Montana artists are gaining exposure in China - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

Montana artists are gaining exposure in China

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In September, a group traveled to Asia to take part in a tour and exhibition called "West on the Left, East on the Right." In September, a group traveled to Asia to take part in a tour and exhibition called "West on the Left, East on the Right."

Montana artists are gaining exposure in China.


In September, a group traveled to Asia to take part in a tour and exhibition called "West on the Left, East on the Right."


They are represented by 1-8-8 Art of Shanghai..


While the organization is established in China, they're looking to put down roots in the United States..

Their budding relationship with Big Sky Country might just make Montana a perfect fit.

The earliest brushstrokes of this latest artistic relationship between Montana and China can be traced back to the streets of Livingston in 2013..

" I saw a group of Chinese tour buses come to Livingston and they immediately went to Albertson's and McDonald's and went straight down to the park and I though wow, what a tremendous opportunity," said Troy Selland, the co-founder of the Yellowstone Asia Initiative.

When one of Selland’s former classmates who works with 188 Art was trying to set up a show in New York or Los Angeles, Selland wondered why not Montana?

“We can do things in Montana where you can be a big fish in a little pond.  We tried it and its been tremendously successful for the past three years,"  said Selland.

The effort got a boost from Governor Steve Bullock's 2014 trade mission to China and has resulted in sales of 90 pieces of art in China totaling almost one and a half million dollars.

During the last three years, Chinese artists have visited Montana and Montana artists have visited China.   Most recently they embarked on a two week tour of Gansu province in Northwest China.  The trip featured stops along the legendary Silk Road to places like the Great Wall, the Dunhuan Sand Dunes and Mogao Caves, and an international cultural expo..

The collaboration has paid off and continues to grow.

"We're now exporting art created in Montana and we're importing great Chinese artists that don't have presence in Montana to showcase their greatness,” said Selland.  “So we're taking the contemporary art business to the next level and we're also monetizing goods that are produced in Montana and exporting them."

One Montana artist who has benefitted is Livingston's Joe Fay.  During the recent trip it was announced one of his works was added to the permanent collection at the Joaquin City Museum.

"The goal of an artist is always to get into collections, that's where you want to be,” said Fay.  “You want to be in place where people can see it for a really long time, for posterity.  So having it seen in China is really exciting for me."

It’s a good fit, considering the role art plays in Montana's economy.

"Art is probably the fifth largest contributor to the economic base in the state,” said Karen Bohlinger of the Montana Arts Council.  “When we from these international partnerships, Montana benefits in two ways, not just through the arts but also the eco-tourism."

"We really want to have more Montana artists, their works coming to China and to be recognized and to sell in this market,” said 188 Art founder Yan Zhuping.  “In the same way as the art works from East Asia we want to have more works introduced to American people and we want to use Montana as the initial point and then expand to the rest of the states."

Selland says Montana, and Bozeman in particular, is on a short list with Washington for the project's American headquarters.

"We've shortlisted the state of Montana, specifically Bozeman speaks to them.  Especially with the efforts the Governor has given, the Ambassador has given, the City of Bozeman has given, the Montana Arts Council,” said Selland. 

Selland says the 188 Art hopes to announce the location of it’s U.S. headquarters in January.

Currently, 188 Art represents about 150 Chinese and 30 American artists.  That number could soon grow considerably.

"We're looking to recruit 200 to 300 artists with output being 60 artists selected for our next round of artists,” said Selland.  “So that call will go out at the end of this quarter or early 2017."

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