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OCAT Xi’an – “Each to His Own: Li Wendong, Wei Xingye Collection Exhibition”

In recent years the art world has become increasingly dominated by taste. That taste belongs to a small circle of international art collectors and the influence they wield among followers of their preferences (from gallerists to artists to other collectors). They purchase their art from a relatively small number of galleries and dealers who are adept at managing those tastes in the same measure they manage the careers of the artists they represent. The relationship enjoys a comfortably reciprocity.


So what kind of people collect art and why? The art world and its machine-like business operation today employs hundreds of thousands of individuals who work in galleries, art fairs and associated media platforms: from handlers to production teams, and collections managers, from marketing and professionals, to gallerists, artists, critics and curators. Why is the number of collectors still relatively small? Is collecting, as the leading US collector and private museum owner Eli Broad states, “more than just buying objects”? If so, what is that “more”?

There are many views on the process of collecting art. Significant to the impetus behind “Each to His Own”, as the exhibition of works from the collectors of two local collectors Li Wendong and Wei Xingye, collecting is no longer an elitist pastime but one that is natural to these times. With more artists at work today than at any time in past history, art is available to all. Anyone with an interest can collect; and collecting begins with a single work. Brilliant, but cynical art critic Robert Hughes is famed for describing, “a fair price is the highest one a collector can be induced to pay,” Yet you do not have to be wealthy to collect; certainly, wealth will not make a collector a great collector.

Emphatic in the title for this exhibition, “Each to His Own”, there is no single rule book for engaging with art. The well-known collector of Chinese art, Swiss national Uli Sigg, describes himself as a “researcher” and his collection as representing the “documentation” of that research. As every important artist owns a character that is distinct in their work, a collection of art is also circumscribed by the philosophy of its creator. For “Each to His Own”, curator Dai Zhuoqun returns to Xi’an to present his assessment of the work that Li Wendong and Wei Xingye have done as part of their own personal research into the art that interests them thus far.

“Each to His Own” is one of a series of projects initiated by OCAT Xi’an in 2016 aimed at expanding its engagement with the art scene in Xi’an. The exhibition begins with a series of talks involving the collectors, exhibition curator Dai Zhuoqun, artists whose works are represented in the collection, and specially invited guests from the art world who will come together to discuss this dynamic and evolving scene.

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