Mark your calendars: the Shanghai Fine Jewellery and Art Fair (SFJAF) will be held here a third time this November (3-11) at the Shanghai Exhibition Center.
As a premier fine art and jewelry fair in China, the SFJAF has attracted some of the world’s most elite art galleries who will display antiques, Old Master paintings, contemporary art, and fine jewelry in a gorgeous, historical venue.
THE LUXURY MARKET IN CHINA
Since my arrival in China in 2008, I’ve seen international businesses of all stripes flock here as world economies elsewhere stagnate or go into decline.
With a population of more than 1.3 billion citizens and an increasing middle- and upper-class population, China has the fastest-growing economy in the world. Businesses whose home markets are saturated are expanding in China.
The growing number of well-educated and well-traveled millionaires and billionaires in China has attracted many luxury businesses. There are more Chanel stores in Shanghai now than in Manhattan (imagine!) and China is the second largest consumer of luxury watches in the world. In 2011, sales of BMW and Mercedes cars in China kept pace with the U.S.
The demand for art is flourishing too. According to a report commissioned by the European Fine Art Foundation, in 2011 China outpaced the U.S. as the world’s biggest market for art and antiques. This trend is attributed to improved education and a more global worldview among Chinese people.
The Shanghai Fine Jewellery and Art Fair is emblematic of this tide. Early on, Belgian organizers Max Berko and Nicolò Filippo Mori, the SFJAF vice president and president, respectively, recognized an untapped market in mainland China for a high-end art fair like the Netherlands’ TEFAF Maastricht or the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires.
Fine art is in Max’s blood. His parents, Patrick and Viviane Berko, founded the Berko Fine Paintings gallery in Belgium. While growing up, Max often accompanied his parents to international art shows, eventually becoming involved in the business and later specializing in Chinese archeology.
Nicolò, who holds a doctorate in economics and with experience in management of international companies, brings a business background to the partnership. Together, they had the winning combination to make the SFJAF a success.
The inaugural fair in 2007 showcased more than $600 million worth of works by icons such as Chagall, Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Warhol, andVan Dyck along with other artworks, antiques, furniture, tapestry, sculpture, silverwork, rare objects, and jewelry.
The organizers have chosen to keep the fair small and elite, hosting just 20 to 30 selected exhibitors in order to give them personal attention. The Exhibitors are all vetted by an independent committee of international museum curators and non-exhibiting experts.
Shanghai-based celebrity entrepreneur Yue-Sai Kan, a member of the SFJAF Committee of Honor, calls it “simply the best fine jewelry and antiques show in China!”
SFJAF GALA 2010
Having been fortunate enough to attend the second Fair in 2010, I can show you a preview of what you have to look forward to this year in November 2012.
At the grand opening, many in the crowd seemed to know each other, which made for pleasant chitchat. A private VIP dinner was held afterward, with guests flying in from Hong Kong, Beijing, and around the world.
THE FUTURE OF THE SFJAF LOOKS BRIGHT
The initial participating dealers were the risk-takers, the first to put their toes into the market on the other side of the world. But Max and Nicolò report a change in attitude. While much of the global economy is at a standstill, China is booming, so galleries and dealers are now clamoring to participate.
Dealers exhibiting in 2012 include loyal supporters such as Berko Fine Paintings, Galerie Jacques Barrere, Galerie Bernard De Leye, and the Pearl Lam Gallery, plus other leading European and Asian galleries. (For a complete list go to www.sfjaf.com)
The Committee of Honor, members of the international art community who support the show, includes heavy hitters such as designers Mario Buatta, Jacques Grange, Susan Gutfreund, Juan Pablo Molyneux, and Rose Tarlow; collectorsRobert Ellsworth, Martin and Audrey Gruss, Jean-Paul Guerlain, Wilbur and Hilary Ross, andBaron and Baroness Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten; Belgium’s ambassador to China, Patrick Nijs; former Architectural Digest editor Paige Rense; and other local luminaries such as Pansy Ho, Xing Xiaosheng, and Xu Jian Min.
Max and Nicolò have announced that the Shanghai Fine Jewellery & Art Fair will become an annual event beginning with the 2012 fair, and plans are in the works for smaller art exhibitions in Hangzhou and Beijing.
They dream that SFJAF will someday have the cachet and prestige of fairs such as the Paris Biennale des Antiquaires or TEFAF Maastricht. Though those fairs took years to develop, with the help of their new partner, international exhibitions group MeOrient, Max and Nicolò expect theirs to grow rapidly.
For more information on the Shanghai Fine Jewellery & Art Fair, visit the event website at www.sfjaf.com.
Photographs by Jeanne Lawrence & Arts of Asia.
*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.