The slowdown in the Chinese contemporary art market is not surprising, according to Fang Zhenning, an independent art critic in Beijing.
"Art works are commodities, just like sugar or copper. The art market, like any other market, is speculative in nature and has its ups and downs," he said.
Fang said the challenge for China's prominent artists, such as Zhang Xiaogang and Yue Minjun, is to see whether they can keep innovating.
"To change or to repeat themselves. That's the question," he said.
The overheated Chinese art market also raised issues for rising young artists.
"What people are concerned about is all these young artists coming to the art world as a job rather than as a creative thing," said Wallace.
"They've got the skills and they know the market is here. So you see a lot of repetitiveness in their subject matter, particularly in place like 798," he said.
A key problem has been the absence of training programs for museum professionals in China, a country where the term “curator” did not exist ten years ago. Even now, there is only one program in curatorial studies, run by the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, which is graduating its first class this year. “In China, we didn’t have degrees such as arts management or curatorial studies, so most of the museum directors were originally artists,” says Fan Di’an, who like many directors in China got his position through political appointment. Lack of training is evident at all levels of museum management, as is an absence of professional art handlers and restorers, all of which results in poorly installed exhibitions and damaged artworks, especially at state-run museums. “They have no practice, and they are not interested in developing the proper standards,” comments Marie-Laure Jousset, head of the Pompidou Center’s design department and curator of the exhibition “Fabrica: les yeux ouverts,” which was on view last fall at the Shanghai Art Museum. Jousset had to bring an entire crew of installers and art handlers to Shanghai to ensure proper care of the artworks. “They want the event, and they want our name, but they don’t want to spend money,” she laments. “We had to have long discussions about how a museum has to reach a certain level in order to gain credibility.”