Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Importance of Fine Arts among schoolchildren

Fine Arts is defined in the Encarta Dictionary as being, “any art form, for example, painting, sculpture, architecture, drawing, or engraving, that is considered to have purely aesthetic value” (Encarta, 2004). Though this definition is used in relationship with the arts in the regular world, in regards to teaching, fine arts is defined as a subject beneficial, not essential, to the learning process and is often phased out because of lack of time, little learning potential, and no money. Fine arts is simply seen as painting and drawing, not a subject studied by an academic scholar. Writer Victoria Jacobs explains, “Arts in elementary schools have often been separated from the core curriculum and instead, offered as enrichment activities that are considered beneficial but not essential” (Jacobs, 1999, p. 2).

What is missing in classrooms is the lack of teacher knowledge of the benefits of maintaining an art- based curriculum. Teachers “have very little understanding of the arts as disciplines of study. They think of the arts instruction as teacher-oriented projects used to entertain or teach other disciplines” (Berghoff, 2003, p. 12). Fine arts expand the boundaries of learning for the students and encourage creative thinking and a deeper understanding of the core subjects, which are language arts, math, science, and social studies. Teachers need to incorporate all genres of fine arts, which include, theater, visual art, dance, and music, into their lesson plans because the arts gives the students motivational tools to unlock a deeper understanding of their education. Teaching the arts is the most powerful tool that teachers can present in their classrooms because this enables the students to achieve their highest level of learning.

From 1977 to 1988 there were only three notable reports demonstrating the benefits of art education. These three reports are Coming to Our Senses, by the Arts, Education and Americans Panal (1977), Can we Rescue the Arts for American Children, sponsored by the American Council for the Arts (1988), and the most respected study, Toward Civilization, by the National Endowment for the Arts (1988). These three studies conjured that art education was very important in achieving a higher education for our students. While these studies proved the arts to be beneficial to the learning process, it was not until 2002 when the research analysis of Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Academic and Social Development “provided evidence for enhancing learning and achievement as well as positive social outcomes when the arts were integral to students’ learning experiences” was taken seriously by lawmakers (Burns, 2003, p. 5). One study, in this analysis, was focused on the teaching of keyboard training to a classroom in order to see if student’s scores on spatial reasoning could be improved. It was then compared to those students who received computer training which involved no fine art components. This concluded that learning through the arts did improve the scores on other core curriculum subjects such as math and science where spatial reasoning is most used (Swan-Hudkins, 2003).

This study shows how one little change in the way students are taught through the arts can have a powerful impact on their learning achievements and understandings. Another study showed at-risk students who, for one year, participated in an art- based curriculum raised their standardized language arts test by an average of eight percentile points, 16 percentile points if enrolled for two years. Students not engaging in this form of activity did not show a change of percentile (Swan-Hudkins, 2003). Though this may not seem like a big increase, at- risk students were able to use this style of learning to better understand their learning style thus bettering their learning patterns. The most interesting case study in this analysis involved the schools of Sampson, North Carolina, where for two years in a row their standardized test scores rose only in the schools that implemented the arts education in their school district (Swan-Hudkins, 2003). Teaching the arts needs to be incorporated in every teachers daily lesson plans because, based on these studies, students who are taught through the arts raise their test and learning levels.

Due to the high volume of attention President Bush’s, No Child Left Behind Act, has required in schools, teaching the arts is left behind. Another reason for the lack of arts in the classroom author Victoria Jacobs explains, “Given the shrinking budgets of school districts around the country, art specialists and art programs have disappeared from many elementary schools” (Jacobs, 1999, p. 4). Fine arts are being seen as non-educational or an extra-curricular activity. Therefore, when there is a lack of money in school districts, this subject is easily being cut. Teachers need to find a way to incorporate the arts into the classroom rather than rely on outside activities and Jacobs suggests teaching “through the arts… with a means of using the arts successfully and in a way that it is not just “one more thing” they must include in the curriculum” (Jacobs, 1999, p. 4).

The arts can open the minds of students in ways mere reading and writing will never be able to accomplish. Yet, the point of teaching this subject is not to teach about the arts, but to teach through the arts. Jacobs explains,
Teaching though the arts requires students to engage in the act of creative art. For example they might draw a picture, write a poem, act in a drama, or compose music to further their understanding of concepts in content areas other than the arts. Teaching through the arts helps students experience concepts rather than simply discussing or reading them. This approach is consistent with educational theories that highlight the importance of reaching multiple learning styles or intelligences. (Jacobs, 1999, p. 2)

Teaching through the arts can be done in many different ways depending on the teacher’s interests, but truly is the only way to reinforce the students learning experience. In a time where budget cuts and new learning laws are being established, teachers need to be more informed and educated on the negative impacts of the loss of the fine arts programs.
Three, veteran teachers at a public elementary school did a case study which involved teaching through the arts. They believed “our students had to experience cycles of inquiry wherein they learned about the arts and through the arts, and that they needed to see teachers of different disciplines collaborate” (Berghoff, 2003, p. 2).

The study was based on teaching a history lesson unit on Freedom and Slavery through the arts. Ms. Bixler-Borgmann had her students listen to the song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” in many different styles of music, such as an African-American Quartet, Reggae, and Show Tunes. She then incorporated this lesson into the importance singing played to the slaves at that time. Ms. Berghoff had her students read samples of African-American folk literature and write down sentences that made an impact on them while they were reading. She then incorporated those sentences into group poems. Ms. Parr explored two art pieces entitled, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and had the students talk about artwork by asking three questions: “What is going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that? What else can you find?” (Berghoff, 2003). She also had the students focus on the images, concepts, and meanings which the artists wanted to depict. Ms. Parr felt this would teach the students how to uncover the hidden meanings in other core curriculum subjects (Berghoff, 2003). After the study, the students were asked what and how they had learned from this style of teaching.

Many students wrote in their journals that working in multiple sign systems in parallel ways heightened their emotional involvement. They found themselves thinking about what they were learning in class when they were at home or at work. They noted that even though they had studied slavery at other times, they had never really imagined how it felt to be a slave or thought about the slaves’ perspectives and struggles. (Berghoff, 2003)

The students had learned more from this lesson because they were able to use all styles of learning and were taught from an angle which is rarely used, through the arts. “Studies indicate that a successful arts integrated program will use these components to guide student learning and assess growth and development (Swan-Hudkins, 2003). The students were able to learn based on abstract thinking and find the deeper meaning of the lessons prepared by the teachers.

“The study of the arts has the potential for providing other benefits traditionally associated with arts….arts has been linked to students’ increased critical and creative thinking skills, self-esteem, willingness to take risks, and ability to work with others” (Jacobs, 1999, p. 4). With these benefits, teachers can not afford to limit their teaching of the arts in the classroom. Teaching through the arts are the key elements of learning and the traits teachers strive to establish and reinforce in their students. By working through the arts, instead of about the arts, the students’ educational experience will be achieved in a different way than just teaching the standard style of learning. Former Governor of California, Gray Davis, noted, “Art education helps students develop creativity, self-expression, analytical skills, discipline, cross-cultural understandings, and a heightened appreciation for the arts” and that “students who develop artistic expression and creative problem solving skills are more like to succeed in school and will be better prepared for the jobs and careers of the future” (California Art Study, 2003, p. 1).

Exposing students to abstract learning will teach the students about logic and reasoning and help them grasp what might not be represented on the surface. Recent Reports from the National Art Education Association (NAEA) confirmed with Governor Davis when they reported “Students in art study score higher on both their Verbal and Math SAT tests than those who are not enrolled in arts courses (California Art Study, 2003, p. 5). Attached is a copy of the test scores of students in the arts and students with no arts coursework.

What is a better way to enhance a lesson plan than to add another dimension of learning than by incorporating different levels of teaching? A company that has the basis of focusing on different learning styles is Links for Learning, [http://www.links-for-learning.com]. This company understands the importance of incorporating arts into the classroom. Former Secretary of Education, William Bennet wrote, “The arts are essential elements of education just like reading, writing, and arithmetic…Music, dance, painting, and theater are keys to unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment” (Swann-Hudkins, 2002).

An example of the benefits of teaching the arts would be the study of a teacher who taught the water cycle lesson through movement and music. The students were introduced to the water cycle in the traditional style of teaching, reading and lecturing. Yet, in order for the students to fully understand the “experience” of being a snowflake, the students listened to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite (The Waltz of the Snowflakes) and closed their eyes visualizing the adventure snowflakes encounter on there way to the ground. A great side effect of dance is that “exposure to dances foreign to them (the students) helps them to understand and appreciate differences in societies. Their minds become open to new ideas and a different perspective. This understanding helps to eliminate possible prejudice, enriching the student and our society” (Swan-Hudkins, 2003, p.17). While the music was playing the teacher asked them questions, such as, “How are they going to land” and “What do you see as you are falling”. The second time listening to the music the students were asked to act out the water cycle through movement and dance. Teachers should know “a class that includes dance can make students feel empowered and actively involved in their education. In creating their own dance, students develop conceptional thinking, which is not always expressed verbally” (Swan-Hudkins, 2003, p. 17).

With these activities, the students were able to become part of the water cycle instead of just using their listening skills and trying to mentally figure out this lesson. The teacher also had the students write a poem using words they felt while they, the snowflakes, were falling to the ground (Jacobs, 1999, p.2). “The motivational powers of the arts are significant as this teacher explained, “Hooking a kid is half, if not more than half, the battle of learning. If you can hook them, then you can get them to learn” (Jacobs, 1999, p. 6). Teachers need to gain access to all styles of learning which can only spark their motivational powers.
Harvard Project Researchers Winner and Hetland remarks, “The best hope for the arts in our school is to justify them by what they can do that other subjects can’t do as well” (Swan-Hudkins, 2003, p. 18). Teachers need to gain a better education of teaching their students through the arts. Without the arts, teachers are limiting their students’ ability to use their entire thinking process, providing less opportunity for complete comprehension. Teaching through the arts is the most powerful tool that teachers can give in their classrooms because it enables the students to achieve their highest level of learning.

With the lack of attention art is getting outside of the classroom, teachers cannot afford not to incorporate dance, theater, visual arts, or music in their lesson plans. Fine arts is the core curriculums constant and most important companion. No child should be left behind, and teaching through the arts will reinforce this idea.

Abstract Painting Art & Painting

I remember a while back, when I was faced with a very pressing situation requiring my instant attention. I was being interviewed live, on a major television station at prime time, along with showing a series of my slides in connection to the opening of an art exhibit. As soon as they wired me up, and situated me on stage, and only a couple minutes before going live, the very charming gentleman, who was to interview me, whispered to me the following: “I have no idea what to ask you, what do you suggest?” I said, no problem, if you ask me only 3 simple questions, I will handle the rest. He was relieved, and quickly jotted down the questions. The green light came on, we went on live, and wrapped up a flawlessly smooth and successful interview. Off camera, the crew came on the stage with big smiles, and acknowledged both of us; but they praised the interviewer, for surprising them as an art connoisseur!

DEFINING AESTHETICS

Aesthetics as a set of principles and branch of philosophy deals with questions concerning beauty and artistic experiences. As far as our general understanding of it is concerned it is a highly nebulous field, subjected to tremendous degree of misinterpretation, particularly in the field of abstract art. In any field of humanities where less accurately is known about that field and its principles have not been precisely formulated, the more authoritarian the field becomes. In the field of arts, with no exact fundamentals accurately developed, the techniques and approaches are wide open for the artists to imagine, explore and create their art.

The artist is also subjected to the “laws” of commerce, where various schools of divergent opinions begin to “teach” the artist “how” to be an artist and paint a certain way, citing the field’s critics galore as she listens with an open jaw in lieu of reason. The “authorities,” in the field of visual arts, most of whom have never painted any paintings themselves but are very “fluid” and “cultured” by having memorized a few standard opinions and artistic works and projects of humanitarian nature, analyze the paintings for the artist every step of the way, each time the artist presents a piece of her art for a critique, mainly to discover what’s wrong with her art and how she should fix it according to these “professors’s” brand of “expertise.”

I admit to a tad of generalization here for making a point; but does any of this ring a true bell for you? Can you think of an artist you know who is or has been on this ship? I lived and survived through it all, trusting and believing that there had to be a logical and more nurturing way to free imaginative impulses so that the artist could paint as freely as he wanted. Something within me, was telling me, that something was inherently not quite right with the constructive criticisms that were to “teach” us how to view our own world of art, through the eyes of the “critics,” excuse me, the professors. I had viewed this “school of thought” as an authoritarian method of teaching that smothered the thoughts, emotions, or efforts of the artist, but could not quite articulate the problem I was sensing at the time. I discovered later, that this mechanism of controlling thought through teaching, was only one of the elements in our society, which inherently brings about the suppression of the arts that stifles the creative impulses of the artists at the expense of the whole culture.

Artists are often “accused” of having their heads up in the clouds, and living within an unreal world of imagination. This brings about the necessity of taking a good and thorough look at just how reality bites. Plowing through several fields of study in search of a tool to measure the aesthetics and the creation processes can leave us empty handed, until we splurge into the field of philosophy to examine our thoughts and reasoning.

THE ART OF THINKING AND REASONING

Thinking and reasoning is a social activity for most people. They require the engagement of external forces as the individual is as much a part of society as the society is a part of the individual. From the moment of birth, the social labyrinth of customs, beliefs, languages, values, religions, politics, and other traditional ideas are all well positioned to mold the child into the image of those who the child is surrounded with, and it is thoroughly based upon faith and belief. So masterfully the operation is instilled into the society as social heredity that even science has often mistaken it as being genetic.

English philosopher and author Francis Bacon (1561-1626), and another English philosopher and mathematician Issac Newton (1642-1727), and others have developed ways of thinking and reasoning that requires a fact in order to be proven must be measured, sensed or experienced. And when we thrust this into the realm of mind and spirit we find our willingness reduced in accepting facts based upon faith or belief.

For this reason, in appreciating life, and creating anything within it such as art, looking for answers and solutions exterior to our own sentient qualities, intellects or experiences is to lose concept of our own truth, values and individuality. And the artist, very often, bears the brunt of this philosophy of “independent thinking” and frequently subjected to criticism by those who have a firm grip on the traditions of status quo.

But the artist moves on, knowing where the roots of criticism lie, and reasons that people who resort to “criticism” operate in the absence of true understanding, and since no knowledge can exist in the absence of understanding, there we arrive at the presence of “ignorance.” Thus, knowing the basis and the mechanism behind criticism, often serves as a tremendous source of empowerment and consolation for the artist to continue with his art on the grounds of certainty and knowledge of her art and transcend through the highest echelons of culture called: aesthetics!

Bacon had come to the conclusion that no field of study by itself is sufficient in the absence of another form of discipline exterior to it to align and coordinate it in the direction of its goal. We can elaborate further that it is not possible to walk a path aright in the absence of defining its destination. Therefore, to stay clear off the grounds of myths, mysticism and superficial approaches, we can take a look and see how the arts can be best served by defining its goal under the broad umbrella of philosophy that embraces all the arts, sciences and humanities.

Just as it is impossible to have a full view of a countryside by sitting on one of its boulders under a tree, every field of endeavor, to be fully understood, must be viewed and analyzed from a ground much higher than where it germinates. Thus, in the field of visual art’s, we cannot look at an abstract painting’s isolated data out of context without a consideration of its existence within the scope of a life that contains the art. Bacon say, that would be to use a candle to light a room that is illuminated with daylight.

ART IS COMMUNICATION

We all enjoy and desire a pleasant conversation with our associates, friends and family. But when we look, and inspect our environment, we notice that the great majority of our population, have difficulty with communication. A two way communication takes place, when we can freely initiate our thoughts or ideas to one another, acknowledge each other and continue this interaction, back and forth, by continuing with the sharing of our thoughts and ideas, very much similar to a friendly game of tennis; where the return of the ball, is dependent upon the quality of the serve.

There are times when we notice a break in communication, when either one of the parties, in its turn, fails to acknowledge and originate a thought or an impulse back, to continue with the conversation, or to bring about an optimum conclusion.

The people having these difficulties with origination, are generally accustomed to prepackaged amusements, such as a weather disaster, or an incident or story relayed by a coworker. They get very low on originating communication on their own, inspired by their own imagination; and they become somewhat vexed, when faced with an “imaginative conversationalist.” This is either through their upbringing and cultural environment, or their education.

Origination is very important to bring about a communication. To this degree, these people communicate mainly regarding subjects that are handed to them by external sources. They see a news story, they talk about it; they get a call about a family affair, they talk about it. They wait for an exterior circumstance to bring about an interaction, otherwise they do not engage by “creating” a communication. They either have a compulsively irresistible urge toward doing something, or inhibited and behave awkward and unnatural in communicating. If they manage to engage, they often turn sharply, towards derailment of the dialogue, and bring about a good degree of resentment, ill will and unwanted conclusions.

The people who do not originate, or do not engage imaginatively, are inherently dependent upon others to give them primal reasons to engage in a conversation; this is due to being endowed with very little imagination. As a result, we can conclude, that a pleasant and engaging conversation, requires the participation of two imaginative minds, with similar endowment of creative impulses, to mutually create the art of communication.

The field of visual arts, follows the same principles, as art is a form of visual communication. The artist originates his communication as s visual message, through the presentation of his art, to his audience. The quality, and the presence of this initiative that he forwards in his art, forms the visual message, that he delivers to his audience; the quality of which, determine the response of his audience, to whether engage or not. Hence, arts much similar to personal dialogues and conversations, follow the same basic principles of communication, in its success or failure

An artist with low imagination, who does not originate verbally, does not communicate visually either. He originates no visual messages in his art, or when he does, it is so scarcely done, that it stirs up no interaction with his audience. This absence of expression, is mainly due to the artist heavy reliance upon the origination of the audience – as an external force – to brings about a communication, in the direction of his art, which is “silent.” Thus, no emotional interaction takes place between the audience and the painting.

An artist, high on imagination, is more likely to enjoy the virtuosity necessary in the technical execution of his art. Thus, he is competent, to effortlessly and vigorously, create his visual messages on his canvas; bringing about an interaction between the audience and his painting.

The visual message does not have to be the same for every viewer. The message, serves only as a visual or artistic “code,” to be subjectively decoded, by each viewer; much similar to a popular piece of music, that echoes widely by communicating to the listeners – same melodic tone creating a different mood in different listeners.

Thus, the communication quality of an artistic expression, is the artist’s intention as a carrier wave, by which her message is delivered to his audience. The technical expertise, by which the art is executed, is also very important, and at times, successful all by itself; although, the quality of the visual communication, always remains senior to the technical execution of the art. The carrier wave, which communicates the artist’s intention, to his viewers, is a phenomenon occurring between the artist and the viewer and resides within the realms of spirit.

Painting Art From Your Photos

The market for Chinese contemporary art has developed at a feverish pace, becoming the single fastest-growing segment of the international art market. Since 2004, prices for works by Chinese contemporary artists have increased by 2,000 percent or more, with paintings that once sold for under $50,000 now bringing sums above $1 million. Nowhere has this boom been felt more appreciably than in China, where it has spawned massive gallery districts, 1,600 auction houses, and the first generation of Chinese contemporary-art collectors.

This craze for Chinese contemporary art has also given rise to a wave of criticism. There are charges that Chinese collectors are using mainland auction houses to boost prices and engage in widespread speculation, just as if they were trading in stocks or real estate. Western collectors are also being accused of speculation, by artists who say they buy works cheap and then sell them for ten times the original prices-and sometimes more.

Those who entered this market in the past three years found Chinese contemporary art to be a surefire bet as prices doubled with each sale. Sotheby’s first New York sale of Asian contemporary art, dominated by Chinese artists, brought a total of $13 million in March 2006; the same sale this past March garnered $23 million, and Sotheby’s Hong Kong sale of Chinese contemporary art in April totaled nearly $34 million. Christie’s Hong Kong has had sales of Asian contemporary art since 2004. Its 2005 sales total of $11 million was dwarfed by the $40.7 million total from a single evening sale in May of this year.

These figures, impressive as they are, do not begin to convey the astounding success at auction of a handful of Chinese artists: Zhang Xiaogang, Yue Minjun, Cai Guo-Qiang, Liu Xiaodong, and Liu Ye. The leader this year was Zeng Fanzhi, whose Mask Series No. 6 (1996) sold for $9.6 million, a record for Chinese contemporary art, at Christie’s Hong Kong in May.

Zhang Xiaogang, who paints large, morose faces reminiscent of family photographs taken during the Cultural Revolution, has seen his record rise from $76,000 in 2003, when his oil paintings first appeared at Christie’s Hong Kong, to $2.3 million in November 2006, to $6.1 million in April of this year.

Gunpowder drawings by Cai Guo-Qiang, who was recently given a retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, sold for well below $500,000 in 2006; a suite of 14 works brought $9.5 million last November.

According to the Art Price Index, Chinese artists took 35 of the top 100 prices for living contemporary artists at auction last year, rivaling Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and a host of Western artists.

“Everybody is looking to the East and to China, and the art market isn’t any different,” says Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia. “Notwithstanding the subprime crisis in the U.S. or the fact that some of the other financial markets seem jittery, the overall business community still has great faith in China, bolstered by the Olympics and the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.”

There are indications, however, that the international market for Chinese art is beginning to slow. At Sotheby’s Asian contemporary-art sale in March, 20 percent of the lots offered found no buyers, and even works by top record-setters such as Zhang Xiaogang barely made their low estimates. “The market is getting mature, so we can’t sell everything anymore,” says Xiaoming Zhang, Chinese contemporary-art specialist at Sotheby’s New York. “The collectors have become really smart and only concentrate on certain artists, certain periods, certain material.”

For their part, Western galleries are eagerly pursuing Chinese artists, many of whom were unknown just a few years ago. Zeng Fanzhi, for example, has been signed by Acquavella Galleries in New York, in a two-year deal that exceeds $20 million, according to a Beijing gallerist close to the negotiations; William Acquavella declined to comment. Zhang Xiaogang and Zhang Huan have joined PaceWildenstein, and Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaodong showed with Mary Boone last spring. Almost every major New York gallery has recently signed on a Chinese artist: Yan Pei Ming at David Zwirner, Xu Zhen at James Cohan, Huang Yong Ping at Gladstone, Yang Fudong at Marian Goodman, Liu Ye at Sperone Westwater. Their works are entering private and public collections that until now have not shown any particular interest in Asian contemporary art.

“The market hasn’t behaved as I anticipated,” says New York dealer Max Protetch, who has been representing artists from China since 1996. “We all anticipated that the Chinese artists would go through the same critical process that happens with art anywhere else in the world. I assumed that some artists would fall by the wayside, which has not been true. They all have become elevated. It seems like an uncritical market.”

One of the key artists buoyed by this success is Zeng Fanzhi, who is best known for his “Mask” series. Five years ago his works sold for under $50,000. Today he commands prices on the primary market closer to $1 million, with major collectors Charles Saatchi and Jose Mugrabi among his fans. Now preparing for his first solo show at Acquavella in December, he is considered one of the more serious artists on the Beijing scene because he works alone, without the horde of assistants found in most other artists’ studios in China. Still, his lifestyle is typical of that of his equally successful peers. When asked if he owns a mammoth black Hummer parked outside his studio, he answers, “No, that’s an ugly car. I have a G5 Benz.”

This success has blossomed under the watchful eye of the Chinese government. Movies, television, and news organizations are strictly censored, but on the whole, the visual arts are not. Despite sporadic incidents of exhibitions being closed or customs officials seizing artworks, by and large the government has supported the growth of an art market and has not interfered with private activity. In the 798 gallery district in Beijing, a Bauhaus-style former munitions complex that has been transformed into the capital’s hottest art center, with more than 150 galleries, one finds works addressing poverty and other social problems, official corruption, and new sexual mores. The icons of the former China-happy workers and peasants and heroic soldiers raising the red banner-are treated with irony, if at all, by the artists whose works are on view in these galleries, which are private venues generally not under the strict control of the Ministry of Culture.

On the eve of the Olympics, however, the government asked one gallery to postpone an exhibition until after the games. Considered unsuitable was “Touch,” a show by Ma Baozhong at the Xin Beijing Gallery of 15 paintings depicting important moments in Chinese history, including one based on a photograph showing Mao Zedong with the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama in 1954.

The Beijing municipality spent enormous funds to renovate the 798 district before the Olympics, putting in new cobblestone streets and lining its main thoroughfare with cafés. Shanghai, which has benefited less from government support, now boasts at least 100 galleries. Local governments throughout the country are establishing SoHo-style gallery districts to boost tourism.

One person who seems confident about the future of the Chinese market is Arne Glimcher, founder and president of PaceWildenstein, who opened a branch of his gallery in Beijing in August. Located in a 22,000-square-foot cement space with soaring ceilings, redesigned at a cost of $20 million by architect Richard Gluckman, the gallery is in the center of the 798 district. “We are committed to the art, and we wanted to open a gallery where our artists are,” says Glimcher. Adding that he normally eschews the “McGallery” trend of setting up satellite spaces around the world, Glimcher insists that it was necessary to establish a branch in Beijing because there is “no local gallery of our caliber” with which Pace could partner. He has, however, recruited Leng Lin, founder of Beijing Commune, another gallery operating in 798, to be his director.

Another Western dealer who has taken the China plunge is Arthur Solway, who recently opened a branch of James Cohan in Shanghai. “I started coming to China five years ago, and I was fascinated by the energy,” says Solway, who wanted to introduce gallery artists like Bill Viola, Wim Wenders, and Roxy Paine to Asia but, like Glimcher, could not find a public museum or private gallery that he considered professionally qualified to handle such exhibitions. James Cohan Gallery Shanghai is located on the ground floor of a 1936 Art Deco structure in the French Concession, a particularly picturesque section of the city. The building was once occupied by the military, and red Chinese characters over the front door still exhort, “Let the spirit of Mao Zedong flourish for 10,000 years.”

“From 1966 to 1976, during the Cultural Revolution, people had nothing, but now there are spas in Shanghai and people drinking cappuccinos and buying Rolex watches-it’s an amazing phenomenon,” says Solway, who believes it is only a matter of time before these same newly affluent consumers begin to collect contemporary art.

Chinese collectors-or the hope that there will be Chinese collectors-are the key draw luring these galleries to Beijing. As recently as two years ago, few could name even a single Chinese collector of contemporary art. It was a truism that the Chinese preferred to spend their money acquiring antiquities and classical works. Since then several well-known mainland collectors have emerged on the scene.

Most visible is Guan Yi, the suave, well-dressed heir to a chemical-engineering fortune, who has assembled a museum-quality collection of more than 500 works. A major lender to the Huang Yong Ping retrospective organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2005, he regularly entertains museum trustees from all over the world, who make the pilgrimage to his warehouse on the outskirts of Beijing. Now he is building his own museum.

Another noted figure is Zhang Lan, head of the South Beauty chain of Szechuan-style restaurants throughout China; she also has assembled an enviable collection and displays pieces from it in her chic establishments. The film actress Zhang Ziyi is representative of a new class of collectors from the entertainment industry, while Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, chairman and CEO of the mammoth SOHO China real estate empire, have commissioned projects for their upscale residential properties.

Two collectors who are cheerleaders for the Beijing art scene are Yang Bin, an automobile-franchise mogul, and Zhang Rui, a telecommunications executive who is also the backer of Beijing Art Now Gallery, which took part in Art Basel in June, one of the first Beijing galleries to appear at the fair. These two do more than collect art. They have hosted dinners for potential collectors, organized tours to Art Basel Miami Beach, and brought friends with them to sales in London and New York. Zhang Rui, who owns more than 500 works, has lent art to international exhibitions, most notably the installation Tomorrow, which features four “dead Beatles” mannequins floating facedown, created by artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu for the 2006 Liverpool Biennial, which rejected it.

Zhang is now building an art hotel, featuring specially commissioned works and artist-designed rooms, outside the Workers’ Stadium in the center of Beijing. “I am trying to think of ways of changing my private collection into a public collection,” Zhang explained to ARTnews through a translator. It isn’t financially advantageous to do this in China, as no tax benefits accrue from donations to museums or other nonprofit institutions.

Zhang Rui represents the handful of Chinese collectors who are public about their activities and are building noteworthy collections. Far more typical of buying activity in China is the rampant speculation taking place in the mainland auction houses. There are 1,600 registered auctioneers, and their sales attract hundreds of bidders. Chinese buyers are more comfortable with auction houses, which have been in business since 1994, than with galleries, which weren’t licensed to operate by the government until the late 1990s.

These auction houses run by their own rules, generating what sometimes seems like a “wild, wild East” atmosphere. It is, for example, fairly common for a house to get consignments directly from artists, who then use the sales to establish prices for their works on the primary market. More often, now that China has hundreds of galleries, dealers come to a sale with buyers in tow, publicly bidding up works to establish “record prices” and advertise their artists. This kind of bidding ring would be considered illegal in the United States, but in China it is viewed as a savvy business practice. There is little regulation of auction houses and few developed legal norms in the field, so that even when buyers have grievances-with fakes and forgeries, for example-they do not feel they can resort to the law. Bidding is a social as well as a business activity, and buyers are happy to flaunt their status by paying record prices or quickly flipping artworks, not only for profit but so they can boast of their short-term gains.

As the domestic market for contemporary art matures, however, many of these practices are coming into question. “Two years ago it was more necessary for me to bring my artists to auction,” says Fang Fang, owner of Star Gallery in Beijing, which specializes in young emerging artists such as Chen Ke and Gao Yu. “Now that the gallery market has increased, I find it is better to keep my artists out of the auction rooms, and there is much less reason to sell there.”

Two mainland firms, Beijing Poly International Auction Company, and China Guardian Auctions Company, dominate the field of contemporary Chinese art. Their combined 2007 total of more than $200 million in sales represented nearly two-thirds of all auction sales in this category in mainland China for the year. Last spring Guardian achieved $142 million in sales of classical artworks, furniture, ceramics, silver, and coins, and $40 million in sales of contemporary material. The latter figure included the $8.2 million fetched by Liu Xiaodong’s Hotbed No. 1, a record for a painting sold on the mainland. In a similar range of sales last spring, Poly sold $130 million worth of works, including $27 million in a single evening contemporary-art sale. (These figures represent a slight decline for the year because both houses held benefit sales for Szechuan earthquake victims, raising more than $20 million to support relief efforts.)

Poly and Guardian reflect two vastly different perspectives on the domestic market in Chinese contemporary art. Guardian is the oldest and most respected auction house in China, founded in 1993 by Wang Yannan, daughter of Zhao Ziyang, the former Communist Party leader who was placed under house arrest after opposing the government’s use of force against demonstrators at Tiananmen Square in 1989. If Poly is known for its vast resources and willingness to make deals to nab consignments, Guardian is known for its respected specialists and long-term client relationships. For example, when the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, decided to sell 20 pieces of Qing dynasty porcelain in mainland China, it consigned the collection to Guardian.

The atmosphere of a sale at Poly or Guardian is surprisingly similar to that in the salerooms of Christie’s or Sotheby’s. The catalogues are identical in design, and the bidding proceeds in an orderly, even sedate, fashion, despite the crowds of spectators in the room.

“From our beginning, we studied what the principles of an auction house should be, and we stick to these principles,” says Guardian president Wang. She also serves on the board of the new nationwide auctioneers’ association, which hopes to enforce regulations on the auction market.

Poly is an enterprise within the China Poly Group Corporation, a $30 billion conglomerate that is the privatized branch of the People’s Liberation Army. Established initially to repatriate artworks and antiquities, Poly has spent $100 million buying objects such as the bronze animal heads from a water-clock fountain that were looted from Beijing’s Summer Palace by British and French troops in 1860; the pieces later turned up in the West. The repatriated objects are showcased in the Poly Art Museum in the sparkling New Beijing Poly Plaza, a glass-enclosed tower designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

The more freewheeling Poly is known for practices such as putting up for auction works from its own collection or having consignors guarantee that they will bring buyers to the sale to meet low estimates. Still, even here there are signs that the market is maturing and has become too expensive for casual speculators. “These collectors that you are talking about are actually quite small collectors,” explains Zhao Xu, senior consultant at Poly. “They bought for several years at very affordable prices, but now that prices are skyrocketing, the only way they can afford to buy is to sell. The collectors that I know already come from a high social status, and they can afford to buy pieces worth $1 million or $2 million and are looking for the best works, the masterpieces, to add to their collections.”

When asked if Poly follows the rules of the Western auction houses, Zhao sharply retorts, “Sometimes even Sotheby’s doesn’t follow the rules.” Or as Gong Jisui, an art-market specialist who is a professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, says, “The Chinese learned this game of speculation from the Westerners who played it first.”

The incident to which both men are referring is the sale of the Estella Collection at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on April 9 of this year. The event reaped $18 million for 108 works. (An additional 80 works will be up for sale this month at Sotheby’s New York.) The collection was put together from 2003 to 2006 by New York dealer Michael Goedhuis for a group of investors that included Sacha Lainovic, a director of Weight Watchers International, and Raymond Debbane, CEO of the Invus Group, a private equity firm.

Last year the collection of approximately 200 works was sold to William Acquavella, who consigned it to Sotheby’s. Auction house officials will not discuss financial details, but Sotheby’s had a stake in the collection. After the sale it was widely reported that many of the artists were angered by the auction because, they said, they had sold their works to Goedhuis at discount prices in exchange for promises that the collection would remain together for public display.

“The idea was to keep the collection intact and to see it safely into some institution,” says Goedhuis, who denies that any promises were made. “The ideal situation was to see it with an institution in China, because there is no such collection.” The collection was published in a book, China Onward, with an essay by leading China expert Britta Erickson, and it was exhibited at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem shortly before the sale. According to Goedhuis, because of the rapid rise in prices, the investors chose to sell the collection with hopes that it would not be broken up.

“Since the museums in China aren’t mature enough nor are they rich enough to do an acquisition like this, my hope was that Steve Wynn would do so for his sophisticated casino complex in Macao,” Goedhuis says. He turned to Acquavella because, he says, he believed the dealer would bring the collection to Wynn; Acquavella paid a reported $25 million. Acquavella director Michael Findlay laughs at the suggestion that there was any indication that the collection would go to Wynn. “I think this whole thing is surrounded by so much rumor and speculation,” he says. “We bought a group of paintings, and we sold a group of paintings, and that’s the whole story.”

According to Maarten ten Holder, Sotheby’s managing director for North and South America, the firm received inquiries before the sale from several artists in the collection, wondering why the works were to be auctioned. There is disagreement about whether Goedhuis made firm promises to keep the collection together or merely made a sales pitch to artists that inclusion in the collection would enhance their reputations. Yue Minjun, who had two works in the sale, says no promises were made. And Goedhuis bought Zeng Fanzhi’s Chairman Mao with Us from Hanart T Z Gallery in 2005 for the asking price, $30,000, no discount given. It sold for $1.18 million.

“You have to understand that there was no market for this work when I was buying,” says Howard Farber, whose collection brought $20 million at Phillips de Pury & Company in London last October. Farber assembled 100 choice works by assiduously visiting artists’ studios in Beijing in the late 1980s, accompanied by the Beijing-based critic Karen Smith, a leading author and curator in this field. A work for which he paid $25,000 in 1996, Wang Guangyi’s Great Criticism: Coca-Cola, was sold at Phillips de Pury for $1.6 million. The buyer was Farber’s son-in-law, Larry Warsh, who bid on several works at the sale, according to newspaper accounts. “I really didn’t actually know I was going to buy the Wang Guangyi until that moment,” says Warsh. “Howard has his collection, and it’s not my collection, and there were many pieces I wanted from that collection that I would have wanted to buy but couldn’t afford.”

Many Beijing artists had agreements with Warsh to produce work for his collection and his art advisory business, which began in 2004, inspired by Farber’s example in the field. “I was enamored by China, and then I was enamored by the art of China as I learned about important artists,” says Warsh. “But what really hit me first was how the pricing did not make sense to me at all-everything was out of whack.”

Warsh, who amassed a collection of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf in the late 1980s, was the publisher of the now-defunct Museums Magazine, which he sold to LTB Media in 2004. He stated at one point that his collection totaled more than 1,200 works; now, he says, he owns approximately 400 paintings and photographs. Part of his collection is managed by his new business venture, AW Asia, which has a gallery in Chelsea and intends to assemble collections of Chinese contemporary art for museums and major private collectors. The Museum of Modern Art in New York recently acquired 23 photographs from AW Asia.

With Farber and Warsh circulating in Beijing for a variety of purposes, it was easy for Chinese artists to become confused about who was buying for whom and for what purpose. In recent interviews, several artists-most notably Zhang Xiaogang, who had an agreement with Warsh-pointed to him as an example of a speculator.

Warsh replies, “While some artists are not so pleased with their decision to have sold quantities of artwork at what was then their current values not so long ago, there are many artists who are not resentful and actually pleased that someone has taken an interest in their work.”

New York dealer Jack Tilton, who has worked with Chinese artists since 1999, says, “All of these artists are hoping that their work finds good homes rather than getting churned in the commercial market. But they have also played a part in this market, embracing capitalism more than we have, in funny ways. They are not naive about any of this stuff.”

When asked about the artists’ reactions to the sale of his collection, Farber was flabbergasted: “So what? Now I am the bad guy. That pisses me off!”

A number of major collectors of Chinese contemporary art who have been in the field for some time are holding on to their collections. Uli Sigg, Swiss ambassador to China, Mongolia, and North Korea from 1995 to 1998, has built a collection of key works that he has toured in the exhibition “Mahjong” to museums throughout Europe and, most recently, the University of California’s Berkeley Art Museum (September 10-January 4). Belgian collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens have used their resources to establish the first nonprofit contemporary-art center in Beijing, where they are currently exhibiting their historic collection. So far, collector Charles Saatchi has been hanging on to his purchases in preparation for opening his new gallery in London on the 9th of next month with a show of Chinese contemporary art; he has also launched a Chinese-language Web site on which mainland artists can post their works.

In comparison with Western buying, mainland Chinese participation pales. Though there are many rumors about the power of the new Chinese buyers, their presence has not been felt in the major auction houses, where most of the records are being set. “Hong Kong right now covers the global buyers, especially those from across Asia,” says Eric Chang, Christie’s international director of Asian contemporary art. “I am not really seeing mainland Chinese buyers-less than 10 percent-a drop from around 12 percent.” Dealers in China also have seen few mainland collectors among their regular clients. “I don’t know yet about collectors,” says New York dealer Christophe Mao of Chambers Fine Art, which recently opened a branch in Beijing.

Despite the current shortage of mainland art collectors, China is emerging as a major art center, having become a hub for buyers from South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia, and for overseas Chinese from all over the world. Reflecting this diversity is the wide range of foreign dealers among the 300 galleries in Beijing, including Continua from Italy, Urs Meile from Switzerland, Arario and PKM from South Korea, Beijing Tokyo Art Projects from Japan, and Tang from Indonesia.

“In Beijing it’s getting increasingly difficult to talk about the Chinese market as a separate entity from the broader Asian art market or the international art market,” says Meg Maggio, an American who came to China in 1988 and ran one of the first galleries in the country, CourtYard, in Beijing, from 1998 to 2006. Now she has her own gallery, Pékin Fine Arts, where she represents an international stable of artists. “How do you describe the market for a Korean artist showing in China or a Chinese artist living in New York?” she asks, noting that her business can come from South Korean collectors visiting Beijing or European companies doing business in China.

One factor in China’s development as a center for contemporary art is the proliferation of art fairs. Beijing has two, the China International Gallery Exposition and Art Beijing; Shanghai has the newly created ShContemporary, now in its second year; and Hong Kong just launched ART HK. CIGE director Wang Yihan says her fair attracted 40,000 visitors this year, while the more high-toned ShContemporary brought in 25,000 and ART HK 08 had 19,000. These numbers may seem small in comparison with the 60,000 who crowd Art Basel, but dealers believe that the fairs in Asia are worthwhile because they attract new buyers and make Asian collectors feel more comfortable about acquiring art from galleries.

“Anywhere else, a fair is just a fair,” says Lorenz Helbling of ShanghART, one of the oldest galleries in China and a participant in Art Basel. “But in Shanghai a fair feels like so much more because only there can it make an impact on several million people.” He is referring not only to attendance but to the intensive publicity and official recognition given to ShContemporary in its inaugural year.

Just a few years ago it would have been impossible to try to sell contemporary art to Asian buyers, let alone mainland Chinese collectors, in the public forum of an art fair. Now, with the astounding success of Chinese contemporary art, collectors from across the region-and more than a few from the United States and Europe-are targeting China as a destination. According to Nick Simunovic, who has opened an office and showroom for Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong, it is only a matter of time before these regional buyers turn their attention to Western contemporary art.

“My sense is that wherever you have tremendous wealth creation, the collecting cycle goes through three phases,” he says. “First, people collect their cultural patrimony, and then they collect their own contemporary art. I think the final stage is when they gain a more globalized contemporary-art approach.”

Gagosian first considered opening an office in Shanghai but encountered obstacles to doing business on the mainland. The most formidable of these is a 34 percent luxury tax on art, which foreign galleries that participated in ShContemporary found difficult to avoid. Hong Kong, by comparison, is a duty-free zone. And Simunovic found that even Jeff Koons was a tough sell in Shanghai, whereas Hong Kong offers more possibilities for Western contemporary art. Just a year ago Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau paid $72 million for Andy Warhol’s Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I). In May Christie’s brought a Warhol portrait of Mao, valued at $120 million and for sale privately, for viewing in Hong Kong. (At press time it had not yet been sold.)

“Sure, China is hot, but that’s just the peak of the iceberg,” says Lorenzo Rudolf, former director of Art Basel and cofounder of ShContemporary. “This is not just about a group of Chinese painters. It’s about a growing market going on in this continent.”

With the sheer abundance of galleries, auction houses, and art fairs in China, the larger art world is recognizing the power of the Asian market. Standing in an auction house in New York or London watching paintings by Chinese artists sell for millions, one can grouse about this boom and hint that it will turn out to be a bubble. But strolling in a bustling gallery district in Beijing, with students and tourists crowding the cafés and boutiques and filling the huge art showrooms, few would predict a downturn in the near future.

Here’s The Concept of Major Art in Various Ages

Art is a human creative skill or talent, which is demonstrated through imaginative designs, sounds, or ideas. Key Art Concepts have always been an integral part of our histories. Lifestyles, Events, and Cultures, of an era or civilization have been the Key Art Concepts, depicted through the prevailing art forms of those times.

Different Key Art Concepts have evolved thorough different eras, with the changing artists’ perceptions of processing, analyzing, and responding to various art forms. Their creative expressions have been explored by their creation, performance, and participation in arts. Each historical era has given novel contribution of historical and cultural contexts for developing the Key Arts Fundamentals of the relevant period. Visual Arts help artists assimilate the Key Arts Concepts of Symmetry, Color, Pattern, Contrast and the differences between 1 or more elements in the composition. The Key Art Concepts of Visual Arts help understand and distinguish between the dimensions such as, Symmetry & Asymmetry, Positive & Negative Space, Light & Dark, Solid & Transparent, and Large & Small.

A perusal of different ages, throws light at the diverse Key Art Concepts prevalent in those times. The Pre-Historic Art / Paleolithic (2 million years ago-130000 B.C) Key Art Concepts can be deciphered from the Stone Carvings on the ancient Cave Walls. The art works depict hunting, nomadic life, and the flora & the fauna of that age. Greek and Roman Key Art Concepts were considered the epitome of Art in the ancient period. The traditional Greek Key Art Concepts spread throughout Central Asia, due to the conquests of Alexander the great. This affected the existing Art Concepts of Central Asia for the next few centuries. The Hellenic influence in those times was extremely strong in these regions. Key Art Concepts of this phase include but are not limited to Column Bases and Architectural Details (typical of Greeks), Numismatics, Ceramic, Plastic Arts, and Terracotta figurines of semi-nude Greek and local deities, heroes, and mystical characters.

Medieval and Renaissance Art runs from Byzantine Period, to Romanesque, to Gothic Styles, to the beginning of Islamic Art, to Renaissance and to the acceptance of Christian Art.

The history of Modern Art started with Impressionism and continued its revolution with time. These artists preferred to paint outdoors and studied the effect of light on objects. These Key Art Trends continued until the early 18th century. Vibrant colors were introduced to Art to bring pictures to life. This Key Arts Fundamental was called Fauvism. Expressionism was the German version of Fauvism. The subsequent Key Art Concepts revolutions were Art Nouveau and Art Deco Movements. They were novice Art concepts with high decorative styles.

The Art Nouveau Concept stresses on decorative art. It was later termed as first modern Key Art Concept. For the first time, art dealt with modern Psychology and Sensuality. Art Deco was a design style, which was a follow up of Art Nouveau. These Key Art Fundamentals dominated the mass production of fashion, furniture, jewellery, textile, architecture, and interior decoration artworks.

Anon came up with Cubism, where images were converted to cubes, or other geometrical figures. Surrealism followed, emphasizing on the unconscious mind and the interpretation of dreams. A potential Key Art Concept, Abstract Art, then reached this. Abstract Art is all about creativity with abstract joining. Pop Art Movement and Optical Art Movement brought art back into the daily lives of masses, through simple sketching and comics. They considered abstract art too sophisticated and elite for the general masses to appreciate. Modern art gave way to Photography, Visual Graphics, and 3D Animation in the later years.

Through ages, Key Art Concepts have been in charge of the various art forms. These Art Concepts reflected the influence of Cultures and Psychology of all times. The Key Art Concepts help artists understand how the critics & the historians go about their practices, how they make selections, interpretations, and judgments.