Shanghai Social Diary: Shanghai Fine Jewellery & Art Fair

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Shanghai Fine Jewellery & Art Fair (SFJAF) 2012 will take place in November. The fair has attracted elite international galleries thanks to China’s booming economy and newfound interest in luxury goods and Western art.

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.

Aptly, the Shanghai Fine Jewellery & Art Fair logo combines the modern and the traditional: it’s a stylized version of a dragon, a symbol that has been used in Chinese art since the Neolithic era.


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 Chanel store in the Plaza 66 shopping center is one of the brand’s five outposts in Shanghai.
China is the largest market for Louis Vuitton, accounting for 15% of its global sales in 2011.
It’s not uncommon to see flashy luxury cars, like this bright yellow Ferrari, on the streets of Shanghai.
If yellow’s not your thing, try a silver Porsche instead.

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.

SFJAF General Manager Irina Berko, Viviane Berko, Nicolò Mori, Maria Victoria Caio Mori, and Patrick Berko.
Maximin Berko and his mother Viviane Berko.

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!”

L to R.: A view of the Rockbund neighborhood, where the last fair took place, with the Pearl Tower in the background.; In the Rockbund area are colonial buildings that have been restored to their former glory, along with a new Peninsula Hotel, the Rockbund Museum, upscale restaurants, and high-end offices.


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 Shanghai Fine Jewellery and Art Fair rolled out the red carpet at the Rockbund.
Nicolò Mori, Eddie Lim, Shelley Lim, Vanna Teng, and Wang Xiao Hui.
L to R.: Pearl Lam and Nicolò Mori.; Vanna Teng and Jean-Pierre Heim.
Lillia Jarvi (left), wife of Maestro Neeme Jarvi, with Shirley Young.
Crowds lined the red carpet to enter the intimate event.
Nicolò Mori with Geoff Mannering and his wife, Adriana Grimaldi Mannering.
Jenny Chen, Sergio Young, Jeanne Lawrence, and Vanna Teng.
Maximin Berko, Vanna Teng, and Nicolò Mori.
Robin Markbreiter, Maximin Berko, Michael Zada, Arts of Asia magazine founder Nguyet Tuyet, and Chiang Oiling.
Pingping Chao and Nicolò Mori.
Grace Chiao, Martin Xu, Yue-Sai Kan, Lilly Yang, and Suzy Wang.
Irina Berko with Nicolò Mori and his wife, Maria Victoria Caio Mori.
L to R.: Leng Jinhua; Grace Chiao; Two beauties.
Viviane Berko, Patrick Berko, and Nguyet Tuyet at the Berko Fine Paintings display.
Viviane and Patrick Berko showcased their love of 19th century art, including the Academic, Realist, Orientalist, and Romantic schools of painting and the Belle Époque period.
SFJAF organizer Nicolò Mori and Hugo Liao of JGM Galerie Paris-Shanghai.
JGM Galerie Paris-Shanghai showcases contemporary and monumental art and design.
JGM Galerie Paris. Artist Zhang Huan’s mirror-finished stainless steel pandas, “Hehe Xiexie. Larger versions were displayed at the Shanghai World Expo 2010.
Also exhibiting was Pearl Lam, whose eponymous galleries in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing show a fusion of European and Chinese artwork and design.
Defne Ayas and Kiko Sih at the Pearl Lam Gallery display.
Kiko Sih and Jeanne Lawrence.
Hong Kong-based jewelry designer Kai-Yin Lo flew in to exhibit her Asian-inspired design.
Kai-Yin Lo’s organic-looking pieces are made with semi-precious stones and feature Asian motifs such as knots, Buddhist symbols, and lingzhi mushroom-like shapes.
In the U.S., Kai-Yin Lo’s jewelry can be purchased at the gift shop of the Asia Society in New York City.
Paris-based jewelry designer and exhibitor Laurence de Gramont with Nicolò Mori.
Michele and Robert Bowman, of London’s Robert Bowman Gallery.
Robert Bowman Gallery showcases 19th- and early 20th-century sculpture.
More from Robert Bowman Gallery.
Yang Renrui and Nicolò Mori.
Gisèle’s Brussels gallery, Arts d’Extrême-Orient, focuses on ancient Chinese works of art. I’ve admired Gisèle’s fine eye since I first saw her objects at a New York Fall Antiques Show. I still wish I had bought the lovely bamboo Chinese garniture she displayed there.
L to R.: I was impressed that Belgian dealer and Chinese art expert Gisèle Croës (at left, with Nicolò Mori) attended.; Teresa Coleman, whose Hong Kong-based gallery Teresa Coleman Fine Arts Ltd, specializes in antique Chinese embroidered costumes and textiles.
Nicolò Mori and Antoine Barrere.
Antoine Barrere artworks.
More at Antoine Barrere’s booth.
Bernard de Leye’s display showcased European tableware from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Irina Berko and chandelier dealer Louis-Pierre Denil.
Chandeliers from Louis-Pierre Denil’s collection.
Marlborough Gallery focuses on important contemporary masters.
Rockbund by night.


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.

The 2012 Fair will be held in the Shanghai Exhibition Center on Nanjing West Street, a prime address for high-end shopping, hotels, and businesses in the heart of the city.
Built in 1955 and originally called the Palace of Sino-Soviet Friendship, the ornate architectural statement was considered a masterpiece of Stalinist design.
The Soviets — who helped finance the palace to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Chinese Communists’ Civil War victory — would no doubt be flabbergasted to see it used as a showcase for capitalist luxuries today.
You can see from the grand architectural features of the Shanghai Exhibition Center why it’s in demand for luxury shows.

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

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

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.

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