By Tom McGregor
Chinese art, especially its fine art, has a unique style all of its own. When one observes the paintings depicting the country's imperial dynastic era, they can view a broad array of images, which range from beautiful women dressed in luxurious robes to exquisite representations of natural landscapes, as well as depictions of rural or city lives that only exist in the history books nowadays. We are drawn to a world that seems glorious and fascinating.
We behold the beauty of China's long-and-storied history. We become transfixed by the intricate details of porcelain and antiques, where even a mere tea cup portraying dragon images captures the interests of everyone including those without artistic expertise.
Accordingly, Chinese art has been growing in popularity not just in China or throughout the Asian continent, but all over the world. For more than a few centuries in the Western world, many fans of art focused much of their attention upon Western European and American artists. The names of Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso are easily recognized as revered and respected artists for Westerners, but in the households of the United States of America and Europe, only a few can name a single Chinese artist of world-renowned fame.
Yet, times appear to be changing as a new global economic and political shift has been emerging away from the West and towards the East. Hence, art investors are flocking into China to purchase artworks and display these goods in art museums, hotel lobbies and other public venues in their home and neighboring nations, which brings global attention to Chinese artists. Some investors are reaping substantial profits.
An investment in Chinese art appears to make good sense since the world stock markets are embroiled in the grips of economic turmoil and many countries are suffering from high unemployment rates and inflation is surging above the norm.
A number of investors seeking more profits are cashing out of their stocks and mutual funds and flushing their liquidity into gold and other commodities. Yet, gold has been getting more expensive as it hovers regularly around $1,700 an ounce. One should understand the price of gold fluctuates up-and-down on a minute-by-minute basis. Hence, investors with access to large cash reserves are starting to see the strong value in purchasing Chinese art.
The China Daily reports that, "much like individuals, Chinese collectors who have made a splash in global art auctions over the past few years, China Inc. and foreign businesses with ties to the Middle Kingdom are increasingly investing valuable time and financial resources on contemporary Chinese art."
Meg Maggio, director of Peking Fine Arts in Beijing, said the public should expect to witness more Chinese and foreign-owned corporations collecting higher quality artworks for public spaces to "enhance their corporate profile and public relations profile," as well as contributing to an improvement "of the interior and exterior environments surrounding their corporate headquarters."
Apparently, the China Mensing Bank Art collection appears to hold the largest contemporary Chinese art collection.
According to the China Daily, "Fortune 500 corporations and financial institutions have long collected art and antiquities and have invested hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in recent decades to amass and display an impressive array of works by top artists."
Deutsche Bank, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, JP Morgan, Clifford Chance, Flemings, UBS and Hallmark have started to focus on acquiring exquisite Chinese art. Maggio noted these overseas firms have already enjoyed a history of collecting art and as their business expanded into China, their corporate art collections are reflecting an interest in the rising China market.
Shang Chuang, director of investor relations and corporate development at Noah Holdings Ltd., a wealth management firm, said, "I'm not surprised that corporations are buying art. I would say the appreciation of contemporary Chinese art is client-driven as more businesses are targeting or having more Chinese customers."
Chinese artwork appears poised for an economic boom while on the brink of receiving greater attention from the world. A rise in the value of Chinese art could inspire a stronger appreciation for studying China's history, literature, culture and society as a whole. Promoting Chinese art improves the nation's image and fortifies its soft power diplomacy. Art appeals to beauty, while the aesthetics of Chinese art amplifies beauty all the more.
Thinking about Chinese art merely as an investment fails to be sufficient. They say there are no guarantees in life except for death and taxes; therefore purchasing valuable Chinese art does not ensure a profit. If an investment goes bad, does that mean the investor should withhold an appreciation for Chinese art? Certainly not, but when someone views the world only in monetary terms, one would lack a sincere appreciation in art for art's sake.
Hence, Chinese art deserves more global recognition, not just for its overall investment value, but for its propensity to highlight beauty and the intricate depictions of the China of an ancient age. Some Chinese art embodies the Chinese folktales where mythical dragons and serpents reigned supreme in Chinese literature and its oral traditions. Through a greater appreciation of Chinese art the world can better understand the mysteries and wonders of China.