Ai Weiwei's been detained. But don't worry, we'll keep buying!!!

Waking up from my very short R.E.M. I checked my emails, and was stunned by the press release coming from Sotheby's: a new record for Chinese contemporary art has been set at HK$79 million with the sale (well, there's no discount obviously, just the word auction houses use) of Zhang Xiaogang's early triptych Forever Lasting Love from the Ullens Collection, a price that was more than double of the initial higher estimate of HK$30 million. Some other works were also sold at record prices at last night's contemporary Asian art evening sale at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.


I'm seriously speechless. Just what an ironic coincidence!! While it was reported last night that Ai Weiwei was found detained by an army of police at the Beijing artport and was stopped from boarding a flight to Hong Kong(obviously because of all the good work he did, remember the project for the kids died from the tofu schools during Sichuan earthquake?), these rich blokes were bidding fiercely in Hong Kong for Zhang's painting that they might or might not understand. There's a lot of money flowing around in the contemporary Chinese art market, but just how much of it has gone to those who really make the art? And how much of the cash can save the artists from political prosecution? None. It's the dollar sign that buyers, sellers and auction houses care about. Ai Weiwei's being detained by the police? Ooooh that could probably boost his art's value so let's put his works in the market!


Of course it doesn't necessarily work in that way but I cannot help wondering. A dealer said during the sale preview that basically all items were good investment. Investment. Yes. NOT good art. The art market can be just as shallow as that.


All I can hope is that Ai Weiwei will be fine and will be released soon.


P.S. Here's the copy of Sotheby's "newsflash" release:


Dear Editor,

SOTHEBY’S HONG KONG SETS A WORLD AUCTION RECORD
FOR CONTEMPORARY CHINESE ART WITH THE SALE OF
ZHANG XIAOGANG’S EARLY TRIPTYCH FOREVER LASTING LOVE
FOR OVER HK$79 MILLION / US$10 MILLION
DURING THE OFFERING OF MASTERWORKS FROM
THE ULLENS COLLECTION – THE NASCENCE OF AVANT-GARDE CHINA
WORLD AUCTION RECORDS FOR 4 ARTISTS
WERE SET IN THE FIRST HOUR, INCLUDING
Zhang Peili’s Series “X?” No.3 (HK$23 million / US$3 million)
Wang Guangyi’s Mao Zedong: P2 (HK$19 million / US$2.5 million)
Geng Jianyi’s Two People Under A Light (HK$19 million / US$2.4 million)


Hong Kong, 3 April 2011 Evelyn Lin, Sotheby’s Head of Contemporary Asian Art, comments in the middle of the sale: “In a fully-packed sale room, Zhang Xiaogang’s triptych Forever Lasting Love (Triptych) (Est. HK$25 – 30 million – US$3.2 – 3.8 million), a monumental museum-quality work from a defining period of the Chinese avant-garde, sparked fierce competition at Sotheby’s this evening and set an auction record for Contemporary Chinese Art and for the artist. From the very beginning of the auction extended bidding battles broke out among buyers bidding in the room and over the phones from around the world and have resulted in records set for Zhang Peili, Wang Guangyi, Geng Jianyi and others. The sale’s high estimate has already been doubled as the sale of the Ullens Collection reaches its halfway point and there are 50 lots left to go.”

Comments

Instagram @missviviennechow