Inaugural Shenzhen DnA Design and Art Fair gets off to strong start thanks to keen local collector base

The inaugural Shenzhen DnA Design and Art Fair concluded its five-day run at the Shenzhen Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Planning (MOCAUP) on Monday.

The southern Pearl River Delta boomtown, perched on the border with Hong Kong and known for its manufacturing and design industry, is a relative newcomer to art, with only a handful of commercial galleries running alongside several museums and a renowned architecture and urbanism biennale.

“There is a huge up-and-coming collector base in Shenzhen,” says the fair’s cofounder, Kylie Ying. “We knew it was going to be a fair catering towards the Shenzhen locals rather than an international or nationwide fair. But still the number of people buying is amazing. Many have never bought any art before. It reminded of us the first edition of 021,” Ying says, referring to the Shanghai fair she established in 2013 with Bao Yifeng and David Chau. The trio also founded Beijing’s JingArt in 2018.

The fair drew a predominantly local crowd of collecters

Courtesy of Shenzhen DnA Design and Art Fair

Ying says sales were best at the extremes of the price range: “On one hand, works are anywhere from RMB5,000 to RMB500,000 sold really well, [while] on the other, some works that are over RMB5m exchanged hands.” However, the area “between half a million to RMB5m, the core of a mature art market, is something we want to see Shenzhen develop into.” Shenzhen, Ying says, “is the future for sure! It’s definitely less mature then Shanghai and Beijing, but it might be the biggest [market] one day.”

Vigy Jin, a director of Shanghai’s MadeIn Gallery, says: “Shenzhen collectors and the public proved enthusiastic, polite, curious, interactive and inquiring. This time, we met many local collectors in Shenzhen as well as familiar faces, and also established contacts with Shenzhen institutions and galleries. Shenzhen’s art market is full of potential, and growing fast; its collectors are very accepting of new ideas and visions.”

The 40 participating institutions and galleries, selling contemporary and Modern art as well as collectable design, drew heavily from the organisers’ home base of Shanghai, also including Don Gallery, Antenna Space and ShanghArt. Overseas participants were limited to those with spaces in mainland China, such as Lisson and Almine Rech, and those with representatives based here like Tina Keng and Whitestone. An overlap with China’s week-long National Day holiday facilitated attendance by established collectors from Shanghai as well. Still, Ying says, Shenzhen’s local artists, such as Zhou Li, Xue Feng and Liang Quan, “sold really well: We got tremendous support from the local art scene.”

The founders of Shenzhen DnA Design and Art Fair: Bao Yifeng, Yan Weixin (the curator of MOCAUP), Kylie Ying and David Chau

Liang Quan was shown at the fair by one of the few Shenzhen dealers exhibiting, Mangrove Gallery, which reports selling most of the offered work. “Shenzhen is a city of immigrants, so we view the concept of local or outside galleries as relative. But we are glad that DnA Shenzhen can bring their accumulated experience to Shenzhen at this time to make such a professional fair, which has never been done before,” says Deng Binbin, who founded Mangrove in 2020. “Shenzhen is an imaginative and growing art market, but it needs more patience and foundational cultivation, including the habit of buying artwork.”

Many participating art galleries embraced the design crossover by featuring collectible furniture in their booths, and design galleries in the fair included Shanghai’s Objective Gallery, a co-organiser of Design Miami/Podium x Shanghai, a new fair for collectible design debuting from 4 to 14 November. Tyra Wang, the PR director for both Objective and the upcoming fair, says DnA Shenzhen was “beyond our expectations” with about RMB1m in sales, about half from old clients. Wang finds Shenzhen audiences more “open-minded and curious about art and design” than most cities, which drives the city’s potential—alongside its “hot real estate industry.” And the consumer power of its residents “is also relatively strong, so the overall market is active and vigorous,” Wang adds.