Special reports
Special reports
Special reports

Collector's Eye: Qiao Zhibing

Art lovers talk about the best and worst works they’ve bought

by Julia Michalska  |  21 March 2017
Collector's Eye: Qiao Zhibing
Qiao Zhibing stands in front of the oil tanks being converted to create his new art park, Tank Shanghai
Beijing-born Qiao Zhibing made his fortune in the entertainment industry. He started his career in the 1980s, working as a sound engineer and going on to open his own nightclub in Hainan, followed by two more in Beijing and Shanghai. He began collecting Chinese contemporary art in 2006 and, since 2009, has been looking beyond the country’s borders, adding works to his collection by Western artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Theaster Gates, Danh Vo and Martin Creed. He is attracted to works that relate to his personal experiences, he says. 

Qiao’s collection—much of which is now on show at his four-storey karaoke club Shanghai Night—will soon get a dedicated space, to be called Tank Shanghai, on the West Bund cultural corridor on the banks of Shanghai’s Huangpu river. There, Qiao is converting five disused oil tanks into a 60,000 sq. m art park of exhibition spaces, gardens, shops and restaurants. The project, designed by Open Architecture, is scheduled to open in early 2018. 

The entrepreneur and art collector takes us inside his collection and tells us which artists are hitting the right notes.

The Art Newspaper: How did you first get into collecting?
Qiao Zhibing: I needed to decorate the blank walls in my clubs, so I started buying art.

What was the first piece of art you bought?
It was by a young Chinese artist who’s no longer active in the art world. But the piece still hangs in my home. 

What is the most recent work you have bought?
A work by Wolfgang Tillmans.

What is the most you have ever spent on a piece of art?
One million pounds.

If your house was on fire, which work would you save?
If the house was on fire, it would only be possible to take a small piece and so it might have to be a work by Michaël Borremans. 

If money was no object, what would be your dream purchase?
A work by Gerhard Richter.

Which work in your collection requires the most maintenance?
One by Damien Hirst, soaked in formaldehyde.

Which artists, dead or alive, would you invite to your dream dinner party?
I would like to name three of those dream artists that I no longer have the chance to invite: Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp and Donald Judd. 

What is your preferred way of buying art?
Buying from galleries.

What has been your worst purchase?
A piece of sculpture…

• Qiao Zhibing is taking part in the Art Basel Conversation Supporting the Arts: When Patronage Becomes Form, on 24 March, with Roobina Karode, Veronika Zonabend, François Quintin and Hallam Chow. The talk will be moderated by the architect William Lim

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