Market Review 2021 | International Touring Exhibitions in China

Museums in China’s key cultural hubs, such as Shanghai, have, since the 10th of March 2022, been forced shut due to the most rigorous lockdowns under the government’s zero-tolerance Covid policy. As the first major economy to initially recover from Covid in 2021, mainland China witnessed a dynamic and vibrant art scene, revitalised by over a hundred major international touring exhibitions in public and private museums, despite ongoing Covid restrictions. No doubt, the schedule of international touring exhibitions for 2022 has already been disrupted, but a brief review of 2021 will offer insights in to this sector in the the near future.(Data: Our data is based on 70 key international touring exhibitions on display in mainland China in 2021)

Analyst: Xiaoyu Chen | ARTouch Consulting


1.    Where did the exhibitions take place?
Tier-1 cities is the answer. Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen hosted nearly 80% of the shows. The trend of engaging audiences in tier-2/3 cities (like Chengdu) has been growing, but Shanghai’s pre-eminent position is untouchable. Guangzhou, unlike its neighbour Shenzhen, is not yet one of the favoured destinations for international exhibitions in China. 70% of the exhibitions were in private museums, while the remaining 30%, in public museums, were larger in scale and of higher value.


2 Where did the exhibitions come from?

France and the UK ranked neck and neck at the top, followed by Japan, Italy and the US. Museums (e.g. Andy Warhol Museum and National Museum of Australia), artist studios (e.g. Gaetano Pesce Studio and Studio Ghibli), foundations (e.g. Pro Helvetia The Swiss Arts Council) and galleries (e.g. Galleria Continua and Hauser & Wirth) sourced these exhibitions. Frequent institutional lenders included the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Centre Pompidou and Tate, while there were also newcomers or one-off lenders, such as Man Ray International Association.

3   What were the exhibitions?

We’ve classified these exhibitions into 5 categories , namely Modern and Contemporary ArtDesign and ArchitectureClassic and AntiquityMultimedia, as well as Fashion.  According to Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2022, sales in Greater China also saw significant growth of 35%, reaching $13.4 billion in 2021. The demand of modern and contemporary art was well reflected in the international touring exhibitions in the country. Over 60% of them were about Modern and Contemporary Art, such as ‘Joan Miró: Women,Birds,Stars’ at Shanghai’s Museum of Art Pudong and the largest solo exhibition by George Condo in Asia, ‘The Picture Gallery’ at Long Museum, in Shanghai West Bund. Such exhibitions will continue to occupy the dominant place in China’s landscape of art exhibition for years to come, but it’s worth noting the growing trend of presenting old masters and antiquity to Chinese audience. Apart from the British Museum’s ‘Rome: City and Empire’ at Suzhou Museum, V&A’s exhibition ‘Treasures from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection‘ has been on a tour across the country 2021-2022 through the government agency Art Exhibitions China (AEC).  The upward trend of such types of exhibitions will be further enhanced by the new alignment between Uffizi Gallery and the Bund One Art Museum, envisaging ten exhibitions in Shanghai over the next five years, debuting Botticelli and the Renaissance in 2022.

4. Solo or themed?
The majority of these exhibitions either focused on one artist, such as ‘Giorgio Morandi: The Poetics of Stillness‘ at M Woods in Beijing exploring six decades of Morandi’s practice, and or fabricated around a theme, like ‘Light‘ at Shanghai’s Museum of Art Pudong, displaying  some of the most renowned works in Tate’s collection, from Constable to Bridget Riley. Judging from the social media popularity, solo exhibitions were twice more discussed and reviewed via RED, Weibo and WeChat than themed exhibitions, thanks to the fame and popularity of some individual artists, exhibitions of Andy Warhol and Ryuichi Sakamoto were good examples. At the same time, themed exhibitions with powerful cultural IP, such as Mickey: The True Original & Ever Curious at Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu and Yuz Musuem Shanghai, as well as Tintin and Hergé at Power Station of Art Shanghai, were also able to appeal to gen-Z and social media users in China.
5. Outlook 2022
a. Big-name artists, the cure-all
No one can resist Yoshitomo Nara at Yuz Museum Shanghai
b. Investment now, FOMO 
Will you check out Dr. Doodle  at K11 Shanghai
c. Cultural Sanction? 
Will Henri Matisse ever come to UCCA eventually?
d. Tapping the cultural IP’s currency
Alice’s Rabbit hole is open for you at U2 Beijing!
e. Classic art – a new cultural hierarchy?
No one can say no to old masters
If you’d like to have more data of 2021 international touring exhibitions in China, please reach out via info@artouchconsulting.com

Market Review 2023 | International Touring Exhibitions in China

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Market Review 2021 | International Touring Exhibitions in China

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