducing established Chinese artists to the West for the first time while also offering new emerging artists their first chance to show their work outside China. Following the success of the London Gallery, in 2011, Hai Gallery ope

Founded in Marble Arch, central London, in 2007 by Joy Hai-Qin Zhang, Hai Gallery was created to showcase the finest Contemporary Chinese Art to a European audience, introducing established Chinese artists to the West for the first time while also offering new emerging artists their first chance to show their work outside China. Following the success of the London Gallery, in 2011, Hai Gallery ope

Operating as usual


INTERVIEW: Dr Uli Sigg On Contemporary Chinese Art And The M+ Museum

Dr Uli Sigg has turned an initial interest in contemporary Chinese art into involvement in the creation of the megalithic M+ museum in Hong Kong, due to open in 2019.

In the world of Chinese contemporary art collecting, Dr Uli Sigg is The Don. The Swiss septuagenarian developed a fascination for art in China during his time there in the 1980s and 1990s, holding various key business positions, culminating in a role as Swiss ambassador for China, North Korea and Mongolia from 1995-1999.

With more than 2,000 works, he has the most substantial collection of contemporary Chinese art in the world. He established the Chinese Contemporary Art Award, an art award for Chinese contemporary artists living in China, and, in 2007, the CCAA Art Critic Award. He is a member of the International Council of New York MOMA and International Advisory Council of Tate Gallery, London. Dr Sigg is currently involved in the creation of the most extensive Chinese contemporary art museum in the world, the megalithic M+ in Hong Kong, due to open in 2019.

Billionaire: When did your love of Chinese contemporary art begin?

Dr Uli Sigg: I took an interest in it when I first went to China at the end of the 1970s. But I was not very impressed because it was still somewhat derivative of Western art. My view changed in the 1990s, after Chinese artists found a language of their own.

What was it that drew you to Chinese art at the time, rather than art from Europe?

It was one of my three ways to access China, besides that of a businessman setting up the first joint venture between China and the West, and the one as a diplomat. And it is the most rewarding one when exploring my ultimate study object, which is China. And maybe most importantly: China has many very good artists.

Why did you decide to collect contemporary art, which could be considered risky?

I love things that still have flesh and blood, such as contemporary art. And that is where my expertise lies. I have always been a risk taker but since I do not collect as an investment I never cared about the market potential of a specific work: my concern is the artistic importance it may gain over time, then material value may accrue to it.

What made you fall in love with this part of the art world?

It was about the many interesting Chinese artists I met and the ignorance I faced for them in the Western world. This injustice really created much of my attachment.

You are the biggest collector of Chinese contemporary art in the world and the ‘godfather’ of this sector. Is this what you set out to do and why?

It just so happened, it was never my intention. In the 1990s, upon renewed analysis of the Chinese art scene, I realised that nobody, neither institution nor individual, collected its contemporary art in anything other than a random way. So I decided to close this gap that existed in the biggest cultural space of the world by collecting in a systematic way, mirroring the art production since 1979, the beginning of contemporary art in China.

What are your absolute favourite pieces that you have in your home, and why?

Probably the ones where I was involved in the creative process together with the artist, such as a large computer-designed painting with the artist Feng Mengbo where we jointly tried to recreate the tradition of landscape painting in a way that a non-traditional audience could be enticed to take a new look at what they may consider to be hopelessly in the past. And then to iconic pieces such as the Coca Cola urn of Ai Weiwei – a reference to the clash between millennia-old Chinese tradition and Western industrial and consumer culture, of which I am also guilty.

What was your inspiration behind creating the M+ Museum and what has been the biggest challenge?

M+ is a creation of the Hong Kong government. My contribution is to build this encyclopaedic collection always with the intent to bring it back to China so that the Chinese people can see their own art one day, which they now largely ignore. After negotiations in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, I decided to give it to Hong Kong. It offered a highly professional environment and a much higher degree of freedom for exhibitions.

China seems to be easing certain regulations. Do you think you will see a day when you can show all of your art in China, even Ai Weiwei and other censored artists?

Actually, China is not easing its restrictions in the art field, except very reasonably, on Ai Weiwei. But I hope to live to see the day when all art in my collection can be exhibited.


Qatar China 2016 Year of Culture launch on Sunday

The Qatar China 2016 Year of Culture will be launched on Sunday at Katara Drama Theatre, with entertainment and performances organised in cooperation with China’s Ministry of Culture.

Mohammed Al Othman, Director, Public and International Relations, Qatar Museums (QM), announced this at a press conference at Shangri-La Hotel Doha yesterday, jointly held by Chinese Ambassador Li Chen.

He said activities and events have been lined up year round in both countries, including world-class art exhibitions, sporting activities, a photography journey exchange, Chinese film screenings and an open-air Chinese Festival featuring music, performances, crafts and food from different regions of China.

Two major exhibitions will open in March -- ‘What About the Art?’, a showcase of contemporary Chinese artists at Al Riwaq Gallery and ‘Silks from the Silk Road - Chinese Silk Art’ exhibition at QM Gallery at Katara.

‘What About Art’ will be curated by internationally acclaimed New York-based Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang who held a solo show in at Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in 2011.

“While Qatar and China are different places with different cultures, we share in common the fact that we are civilisations striving to balance progress and heritage in the context of the modern world,” said Al Othman.

He stressed common values shared by both countries “based on respect for family, education, hospitality and cultural curiosity. There are also strong economic ties and positive diplomatic relations that date back to the 1980s.

“It is our firm belief that the year will help show Qatar is open to the world, demonstrating our appeal as a cultural destination; promote China in Qatar; and promote improved intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding between the two historic cultures,” added Al Othman.

Chen said: “Holding the Year of Culture is an important step in promoting development of bilateral relations and I’m sure that by holding the Year of Culture, the mutual understanding between our two peoples will be enhanced greatly.”

He said as relations between China and Qatar expand, more and more Chinese people are coming to Qatar.

“In November 2014, Emir H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani visited China and our two leaders signed an agreement to establish a strategic partnership that will continue to promote bilateral relations, which are comprehensive -- not only politically and economically strong but also we expanded to culture, education and other aspects,” Chen said.


Exploding Canvases

Cai Guoqiang brings his gunpowder art to Yokohama

A NEW YORK-based Chinese artist returns to this part of the world with "Nighttime Sakura", a gunpowder work that's the largest of its kind to have been attempted by Cai Guoqiang to date.

The 58-year-old Chinese contemporary artist, who is based in New York, is presenting the 8x24 metre painting, as the centrepiece of his ongoing solo exhibition, "There and Back Again", at Yokohama Museum of Art in Japan until October 18.

A native of Quanzhou in eastern China's Fujian province, Cai started to experiment with gunpowder art while still in China but developed his own style during a nine-year stay in Japan.

"Many Japanese artists spent their lifetime in creating a perfect work of sakura[cherry blossom]. I also wanted to have a try but with the explosive power of gunpowder," he says.

Cai adds that the flower looks fragile, but its beauty becomes even more precious owing to how short-lived it is.

"Is it possible to re-create the blossom by violently exploding something? And can the momentary explosion of the powder manifest into the enduring charm of sakura? I couldn't help but wonder."

The production process of the artwork turned out to be bumpy. The various types of Japanese gunpowder have little impurity and after being ignited, leave almost no explosive trail. The explosions didn't extensively produce the effect of gradual smudging on traditional Japanese paper.

It dismayed Cai so much that he converted his struggles into an emotional series of gunpowder paintings titled "Seasons of Life" that's also on display at the present exhibition.

The artist was inspired by shunga, the Japanese erotic art, to conduct a dialogue between vivid colours and desire in his works. He drew in the centre of each painting a n**e couple, giving man and woman a neutral look. He tattooed on their bodies images of Japanese gambling tools then surrounded them with sketches of various animals and plants in the four seasons, implying the different stages in a relationship.

Cai was most excited by the final result of exploding coloured powders. The smoky scarlet brings to mind a "sense of being insane and abused" that can be found in paintings by Francis Bacon (1909-92). A large area of dusty grey delivers coolness and stability, and the comfort of "releasing the other ego of me", he says.

"The primitive energies of black and colourful gunpowder interweave to transmit the loss and lust of a journey of life."

He says he deliberated on the subject of lust for a long time before he finally realised it in "Seasons of Life". He draws upon the Asian philosophy that time and space are integrated. And he is relieved to find that the dynamics of "Seasons of Life" compensate for the plainness of "Nighttime Sakura".

"There and Back Again" seeks to review his state of mind during his years of struggle as a young Chinese artist in Japan, to where he moved in 1986. He also shows an installation work "Morning Glory" and gunpowder drawings on porcelain - "Spring", "Summer", "Fall" and "Winter" - at the same show. They were produced last year.

Cai also displays the impressive "Head On", which includes 99 wolf replicas rushing in a line toward a glass wall. The works complete a chain of clues to the development of his art and life over two decades.

Cai conversed with the public through his massive, explosive art style during his time in the neighbouring country.

"Life was hard, ... I worked on a limited budget. But it didn't stop me from being active, innovative and bold," he says.

Cai left for New York City in 1995, with a grant from the Asian Cultural Council. For the last 20 years he has toured the world with his artworks, and recently felt the need to re-visit the places where it all began for him.

The exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art follows the completion of "Sky Ladder", a 2.5-minute firework performance staged in mid-June for Cai's family in his hometown.

A 500-metre-long ladder, strapped with bags of gunpowder, was pulled up in the air by a gigantic white balloon and then the ladder was set aflame. As it burned from the end, the ladder burst into a dragon of golden flames into the dark sky.

Cai says the project realised his childhood dream of "talking to the universe", and fulfilled his feelings of gratitude for those that supported him back home.

While "There and Back Again" serves as an academic retrospective of the methodology of a young, fearless Cai, he also hopes it will inspire future creations.


New Beijing collection joins rising ranks of China’s private art museums
Beijing Minsheng Museum of Art is the latest of several hundred collections to have opened on the mainland in recent years.

An exhibit at the Beijing Mingsheng Museum of Art. Photo: Xinhua
An exhibit at the Beijing Mingsheng Museum of Art. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese new art collectors and investors – some of the biggest buyers of artworks at international auctions in recent years – are increasingly opening their own private museums to house their collections.

Earlier this month, Beijing Minsheng Museum of Art, sponsored and funded by China Minsheng Bank, opened its doors inside the Universal Creative Park, near to the 798 Art Zone. This is the third museum affiliated to China Minsheng Bank; Shanghai Minsheng Museum of Art opened in 2010, and Shanghai 21st Century Minsheng Art Museum in 2014.

The latest museum is housed in an abandoned factory that was rebuilt and completely renovated at a cost of 200 million yuan (HK$253 million). It covers 35,000 square-metres and is now China’s largest private museum.

“Private museums are helping to introduce artworks into cities and ordinary people’s lives in China,” said Huang Du, an independent art critic and curator.

“It’s a constructive progress that sees newly wealthy people and enterprises investing in artworks, helping to promote contemporary art and then sharing their collections with the public.”

The new Beijing museum is the latest among several hundred private museums to have opened on the mainland in recent years.

M Woods Museum, founded by Lin Han, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and art collector, opened in the 798 Art Zone late last year, and followed two others that opened in Shanghai during the year – Long Museum and Yuz Museum Shanghai – and Sifang Art Museum, which opened in 2013 in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu province.

An exhibit at Sifang Arts Museum. File Photo

The Long Museum, which was founded by taxi-driver-turned-billionaire Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei, has two different branches in Shanghai that together house the largest private art collection in China. His artworks include a rare US$36 million Ming dynasty porcelain “chicken cup” and a US$45 million embroidered Tibetan tapestry – both of which were bought at auction.

Liu, one of China’s wealthiest people, is the largest shareholder in Changjiang Securities and an investor in a number of listed companies.

Yuz Museum Shanghai, founded by Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur and collector Budi Tek, is well-known its large collection of Chinese contemporary art.

Meanwhile, Sifang Art Museum, founded by Lu Xun, 31, has artworks by established international artists, including Germany’s Candida Hofer and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

Huang said that private museums needed “a long-term strategy and commitment” if they were to become visionary museums dedicated to high curatorial standards. “There is still a challenging long way to go,” Huang said.

The first challenge the museums face is financial sustainability.

China’s first private museum, Chengdu Shanghe Museum, opened in 1998, followed by two others – Shenyang Dongyu Museum and Tianjin Teda Museum. However, all three were forced to close after only a few years owing to financial difficulties.

There is still a challenging long way to goHUANG DU, ART CRITIC AND CURATOR
“It’s very expensive to run a museum in the 798 Art Zone – about US$1 million a year is needed to cover the basic operational costs,” said Lin Han, who opened a room beside the 2,500-sq metre M Woods Museum as an arts-and-crafts store, to help to generate sales to support the not-for-profit museum.

The lack of any government financial or taxation support places an additional burden on the development of China’s private museums; they are not eligible for preferential government financial initiatives that are provided for culture and art programmes.

Contemporary art has been marginalised by government-controlled public museums, which prefer to promote traditional art, such as ink and oil painting and calligraphy.

“The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London are well-supported thanks to a network of sponsors, institutions and also preferential tax breaks – such as lower levels of tax paid on art that is donated to museums – something that is impossible here in China,” said a private museum employee, who declined to be named.

“We have to try to survive by our own means through the capital generated from business and funds raised by our founder.”

High customs tariffs on artworks are another heavy burden facing private museums.

“If we import artworks from abroad for an exhibition then we must provide heavy guarantee deposits – sometimes as much as 10 million yuan,” the employee said.

“On the other hand, if we lend artworks to overseas exhibitions, we are required to apply for their temporary export, which means we must deposit up to 40 per cent of the market price of each of the artworks before they can clear customs.”

An exhibit at Sifang Art Museum. File Photo

Emerging private museums also face the pressure of curatorial and conceptual considerations, too.

“Ultimately, the curatorial judgment over the quality of a museum’s artworks is vital for its long-term success,” said Wang Guofeng, an independent contemporary artist. “Only those museums that are dedicated to curatorial quality will be able to grow and become a part of the art history.”

Concerns still remain over the capability of emerging Chinese private museums because of the lack of recognised and independent Chinese art curators and critics within the burgeoning field of Chinese contemporary art.

To try to boost their expertise, two private museums in China – which have survived for more than a decade and charge lower rates for large-scale exhibitions thanks backing from their real-estate developer founders – have hired directors with international backgrounds.

Alex Gao, who was educated at Japan’s Tama Art University and Hongik University in South Korea has been appointed director of Today Art Museum, which is founded and supported by businessman Zhang Baoquan, chairman of Jindian Group.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Himalayas Museum, founded by Dai Zhikang, chairman of Zendai Group, hired Yongwoo Lee, a globally recognised South Korean art historian, critic and curator, as its executive director in May.

“It’s important for directors of museums to have a world vision and outlook and an open mindset so they can build-up dialogue with people within the international art scene,” Huang said.


46A Harrowby Street

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Wednesday 10am - 6:30pm
Thursday 10am - 6:30pm
Friday 10am - 6:30pm
Saturday 10am - 6:30pm


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