By Claire Harlin
There’s an artistic revolution going on in China, a phenomenon that has sprung from a rapidly changing political, social and cultural climate.
“Information there is getting harder and harder for the government to control,” said Lenny Schas, who became involved in this art explosion by opening a gallery in Beijing to collect, trade and educate. “The art scene in China is similar to what happened here in the 1960s.”
After 12 successful years of running the Beijing gallery, Schas decided he wanted to share this moment in Chinese history with America — particularly Del Mar — and he consulted with owner Marc Baza to open a second gallery at 2690 Via de la Valle in the Flower Hill Promenade. The Gallery of Chinese Cultural Arts opened almost a year ago in an unofficial capacity, and celebrated a grand opening on Sept. 17.
The Del Mar gallery is a blend of academic and commercial efforts, both doing exhibitions and providing education.
“It’s not about selling to anyone who walks in the door, but also about being able to teach and encourage people to think and challenge them,” said Schas, adding that the gallery works a lot with prominent collectors and museums.
“A lot of collectors are in San Diego, but generally you have to go to New York or L.A. to find work at this level,” he said. “We hope to keep those people here in San Diego and help develop a sophisticated croup of collectors and viewers.”
China is home to the fastest growing art community in the world, said Schas, with art by Chinese artists often appreciating at auctions by 500 percent. Financial problems that have plagued the United States have only been a “bump in the road” for China, and Chinese artists — even novices — are at “the top of heir game,” he said.
The galleries in Beijing and Del Mar have featured the art of some of the most notable subversives, such as Ai Weiwei, who made headlines when he was arrested in April and held for two months with no official charges being filed.
“These are the people who are really affecting change and documenting it,” said Schas. “We’ve had works of his but the few we get will sell within a day or two.”
Ai Weiei is just one of many artists at the forefront of the cultural and political change going on in China, Schas said.
“The art is so vital and so alive and so relevant,” he said. “It’s going to have a very strong historical context. Now will be the most important time in the Chinese art community.”