OFOTO based in the Moganshan Road art district of Shanghai is deceptively large, with a number of rooms leading off from the main gallery. The gallery curator, Luo Yongjin, spent some time with me explaining the way they create their programme, the international partnerships they have established and the challenges of trying to sell work to keep the doors open. One part of the conversation led us to discuss the differences between visitors. He told me it is extremely rare for Chinese parents to take their children to a gallery, saying that most families who visit are western. This leads on to a general issue that I came across about the nature of visual arts audiences in China: there exists the perception that you only go to galleries to buy art, not simply to be part of a viewing experience.
The differences born of a private art system and public one are fairly obvious: notions of participation and audience development just aren’t a priority without a publicly funded agenda. The system in China is very much dominated by the fact that it is still a developing country, however, with the rise of a new urban class being a relatively recent phenomenon, the interest in art is surely set to develop beyond recognition. Considering that galleries in China only began springing up in the last 10 years, and that in Shanghai, a city of 19 million people, the art district is comparatively minute, I’m certain the best is yet to come!