The cultural nexus that is Kunming hosts an increasingly well-known art scene. Brought to the public by creative spaces like the Loft, Kunming’s art community now offers a wide variety of artists and styles. Even a few years ago, it would have been difficult to find real minority handicrafts and work by local artists without knowing someone. Now there are a few districts packed with art galleries and shops, and the only trouble you might have art shopping is knowing where to start.
1) Yunnan Provincial Art Gallery
As the official gallery of the province, the Yunnan Provincial Art Museum has a pretty fair representation of what’s happening in the popular art scene. However, for a government building, it’s small and extremely hard to find. You’ll find it under it a small sign, only in Chinese, on Qingnian Lu just off of Dongfeng Square. Take the stairs to the third floor- the elevator jumps straight to the fourth.
Hu Ling, the curator, was happy to show me around and explain some of the paintings to me. There seemed to be a fair mix of traditional Chinese bird-and-flower paintings and a few more modern styles, which Hu confirmed. They prefer to feature samples of the most well-known artists in Yunnan, but often accept submissions from new artists. If you feel moved enough to buy any of the paintings, the gallery is happy to get a price from the artist. Hu also told me a minority-centered gallery will be opening on the second floor sometime in June, 2011.
Yunnan Provincial Art Gallery 云南画院（云南美术馆） View In Map
Add: 3F, 371 Qingnian Lu, Kunming
Tel: 087 1311 0513
Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00
2) Yunnan University Student Art Gallery
If you’re looking to meet some up-and-comers and maybe come away with a deal on a painting, check out the gallery in the Yunnan University Science Building. Recently opened, the university art gallery features the work of post-graduate artists and guest professors. Each student displays his or her work for two days then switches. The times are organized by the students, so the only way to know what’s being shown is to go and find out.
It’s easy enough to find- just go to the second floor of the science building (conveniently labeled “Science” in English) inside the West gate of the university. Expect to find half-finished canvases strewn about and paint-spattered students happy to show you the way to the gallery. There’s a good chance the artists will be there and willing to talk about their work and the price. It’s a chance to support some real aspiring artists instead of the touts that approach you at tourist areas in Shanghai and Beijing.
Yunnan University Art Gallery 云南大学画馆 View In Map
Add: 2F, Yunnan University Science Building, Kunming
3) Psycho Graphics
Owner Huanhuan started Psycho Graphics four years ago to, as he said, finally make some money off his art. Now a favorite hangout for foreigners and Chinese alike, Psycho Graphics is responsible for a lot of the band posters and funky T-shirts you’ll see around town. Some of it plays on local Kunming images and sayings, but a lot of it looks like the color-blasted propaganda parody pop art that’s still popular around China.
Besides the posters and pictures adorning the walls, there’s also a fun selection of T-shirts, hats, bags and notebooks if you’re looking for a less expensive gift. Huanhuan describes his art as hip-hop in images, and there’s plenty of shirts with graffiti and turntables. You’ll also be able to find some more contemplative Buddhist-inspired work, which is what really makes Psycho Graphics worth a visit.
Tian Jun Dian AlleyView In Map
Add: Behind the Yunnan Normal University Primary School, Kunming
Tel: 087 1664 6160
4) Custom Bags by A Ling
Although the name hasn’t changed since A Ling opened her shop four years ago, she’s added a lot to her repertoire and now sells all sorts of handcrafts from handmade bags and necklaces to a few paintings in the colorful local style. Her cloth paintings, made from collected scraps and cutoffs, are the real treat.
It’s a pretty small shop, and the best way to find it is walk through Tian Jun Dian Xiang until you find A Ling or her sister out front sewing together a new bag or finishing a hemp bracelet. From there she’ll be happy to explain the story behind any piece (she also speaks English). With bracelets in the low hundreds and cloth paintings ranging from a few hundred RMB to a few thousand, it’s a good place to pick up something representative of the Yunnan minority style.
A Ling’s bags (Little Black Island)小黑岛 View In Map
Add: 103 Tian Jun Dian Alley, Kunming
5) Jun Lai Fang
If you’re looking for more of a traditional Chinese style of painting, then check out the south end of Hua Shan Road. There’s a good eight or nine stores selling art of all kinds and qualities. Nice copies can go for as low as 500 RMB, while works by well-known artists retail in the hundreds of thousands.
Nestled amongst the calligraphy and portrait galleries of Hua Shan Road, Jun Lai Fang stands out as a serious and professional gallery that attracts some of Yunnan’s top talent. Curator Mr. Chen has been displaying the works of high level artists like Wong Puyuan and Yang Yizhang for about ten years. Although some larger works have price tags in the millions, Chen showed me a few for as low as 2,000 RMB. He also pointed out a few works by Yi and Bai minority painters as well. Even if you’re not looking to buy, this is a great place to check out some top-notch art.
Junlai Fang君来访 View In Map
Add: 116 Hua Shan Nan Lu, Kunming
Tel: 087 1363 2358
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Keywords: art galleries in Kunming Kunming minority arts and crafts buying paintings in Kunming art for sale in Kunming
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