BEIJING, April 22-- In a city with its sights firmly planted on the colour of money, art plays second fiddle.
"I have been here for three years and you never get anything for nothing. Here it's money, money, money," says Brent Holbert, who will open an art show today that will use art as a marketing vehicle for his company."When you're looking at the dollars instead of the art, it's going to dilute the quality of the whole work."
Shanghai's expatriate community is mostly driven by people who come here on business, which leaves artistic pursuits as a distant second, says Holbert, who once owned an art gallery in Texas, US, and now works for Lamex, a furniture manufacturer.
At Free Art, the work of nine Shanghai-based foreign artists will be on display alongside Lamex's furniture. The foreigners will provide the art, while the company will donate the space to display them.
All the proceeds from sales of the art will go to the artists- who can often use the money- while the company will benefit from the extra traffic in their showroom.
The concept is not new.
Corporations have been displaying art on their walls for a long time, while in Shanghai a few developers have allowed artists to use yet-to-be-developed space to display their work.
Like everything else in Shanghai, the art community- the expatriate art community included- is going through a growth spurt.
In the early 90s Shanghai artists gravitated towards Beijing, which still leads the cultural pack. Now, however, Shanghai is well on its way to bouncing back and displaying creativity of its own.
"It's growing and it's getting more interesting," says Lorenz Helbling, whose Shanghart Gallery has been showing Shanghai artists for a decade.
"Art is getting more interesting...more commerce opens up more possibilities for art," he said.
Still, while some foreign artists do come here to work, or on a few of the programmes available that allow artists to get a taste of Shanghai, the city is not exactly a mecca for the artists of the world.
"It's not a place people come to be(artists)... if they want to be artists they go to New York," he said.
On a small scale, the Free Art exhibition gives artists who find themselves here access to exhibition space- something not always easily found.
The nine artists that will show their work at Free Art come from different parts of the globe- Latin America, North America and Europe. They are all expatriates living in Shanghai.
"The art community is at a spot where you can just walk up to people," said Ayesha Fuentes, 23, whose paintings will be on display."There are no celebrities now."
For Fuentes, who makes a living dancing and through art commissions, the Free Art show was"just too good... that never happens. Who, ever, says to you,'hey, I want to put your art up?'"
The show may also help unestablished artists break into some kind of market.
"It is very appropriate for me, because I work with furniture," said Patricia Paredes, a Peruvian artist who has been in Shanghai for two years. She uses recycled furniture as a canvas to convey her experiences in Shanghai.
"From time to time there are exhibitions for foreign artists, but this is the first one I know of where all the artists are foreigners and(live in Shanghai)," she said.
(Source: China Daily)