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Art Fair Innovations

A research team from the RCA and Shanghai University examined the context, management and delivery of Shanghai’s West Bund Art and Design Fair and explored its relationship to Shanghai’s contemporary art world.

At a glance

  • The project was funded through a UKRI UK-China Creative Industries Partnership Development Award.
  • The project’s academic partners were the RCA and Shanghai University.
  • Activities included round table discussions, participatory workshops, ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with sector leaders.
  • Supporting arts venues and associations in Shanghai included the West Bund Art and Design Fair, the International Awards for Arts Criticism (IAAC), the John Moores Painting Prize China JMPPC), the Minsheng Art Museum and the Shanghai Museum of Glass (SHMoG).

Arts and Humanities Research Council logo

Key details


More information

IAAC 2019 awards press meeting

Art Fair Innovations built on existing professional relationships between academic staff from the RCA and Shanghai University as well as consolidating links with key members of the cultural and commercial arts sectors in Shanghai. These included management and staff of the West Bund Art and Design Fair, the International Awards for Art Criticism (IAAC), the John Moores Painting Prize China (JMPPC), the Minsheng Art Museum and Shanghai Museum of Glass.

The project was led by Professor Juan Cruz, supported by Dr Chantal Faust, with contributions from UK Co-Investigators Dr Peter Oakley, Reader in Material Culture; Dr Eleanor Dare, Head of Programme for MA Digital Direction; and Professor Victoria Walsh, Head of Programme MA Curating Contemporary Art. The Shanghai University Co-Investigator was Ling Min, Associate Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History. Institutional support was provided by Sally Gong, Vice president of Shanghai University, and Zhou Tiehai, Director of the West Bund Art & Design Fair.

Shanghai University logo

Shanghai University is the biggest higher learning institution run by Shanghai Municipality and is listed in the government’s Project 211 university development programme. The 555-acre main Baoshan campus is situated in the north of Shanghai, and there are two other campuses in Jiading and Jing'an. SHU has two undergraduate colleges, five broad academic divisions: Natural Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences, Engineering, Economics and Management, and Fine Arts. These contain 29 independent schools or departments.

West Bund Long Museum signs

In line with the expectations of the call, this was conceived as a collaborative project. In order to understand the multifaceted issues of Shanghai’s contemporary arts world and its key institutions, the UK researchers each took a different focus of study and employed an appropriate, disciplinary-specific methodology, presenting their findings in a subsidiary project report. These insights, as well as reflections on the points of intersection between these studies, were consolidated in the summary project report.

AFI Round Table

Project activities included:

  • Round table discussions with academic and industry experts that took place in Shanghai and London.
  • Specialist participatory workshops on digital curation in both institutional and commercial contexts.
  • Fieldwork exploring the current and future position of ceramics and glass as art media in the contemporary art scene and Shanghai’s wider art sector.
  • Exploratory research on collections development, the impact of current policies and the expansion of the cultural sector in China, especially Shanghai.

Shanghai Museum of Glass red monoliths

To ensure the longer term retention and active dissemination of the insights gained, the project team produced a set of working reports in an easily digestible format:

Cruz J and Faust, C. (2019) Art Fair Innovations: Workshops and Round Table Discussions with Project Partners and Associates

Dare, E. (2019) Art Fair Innovations

Oakley, P. (2019) Material Disciplines in the Shanghai Art World

Walsh, V (2019) Creating and sustaining Value in the Shanghai Arts Ecology

FutureLab, an educational event that took place during November 2019 in Shanghai on the site of the West Bund Art and Design Fair, was directly informed by the findings of Art Fair Innovations.

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Art Fair Innovations

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