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Private Galleries in Shanghai: a World of Free Art
Shanghai, generally known as the economic hub of east China, is also home to domestic and international artists, who have swarmed here to run private galleries, attracted by the splendid cultural and artistic resources.

There are over 1,000 private galleries scattered among skyscrapers and busy business districts in this internationalized metropolis.

Owners of the private galleries have united to recommend Shanghai Private Galleries to the public. It is the first reference book ever published here, in both Chinese and English, to give a comprehensive introduction to the colorful "gallery culture" in the city.

Private galleries are leading the artistic trends here, highlighting not only folk art styles, but also modern exotic cultural characters in art circles, according to some proprietors of art galleries.

The galleries offer room for some less popular art styles, such as abstract art, and there is a vast market for world-renowned galleries such as Tong Hall Gallery and ShanghArt Gallery.

Deeply fascinated by Chinese culture, Lorenz Helbling, a native of Sweden, came to set up ShanghArt Gallery in 1994. It is the first gallery of modern art in Shanghai.

Over the past two years, the gallery has brought many works of Chinese artists to the annual show of international art in Basel, Switzerland.

Xu Longsen, manager of Tong Hall Gallery, has devoted himself to discovering talented Chinese artists. He has also contributed to promoting some of China's first generation of oil painters in the world.

The charm of Shanghai derives from the excellent combination of Chinese and foreign art styles. "I am just like a bird that keeps flying between China and the United States, carrying different civilizations," said Yu Jinglu, founder of the Great Theater Gallery here.

"In San Francisco and New York, visiting picture shows are an indispensable part of people's lives while most Shanghai citizens are still holding the idea that private galleries should only be visited by fashionable people," Yu pointed out.

Analysis reveals that people will show an interest in collecting art works only when the per capita GDP in a certain society surpasses 8,000 U.S. dollars. Given the per capita GDP of US$

4,500 in 2001 in Shanghai, the art market here has not yet grown mature.

However, the market is still full of potential since different styles of art from the world can co-exist in harmony or even blend with each other.

Many local artists claim it is necessary to set up a special area for private galleries so that visitors do not get troubled in looking for the obscure locations of art shows.

( People's Daily April 20, 2002 )

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