By  on September 17, 2007

SHANGHAI — If there was ever any question whether the red-hot market surrounding contemporary Chinese art was fact or fiction, the recently staged art fair ShContemporary put the hype to the test last weekend.

Art galleries are only the latest companies seeking to tap into the growing Chinese market for luxury goods. As the number of millionaires increases, construction from Shanghai to Shenzhen runs amok, expensive restaurants are packed every night and luxury brands open stores even in secondary cities, everyone is hopping onto the train of China's economic boom.

ShContemporary, held from Sept. 6 to 9, was founded by former Art Basel director Lorenzo Rudolf and took over just about every inch of the massive 40,000-square-foot Shanghai Exhibition Center, an ornate, Baroque building built by the Russians in the Fifties. With more than 100 galleries and ambitions of becoming an Art Basel-esque art world destination, ShContemporary mixed established local galleries such as Contrasts and ShanghART with blue-chip names from London and New York, including Marlborough, James Cohan and the Albion Gallery. There also were galleries from Seoul, Taipei and New Delhi.

Days before the fair had officially begun, parties and openings were happening all over Shanghai, further heightening the booming Chinese city's already frenetic atmosphere. Two days before the opening, the fair's artistic director, Pierre Huber, hosted a cocktail party for exhibitors at Glamour Bar, located on Shanghai's historic riverfront district, the Bund.

On opening night, Contrasts Gallery owner and socialite Pearl Lam threw a dinner for 250 guests, a lavish affair that included drag performers and where dinner wasn't served until around midnight. [For more about Lam, see sidebar.] Guests included Chinese socialite Bao Bao Wan, Shanghai Tang creative director Joanne Ooi and Miami developer Craig Robins, a major collector who was instrumental in giving life to Art Basel Miami Beach and recently, Design Miami. "I love it here in Shanghai," Robins said just before heading up to dinner. "I'm here in China just about every month."

During the fair, exhibitors were treated to a host of openings at 50 Moganshan Lu, the warehouse district of galleries that is Shanghai's current gallery epicenter, and a performance at a local club by the Chinese rock band Second Hand Rose, sponsored by Beijing Art Now Gallery. On Sept. 7, Hermès hosted a party at the Shanghai Art Museum to unveil "Tales of the Silk," an exhibition about the silk trade in China, featuring scarves designed by Chinese artist Ding Yi, products the luxury goods house will be carrying only in China.

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