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Guangzhou, China
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"Wild Horses" painting by Mu Yang Shen Li Zheng Tian Craig Mattoli and Da Zhong Zhang "The Corn Barn" oil painting by Guang Zhi Zhang Zhao Qian Xu "Hilary Clinton" painting by Ri Dong Ou Dapu (Ai Min Zhaing) painting "The Herders" "Tibetan Man" portrait by Feng Wu Sui "Fallen Flowers" by Zhao Bao Cheng

Kuo's gully, mixed media painting by Zhang Zhen Jiang Gazing by Zhao Qian Xu Artist Zhang Zhen Jiang Yi Xing Ma artist Liang Jun Yan and a Lama Manchu Minority Dance by Zhao Bao Cheng
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Chinese painting has evolved far beyond those traditional, sparsely-painted, brush and ink paintings that most people think of when they think about Chinese painting.  In reality, there is much more to Chinese wall art than just those types of paintings, and there has been for over 200 years, even though the general public may be unaware of it.

The Renaissance Italians were responsible for modern oil painting, using perspective and chiaroscuro, and China and Italy have been friends since Marco Polo's time, even before that.   It was an Italian, Giuseppe Castiglione, who infected China with the new painting techniques of the western world, in the mid-1700's.  The Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty commissioned Castiglione to design a new wing for the Summer Palace (the same New Summer Palace from which came the controversial rabbit and rat heads for the Zodiac Fountain designed by the French designer, Michel Benoist, and recently put up for auction from the YSL estate), and over the years working for the Qianlong Emperor, Castiglione also did a large number of portraits of the Emperor and his court (and courtesans) and landscape paintings, which became the original basis for the Westernized modern Chinese oil painting art. 

Although not part of the mainstream of Chinese painting over the succeding hundred or so years, Western oil painting techniques moved to the forefront of Chinese painting, in the early 1900's, through the cultural revolution of the final years of the Qing Dynasty. The result was the birth to the Shanghai School of painting, led by artists, like Bei Hong Xu (Xu Bei Hong); and the rest, except for the dark days of China, in the mid-twentieth century, is simply Chinese art history.  Among the early developers of modern Chinese oil painting was Feng Mian Lin (Lin Feng Mian), originally from Guangdong Province, and mentor of some of the artists whose works we offer at the Leona Craig Art Gallery, today.  Indeed, he and many of those other early twentieth century Chinese oil painters went to the West to study with artists in the newer movements in Western art, such as Impressionism and other early forms of modern painting, to help bring about a full integration of Western painting techniques, in modern Chinese art.  It seems fitting, at least to us, that an Italian-American finds himself, in China, in the twenty-first century, working to reintegrate the modern Chinese art, originally spawned by another Italian, so many years ago, back into the Western decoration mainstream.  Moreover, I believe that it is the proper time, not only in terms of complete synthesis that makes it completely interchangeable with Western art, except the faces in portraits might look like the came from the orient.  

From the end of the Qing Dynasty, in to the mid-century, Western oil painting techniques flourished, and more, now famous, Chinese artists, like the original founders of the Shanghai-Hangzhou School, also went to study, in the West.  Then, during Mao's cultural revolution, art and other intellectual pursuits were stifled for several decades, only to reemerge, even more hardy, in the early 1980's.  Today, you can see Impressionist scenes from the early 1900's through today that you would not realize were painted by a modern Chinese artist.  You can see realism, pointillism, deconstructionism, cubism, abstract, political, figurative portraiture, symbolism, surrealism, and pop culture art, and you might not suspect that it was from China, unless you became suspicious because a person in a portrait was Chinese.  But even some of those, like Da Zhong Zhang's "Red Guard Girl" series, have international appeal.  Indeed, some of the subject matter is quite a refreshing change from Western themes, while with others you would never be able to tell that it was done by a Chinese artist rather than one from the West.

Although Chinese art and artists have avidly adapted and developed, over the last several decades, the demand side of the art markets, in China, are still in the early developmental stages.  In the West, everyone is into interior decoration, at least a little bit, no matter how rich or how poor they are.  It is just part of having a comfortable, warm, and inviting environment to come home to: such things, as we say, make a house a home.  Most of the time, in China, when I visit people's homes, I am shocked to see bare walls and floors: wall art and rugs are just not a part of the mentality, like they are in the West.  When it comes to finer art, there is a dearth of galleries and auction houses.  Collecting art has only come into vogue about a decade or so ago, and the number of collectors is still relatively small.  That resulted in a pop in prices about a decade ago and another in 2005, but the trend has generally been downward over the period.  Given the overall make up of the market, the Chinese art market is an inefficient market, which is what we specialize in at Red Hill Capital and why we have chosen to focus on Chinese art markets at Leona Craig.  Another important ingredient of the equation is that the Chinese Yuan is currently greatly undervalued vis-a-vis major Western currencies (see: "You're Missing the Point" on the In Country Analysis page of our website).  The combination of those factors makes the Chinese art market a particularly advantageous medium for investment, at the present time, with potential gains both from development of the art market structure and from appreciation of the Yuan, over the next decade.

At Leona Craig, we believe that art should be for everybody, and as someone who has been buying art, in one form or another since my first year of college, I know that nice art is accessible to everyone.  At Leona Craig, we have original paintings by well-know Chinese artists, in wide range of prices.  We also offer another incredible wall art venue: hand embroidered pictures.  These embroidery works contain rich colors and texture and are so detailed that they look like paintings.  They involve real artistic talent and can take up to a year to complete. Although embroidery is not unknown, in the West, it is nothing like that, in China, which is fantastically and intricately done in elaborate scenes.  In the art and antique collection at the inn that I owned in the 1990's, I had some American folk art embroidered pictures, but they were nowhere near this beautiful and intricate.  There are actually, four different styles, in China.  For now, we have chosen the southern, Hunan style to include in our catalogue, but the silk thread that is used is from Suzhou, in the north, and is the highest quality thread for Chinese embroidery art.  Moreover, like many traditional crafts, it is a dying art and is being supplanted by machine-made copies.  The true hand-made ones that we offer, in our gallery, are of the highest quality and will become even more valuable as they become more scarce. 

We are developing relationships with  artists, dealers, and art auction houses, and we are networking with the greater Chinese art and investment community.  We have developed a relationship with a studio in Hunan that creates high quality hand-embroidered landscapes and portraits in the so-called Xiangxiu style of Chinese hand-embroidery art (there are four distinct styles, in all, in China).    We are constantly looking for new artists to add to our gallery and we encourage other artists, who are presently not represented in our gallery, to contact us.  Please, email us, send some representative works and prices, and we will see if we can include your work, in our galleries.

Many of the paintings displayed in our on-line gallery are available for viewing at our gallery, in Guangzhou, although some may be stored or displayed at other locations, while others may still be at the artists' studios with us acting as portal and agent for those works.  If you are interested in a particular painting, please, call or email, so that we can make sure we have the work in our gallery when you visit.

Some of the wall art that we sell in the Leona Craig Art Gallery comes already matted and framed, such as the hand embroidered scenes and portraits and the smaller original paintings.  Larger fine art canvas paintings will be taken off of their stretchers, rolled, and shipped in tubes.  However, if there is a particularly nice frame in which the painting was originally framed, we will also dismantle and ship it along with the painting at your request.  Original art will also, of course, come with provenance. 

One more thing to note is that we have used the traditional Western order of naming for our artists in the wall art and sculpture pages, which is, last name last.  Traditional Chinese name order is last name first.  Moreover, sometimes Chinese names are written on English language sites with the first and middle names combined.  Thus, you might find our Mu Yang Shen as Shen Mu Yang or Shen Muyang, in other websites or references.

You can learn more about the Chinese art markets and art investment on our In Country Analysis page where we have made a number of research reports from Leona Craig Art and Red Hill Capital Corporation available for download.

 
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