Bushwick Gallery Owner Says President Trump’s Tariffs May Affect His Business

Angely Mercado

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Local gallery owner Harry Zhang is worried that President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports will affect is business. 

Zhang runs Zhang Gallery in Bushwick and mainly works with up and coming artists from China. President Trump’s proposed tariffs would add a 25 percent tax to over affect about $200 billion worth of Chinese imports including cultural items like paintings. 

“Protectionism against cultural diversity is a fundamentally un-American proposition and is certainly not what ‘made our country great’” said Zhang through a press release.

The tariffs were announced in July and a report in Artsy outlines that having duty free imports from China has made the United States the world’s largest art market “accounting for 42 percent of global sales in 2017.” China is the second biggest global market for art. 

Collectors and gallery owners like Zhang worry about how they’re supposed to distribute the the tariffs. He thinks it might make it difficult for newer artists to reach American collectors. He also feels that restricting the flow of culture and ideas would just close off the United States. 

“Whether it’s passed on to collectors or passed on dealers or collector and dealers and artists… no one knows how we’re going to deal with it,” he said. “We’re trying to ship as many things as possible [to Bushwick].”

@boersli_gallery for the #closingreception of their #brushandbeyond exhibition. I proposed the question in a couple of our previous videos as to "what makes Chinese oil paintings unique?". While such a question begs no simple answer, this exhibition did end up demonstrating one possible approach towards it: the influence of ink. It's always interesting to see the influence of traditional Chinese ink painting on the aesthetic of contemporary Chinese oil paintings. Whether through brushstroke techniques, choices of color, arrangements of composition, or selections of subject matter, Chinese artists are often inevitably influenced by traditional ink art due to its integration into China's art education system. Follow me @harrymzhang to see if I ever come up with a satisfactory answer to this question of what makes Chinese oil paintings unique.

A post shared by Harry Zhang (@harrymzhang) on

Zhang has tried to consider sending art from mainland China to Hong Kong and then shipping it out to New York, but that wouldn’t work since the packages would be tracked. 

He’s also afraid that it would affect some of the newer Chinese artists since mainland China does not have access to platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook that would help them reach American collectors. Zhang doesn’t think platforms like WeChat could help newer artists reach as many international collectors. 

He also doesn’t see how the tariffs give the United States and art businesses in Brooklyn like his the upper hand. 

“It’s the Americans who get hurt. My business is here registered in NYC–this American company through me gets hurt,” he said. 

Zhang hopes that things are resolved without the need for tariffs, especially since New York City is a hub for international art dealing and viewing both in private galleries like his and in public museums. 

Discussions on the potential tariffs on Chinese imports are supposed to conclude this week. Some reports like this one in NPR show that if tariffs are imposed on even more items, it set off one of the largest trade wars in economic history.

Cover photo courtesy of Antenna

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