China’s Global Post is very proud of Fang Lijun, one of China’s richest artists. He got that way by holding on to most of his work until the rush of the mid-199os, then he did some savvy trading and placement:
“I just thought that every piece of my work was precious, and didn’t want them to be collected by different individual collectors,” Fang told the Global Times. “Once it falls in the hands of an individual collector it might never have the chance to be seen by more people.” Therefore, Fang tended to sell his works to public museums or institutions; although the prices might be far lower than those offered by a single collector.
Although highly acclaimed for his early fame and subsequent inspiration for others, Fang has also been criticized in recent years for selling out and getting rich by repeating his previous works.
He’s not just an artist anymore. Fang also now owns six restaurants and a small hotel – investments that along with his works probably make him the richest contemporary artist in China.
In the Los Angeles Times story about the Gao brothers who have a show opening in LA, Ai Weiwei takes a swipe at Contemprorary Chinese artists:
“Most Chinese artists just want to make money,” Ai said during an interview in June at his Beijing studio. “They’re filled with internal cowardice…. They’re just looking for material success, and because of that the work becomes so empty.”
The Gao brothers’ art, on the other hand, is a stark appraisal of some of the most sensitive elements of Chinese society, from politicians to prostitutes, Ai said.
The brothers turned to art as an escape after their father, a factory worker, died during the Cultural Revolution, which roiled China in the 1960s and ’70s. The brothers say he was tortured to death; the government said he committed suicide.