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UKRI-Funded Research Explores International Art Fair Innovations

The Royal College of Art is leading a £25,000 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded research project – Art Fair Innovations. Running until August 2019, the research will investigate the dynamic and fast-growing contemporary art scene in Shanghai – a fertile location for the application and transfer of arts and curatorial management expertise.

The research is being led by the RCA’s Professor Juan Cruz – Dean of Arts & Humanities, with contributions from co-investigators Dr Peter Oakley, School of Arts & Humanities Reader in Material Culture; Dr Eleanor Dare, Acting Head of Programme for MA Digital Direction; and Professor Victoria Walsh, Head of Programme MA Curating Contemporary Art. They are working with Ling Min, Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History and Sally Gong, Vice president of Shanghai University, as well as Zhou Tiehai, Director of West Bund Art & Design Fair.

The project will develop a deep understanding of the opportunities and issues relating to the West Bund Art and Design Fair, one of Shanghai’s main arts events, which is important to the city through its cultural enhancement and commercial activity.

Professor Juan Cruz commented: ‘This project will enable us to work with colleagues in Shanghai to explore the hugely dynamic and complex contemporary art market and cultural exchange taking place between the UK and Shanghai. We aim to generate economic and creative innovations by better understanding and articulating the interrelation of the commercial and the public as well as the material and the digital.’

Art Fair Innovations builds on the existing professional relationships between academic staff from the RCA and Chinese academics and key members of the cultural and commercial arts sectors in Shanghai. The project also builds on established partnerships between the RCA and Shanghai University, the West Bund Art and Design Fair, the International Awards for Art Criticism(IAAC), the John Moores Painting Prize China (JMPPC) and the Minsheng Art Museum. The success of JMPPC and IAAC demonstrates the potential benefits of such substantive long-term collaborations between academia and industry.

The research will take place through round table discussions with academic and industry experts in Shanghai and London; participatory workshops on digital curation in both institutional and commercial contexts and on the current and future role of ceramics in the Shanghai art market; and exploratory research on collections development, the impact of current policies and the expansion of the cultural sector in China, especially Shanghai.

The project will benefit cultural institutions and commercial organisations, as well as the wider public in both China and the UK. It will increase understanding across national and cultural boundaries, counter cultural stereotypes of East and West, enhance the creative and cultural economy, and augment business opportunities. Critical academic engagements with the cultural sector in Shanghai and London will increase understanding of cultural dynamics and social responsibility within the arts management, curatorial and art practitioner communities.

The project will culminate in an engagement workshop that will be held on the site of the West Bund Art and Design Fair, and the team will produce a set of working reports in an easily digestible format that will facilitate their distribution to, and reception by, key policy-makers. The abstract for each of the reports will be translated into Chinese to ensure wider relevance. The activities will also act as a series of proof-of-concepts for more extensive and intensive UK-Chinese research engagement with and through the West Bund Art and Design Fair and Shanghai cultural institutions.


Find out more about Research within the School of Arts & Humanities.