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China's contemporary art scene faces slump
A few years ago, China's contemporary art scene seemed as invincible as the country's economy, but as China's growth slows so does demand for its art, and its artists are hurting.

A few years ago, China's contemporary art scene seemed as invincible as the country's economy.

But as China's growth slows so does demand for its art, and its artists are hurting.

China correspondent Huey Fern Tay tells the story through the eyes of three Australians close to the Chinese art market.
Transcript
DAWN CSUTOROS, ARTIST: Hi, my name is Dawn and I'm an artist, visual artist based in Melbourne. My relationship with China first began in 2007.

JAYNE DYER, ARTIST: I'm Jayne Dyer, I'm an Australian artist living in Beijing. When I first came to Beijing in 1994, it was really very interesting art scene to say the least. A lot of stuff happened underground.

BRIAN WALLACE, RED GATE GALLERY: My name is Brian Wallace, my first trip to China was in 1984 when I came backpacking.

My Chinese friends were artists and so I was getting to know very nascent art scene at that time. And so I started to help them organise exhibitions back in 88/89.

JAYNE DYER: The way that I find I can work, particularly in Beijing, suits the type of work I need to make more. It's a place where I can actually, within this mad city of 20 million people, also be very quiet. It's a city that's like a village.

BRIAN WALLACE: Most of them firstly are coming to do work and they find that pretty exciting. And many of them can work here on a larger scale than what they can at home. So they can experiment with size and dimension at a relatively very low cost.

DAWN CSUTOROS: When I first came I think the art scene was really vibrant and energetic. You know, Chinese art was just being discovered I think. The contemporary art scene was really taking off here and Chinese artists were very popular in and in demand around the world.

JAYNE DYER: I know Chinese artists friends spoke of 2008 as being one way buoyant and one day as flat as can be. And I know people in the gallery industry that still say the same thing.

BRIAN WALLACE: I think we're all still recovering from that period in 2008 through until last year. I think things are starting to improve this year. We’ve seen that with some of our international collectors coming back, but also with Chinese collectors coming on to the scene and really looking at art as art rather than as an investment.

JANE DEYER: I think the market essentially is a Chinese market for Chinese artists. Whenever anyone asks me where do I go? Who do I approach? What should I do?

BRIAN WALLACE: And we say, no don't think of it as a commercial venture coming into Beijing.

JAYNE DEYER: I say come because you are interested in this country. Come because you're maybe passionate about understanding other. Maybe come because you're curious. But don't come because you think necessarily you're going to make the big career change.

BRIAN WALLACE: Hong Kong is developing sort of a lot of infrastructure and there's a lot of buzz around that. You have the big Hong Kong artfare, you have a number of biggest galleries in the world opening spaces there. It's easier to do business there because there's very little taxation and there’s very little censorship.

JANE DEYER: I find that in Beijing the way that I can make work and live and live within a community of artists, it is such a massively political and social city. And China itself is this megaopolis, which is still in a huge state of development, which is a little bit different from Hong Kong because of British colonialism and a long history with the West. So I do see all that change in Hong Kong but here I feel the pulse, my pulse, it's like I have pins in my fingers feeling it.
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