Taking a Chinese artist to Shanghai might seem unnecessary, but for Hong Kong-born Catherine Kwai, a new exhibition is the culmination of a decade-long effort to help people appreciate more than the price of contemporary art. Long before Shanghai was on the map for international art, she arranged an exhibition by French artist Marcel Mouly at the Shanghai Art Museum in 1997. Insurance companies initially refused to cover shipping the paintings to the mainland, so unusual was such an exhibition at the time. 'Where's China? It's Communist. Do you think it's a good idea?' said the renowned artist, who was then in his late 70s. However, Shanghai has all along been receptive to foreign art as it tries to mould itself into an 'international city' and become a centre for art collecting, she said. 'Shanghai is very open to foreign art, the great masters or local Shanghai artists. 'But there's not much priority to bring artists from other provinces,' said Ms Kwai, managing director of Hong Kong-based Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery. So the latest challenge was to bring the work of Hubei province-born Fang Shaohua , now based in Guangzhou, to the mainland's commercial capital. Fang is one of the few artists recognised for his role in shaping the history of Chinese contemporary art for his expressionist style. The political content of his work proved to be another sticking point and eventually six works were withdrawn from the exhibition. Paintings depicting the late leaders Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong were taboo, but the model communist soldier Lei Feng made the grade. Around 50 works of Fang went on display at the Shanghai Art Museum on January 13 through the help of co-organiser the Shanghai-Hong Kong Cultural Exchange Association, linked to the Shanghai government. A lot of Chinese contemporary art is 'about repressing problems of existing in China, anger, frustration. It's all the negative sides of a human being. It's a little bit political and critical', Ms Kwai said. Those qualities have also discouraged mainland buyers, until recent surges in prices on overseas markets convinced them otherwise. 'Most Chinese don't know how to appreciate contemporary art. They only know how to appreciate figures, realism,' she said. Ms Kwai sees a role for Hong Kong as a centre for an international art dealing. 'It's like a stock market,' she said. She has considered opening a branch of her gallery in Shanghai, but believes the time is not ripe. After a career in banking and insurance, she opened the original gallery in Hong Kong in 1992. Four years later, she opened an art consultancy that helps multinational corporations manage their collections and installs art in hotels and commercial buildings. One of her projects on the mainland was installing art at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Shenzhen, but recently she has looked further afield for clients, such as the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow. Chinese hotel developers tend to impose low budgets for buying art and prefer copies, rather than the real thing, she said. 'What I try to do is like a cultural exchange. The market here is not mature,' she said.