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Shanghai: Home to a World of Art

The port city of Shanghai, generally known as the economic hub of East China, is also home to domestic and international artists, who have swarmed to the Bund to run private galleries, attracted by the splendid cultural and artistic resources.

There are more than 1,000 private galleries scattered among skyscrapers and busy business districts in the internationalized metropolis.

Owners of the private galleries have united to publicize Shanghai Private Galleries - the first reference book published in Chinese and English to give a comprehensive introduction to the city's colorful "gallery culture".

Private galleries are leading the artistic trend in the city, 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 the Tong Hall Gallery.

Deeply fascinated by Chinese culture, Sweden's Lorenz Helbling set up Shanghai Art Gallery in 1994 - the first gallery of modern art in Shanghai.

During the past two years, the gallery has displayed many works of Chinese artists at the annual show of international art in Basel, Switzerland.

"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 Theatre Gallery in Shanghai.

"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 people will show an interest in collecting art only when the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in a society surpasses US$8,000. Given Shanghai's per capita GDP of US$4,500 last year, the art market in the city has not yet matured.

However, the market is said to be full of potential thanks to different styles of art from the world co-existing in harmony or even blending with each other.

Many local artists claim it is now necessary to set up a special area for private galleries so visitors have no trouble in locating obscure art exhibitions.

(China Daily May 21, 2002)

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