Monthly Archives: July 2009

Young Chinese Artists Reflect The Changing Urban Landscape

Exhibition Of Young Chinese Artists In Shanghai Gives Post-Reform Artists New Platform To Find New Audiences

The "Scattered Times" exhibition takes place at Shanghai Times Square

The "Scattered Times" exhibition takes place at Shanghai Times Square

As the art world begins to rebound from the global economic slowdown, this summer has brought plenty of great opportunities to see contemporary Chinese art around the world. With domestic demand growing rapidly, and as more Chinese middle- and upper-class individuals diversify their assets to include mainstays like gold and property but also portable assets like art and jewelry, the Chinese art market has been one of the more active art areas in 2009. As Chinese-American artist Jian Wang recently said after spending several months working in China, “The Chinese art market is very hot, and Chinese contemporary art is seen [by Chinese collectors] as a commodity and a good investment.”

Reflecting the speed at which contemporary art in China is gaining allure for the local market, young artists in China are finding an increasing number of venues at which to exhibit their art. This week, 20 young Chinese artists will present at the “Scattered Times” contemporary art exhibition at Shanghai Times Square on Huaihai Road. As this article from China Net points out, the exhibition gives artists in a wide number of mediums the opportunity to present their works to a more receptive domestic audience:

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Shanghai Reaches Out To Luxury Travelers

City Trying To Lure High-End Travelers With Urban Makeover, Customer Service, Amenities

Shanghai's luxury hoteliers are actively wooing luxury travelers

Shanghai's luxury hoteliers are actively wooing luxury travelers

Shanghai is gearing up for next year’s World Expo, smoothing over many of its more gritty areas and giving the city an all-over polish. But the city’s luxury hotels, many of them stung by a drop in visitors as a result of the global economic downturn, have started to take on their own outreach programs, wooing luxury visitors through efforts aimed at restoring the city’s pre-revolution reputation as an opulent, exciting “Paris of the East.”

As the Canadian Press writes, the strategies employed by these hotels are designed to appeal to high-end travelers who may find Beijing interesting but drab, and Hong Kong cosmopolitan but old-fashioned:

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Smooth Drive For Luxury Carmakers In China

Demand Continues To Grow In First- And Second-Tier Cities, As More Individuals Purchase First Automobile

China surpassed the United States as the world's biggest auto market for the first half of 2009 after June sales soared 36.5 percent from a year earlier (© Washington Post)

China surpassed the United States as the world's biggest auto market for the first half of 2009 after June sales soared 36.5 percent from a year earlier (© Washington Post)

Luxury automakers have been enthusiastic about the potential of the Chinese market for years, as the middle class began its rapid growth and more middle class individuals began to think about purchasing their first cars while wealthier individuals started “trading up” or buying their second or third vehicle. In recent months, as demand for higher-end automobiles shrank in developed markets, automakers have increasingly relied upon growth in the Chinese mainland to tide them over until higher profits started to show again in other areas. As growth there continues to lag, the Chinese market is increasingly looking like the true engine of sales for the short- to medium-term. Sensing this, the shift in automakers’ collective consciousness has turned distinctly eastward.

The Chinese market was, until recently, a blank slate for luxury carmakers. Until well into the 1990s, personal automobiles were still the domain of wealthy or powerful individuals, as China’s middle class was negligible in size. Through the post-WTO years, however, automobile segments from budget to luxury have seen strong growth, particularly in urban centers, where cars are both a luxury (as most megacities have relatively good, albeit crowded, public transportation) and a status symbol. Today, China Daily features an article about how steady growth of car ownership — especially higher-end cars — should buoy most luxury automakers for the time being, granted they retool their marketing and their product offerings for the mainland market:

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The Rise Of China’s Megacities: Good For Business?

Six Cities – Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Chengdu and Wuhan – Expected To Join The “Megacity” Ranks, With Real Urban Populations Exceeding 10 Million, In Next 15 Years

Six cities should join the ranks of "megacities" like Beijing and Shanghai in the next 15 years. Who will cash in on the new opportunities that will arise?

Six cities should join the ranks of "megacities" like Beijing and Shanghai in the next 15 years. Who will cash in on the new opportunities that will arise?

One of the greatest engines of China’s rapid economic growth has undoubtedly been the massive in-migration of the rural population into the wealthy coastal area. Although this influx has slowed, and even reversed somewhat, as a result of the global economic slowdown, for China’s major cities, its cosmopolitan centers, urban population growth is expected to continue growing for at least the next 10-15 years. As China’s top-tier cities, Beijing and Shanghai, become even more competitive and second- and third-tier cities present young professionals with better job options, the rank of Chinese “megacities” — cities with populations exceeding 10 million — are expected to be joined by six cities: Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Chengdu and Wuhan. According to a post today on FT’s Dragonbeat blog, the rise of the new Chinese megacity will present new challenges for urban planners. However, I think they will also present unique opportunities.

Tom Miller writes for the Financial Times:

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Yue Minjun Sails Past Estimates At Phillips Contemporary Auction

Contemporary Chinese Artist Assures Place Among Top Contemporary Artists, Selling For $685,694

Yue Minjun's "Untitled" (2005) brought in nearly $200,000 more than its top estimate. Image © Phillips de Pury & Company

Yue Minjun's "Untitled" (2005) brought in nearly $200,000 more than its top estimate. Image © Phillips de Pury & Company

Tentative signs of optimism are starting to show in the contemporary art world, which has not been spared by the economic downturn. Although recent auctions of Chinese and other Asian art have indicated that this region’s contemporary art remains popular among local collectors — who snapped up artwork at recent Ravenel auctions and festivals like HK09 — many predominantly Western art auctions have recently been met by restrained bidding. At last week’s Phillips de Pury & Company Contemporary Art auction in London, however, sometimes frenzied bidding has allowed major auction houses to breathe a slight sigh of relief. 30 of the auction’s 39 pieces sold, bringing in $8,451,540, just shy of the target of 8,692,240. Compared to some other recent sales, this is a huge success, and indicates that buyers are finally getting back into the game as prices have adjusted somewhat and created excellent buying opportunities.

Among the pieces by Koons, Warhol, Ruscha and others, one piece in particular surprised some observers — “Untitled” (2005) by contemporary Chinese artist Yue Minjun. The painting by Yue, who has become one of the world’s top 10-selling contemporary artists over the course of the last 10 years, brought in $196,959 more than its highest estimate, proving that even in tough economic times, historical artists and good quality art will always attract bidders. As Artinfo writes on the sale:

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Airlines Taking Creative Approaches To Cater To Chinese Market

Number of Travelers Increasing More Rapidly In China And Other Emerging Economies; Carriers Taking Localized Approaches To Woo Passengers

The number of Chinese air travelers has grown exponentially in the last 10 years. Graphic © Brand Channel

The number of Chinese air travelers has grown exponentially in the last 10 years. Graphic © Brand Channel

Although the air travel industry has reported grim figures over the last year — with Asia-Pacific airlines taking the biggest hit overall — industry insiders report continued growth in the Chinese market, particularly from business travelers. To reach this lucrative group, airlines have taken unique approaches to branding and service in the Mainland, with carriers like Finnair and Emirates, along with domestic carriers, reaching out to Chinese travelers through culturally-relevant approaches.

Brand Channel recently posted a feature that looked into what successful airlines are doing correctly in the Chinese market (and the reasons why others are failing to make a connection with Chinese consumers). As the article points out, outreach can range from simple changes like ensuring crewmembers can speak Mandarin, English, and regional dialects to more dedicated personal services that Chinese consumers may find more important than their non-Chinese counterparts. With more Chinese passengers flying domestically as well as overseas, this type of article is essential reading for airlines — or any other companies — which are looking for proven techniques for attracting Chinese customers.

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The Luxury Of Art In China

Blending Of Art And Luxury Becoming More Common As Commercial Tie-Ins Prove Lucrative For Luxury Brands And Artists Alike

Will the Hermes-obsessed Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi become the first in China to take part in a domestic luxury-art partnership?

Will the Hermes-obsessed Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi become the first in China to take part in a domestic luxury-art partnership?

Today, Art Market Monitor, by way of Newsweek magazine, looks into the phenomenon of art-luxury commercial tie-ins, which have existed in some form for decades but are becoming more common as well as more commercially viable. We have discussed the art-luxury tie-in before, in our profile of Hong Kong’s “A Passion For Creation” art/product exhibition, organized by Louis Vuitton. But the articles in AMM and Newsweek point out some interesting nuances about the art/luxury collaboration.

AMM summarizes the article very concisely as one in which the writer “wonders about Vacheron’s new line of $367,000 watches inspired by African and Oceanic masks, Ikepod’s Jeff Koons watches and Louis Vuitton’s association with just about everyone else. (Okay, just Richard Prince and Takashi Murakami.)” But building on some of the observations in our articles about the melding of art and luxury, and how much of these partnerships can be boiled down to market necessity (as many luxury and art buyers may continue scaling back amid the ongoing slow economy), Newsweek’s Nick Foulkes expertly breaks down how the separate spheres inhabited by the arts and luxury brands are, rather than being entirely separate, have a symbiotic, Venn diagrammatic relationship.

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Pierre Cardin: From Popular Brand In China To Popular Chinese Brand?

Ongoing Negotiations Over Acquisition of French Brand Pierre Cardin Shows Chinese Luxury Brands Have Sights Set On Rapid Growth

Pierre Cardin has become one of the most recognizable and coveted foreign brands in China since entering the market in 1978. Photo (c) CRI English

Pierre Cardin has become one of the most recognizable and coveted foreign brands in China since entering the market in 1978. Photo (c) CRI English

Mixed signals surround the rumored takeover of the Pierre Cardin brand by two Chinese groups, which would — if true — illustrate the speed with which Chinese companies hope to attain global reach and influence. Early reports appeared to suggest that an acquisition of only Cardin’s China operations was imminent, but statements by the brand’s China director, Fang Fang, insinuated that the company was open to the idea of a wholesale takeover of its global assets. Although Pierre Cardin himself has denied these rumors, the story is making waves in the Chinese and global business press.

As one of the first western brands to enter the Chinese market after the government initiated its “opening and reform” policies in the late 1970s, Pierre Cardin carries significant brand equity in China, a point which gives this story extra importance in the grand scheme of Chinese luxury branding. As the AFP pointed out today, the acquisition of the Pierre Cardin brand by a Chinese company would be, in the mainland at least, considered a point of pride:

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