Monthly Archives: October 2009

Artprice: Zeng Fanzhi Is China’s New “#1 Artist”

Auction Sales From July 1, 2008 To June 30, 2009 Send Zeng To The Top Of The List, As Chinese Artists Make Up 16 Of The Top 50 In The World

Zeng Fanzhi is one of China's most interesting and top-grossing contemporary artists of the last 30 years

Zeng Fanzhi is one of the most interesting and top-grossing contemporary Chinese artists of the last 30 years

Artxun (Chinese) reports this week that Zeng Fanzhi — one of China’s top contemporary artists — has gained the title of “Number One” Chinese artist in terms of auction prices over the last year, leapfrogging longtime title-holder Zhang Xiaogang. While some of this may be down to the slower pace with which Zhang is producing new works, Zeng’s growing popularity within China and, ostensibly, among New Chinese Collectors, could have something to do with it. Zeng, who sprang to prominence in the 1990s mostly through his “Mask” series but has since begun experimenting with more abstract pieces, recently sold 5 of 6 pieces up for grabs at Sotheby’s autumn auction of contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong well above high estimates, indicating that his popularity among the primarily Mainland Chinese bidders remains strong.

The Artxun piece, rather than focusing only on Zeng’s auction prices, does an excellent job of looking into the artist himself and some of the personal projects he has undertaken, including the “Zeng Fanzhi Art Scholarship,” which awarded 10,000 yuan to a disabled university applicant in July of this year. From the article (translation by CLCB staff):

Compared to last year’s [Artprice] list, Chinese artists comprised 16 of the top 50 artists in the world, down from 18 the year before. Among Chinese artists, Zeng Fanzhi was the highest selling, surpassing Zhang Xiaogang by 1,010,000 yuan, becoming China’s most “expensive” artist of 2009. Zhang Xiaogang slipped from the top five this year down to #7. Chinese artists who made the top 50 list last year, namely Yin Chaoyang, Liu Wei, Fan Dehai, and Guo Hai weren’t strong enough to make the list this year, although Yan Peiming is expected to enter the top 50. Another interesting thing to look at is Chengdu’s growing power — aside from Zhang Xiaogang, Chengdu-based contemporary artist Zhou Chunya was ranked 17th in the world and #11 in China in 2008, and in 2009 rose 3 places in the world ranking to #14 while rising 6 places in China to #5 there. Another Chengdu artist, Luo Zhongli, ranked #38.

Continue reading

Diamond Sales Get Huge China Boost

Xinhua Reports 12.7% Rise In Imports In First Half Of 2009 To $300 Million As China Eyes Top Spot In Global Diamond Consumption

Diamonds are becoming more popular -- and accessible -- every year in China

Diamonds are becoming more popular -- and accessible -- every year in China

Good economic news in China this year has translated to good news for diamond producers, if figures released recently by China’s news agency, Xinhua, are correct. This year, following a nearly 50% decline in diamond sales in the US and 24% drop in Japan — according to China’s Global Times — China has become the world’s third largest diamond market with $300 million in sales through the first half of the year. Although this might sound like a lot, particularly in the context of the global economic slowdown, the Chinese market still has a lot of room to grow. Despite rough figures in the US over the past year, the American market still accounts for nearly half of world diamond sales, so the emerging Chinese and Indian markets will take several years of sustained growth to reach the capacity and consumer awareness of the established American and Japanese markets, a prospect that must please diamond producers immensely.

According to the Global Times, less informed middle class Chinese consumers are likely to be the easiest to reach for years to come, as diamonds are still relatively new to the Chinese market (about as new as the middle class itself). As younger Chinese buyers slowly become more informed about diamond grading and quality standards, the market is likely develop and mature:

Diamonds, once a luxury rarely owned by a Chinese family, has now become a must for Chinese newlyweds. According to [Wang Fei, researcher at the Cheungkei Research Center for Luxury Goods and Services (SITE) in the University of International Business and Economics,] the largest population of diamond buyers is newlywed couples born in the 1970s and 1980s.

Continue reading

Shanghai’s Luxury Hotel Market Heats Up Ahead Of World Expo

Construction Of New Hotels, Expansion Of Existing Chains Shows That Shanghai Is Well On Its Way To Becoming Asia’s Top Financial And Business Hub

The Peninsula Shanghai is designed to emulate the city's Jazz Age style (Graphic courtesy Peninsula Hotels)

The Peninsula Shanghai is designed to emulate the city's Jazz Age style (Graphic courtesy Peninsula Hotels)

Over the past few years, in preparation for the 2010 World Expo, Shanghai has become one of the world’s top destinations for hoteliers looking to get a piece of the Chinese business and luxury traveler yuan. With upwards of 7 million visitors — mainly Chinese — expected at the expo, newly constructed hotels have added nearly 4,000 five-star rooms to the city’s already vast luxury hotel market. The question is, after the World Expo party ends, will 2011 bring a sustained flow of business and luxury travelers to Shanghai? Or will the city’s massive building boom lead to lingering overcapacity?

Today, the Independent UK looks at the city’s five-star hotel explosion, and discusses how the relatively low impact of the global economic downturn on the Chinese market has given some hoteliers hope that overcapacity is a word they’ll never have to use in major Chinese cities like Shanghai:

The opulent Peninsula, the only new building on the main part of Shanghai’s historic Bund in 60 years, just opened, embracing the city’s Jazz Age heyday with a chauffeur-driven 1934 Rolls Royce Phantom and a Great Gatsby-esque pool.

The Peninsula’s owner, Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels Limited, is making a return to the “Paris of the East” where it was founded after a 60-year absence, but it is facing stiff competition.

Continue reading

Exhibition Of Young Contemporary Chinese Artists Heads To Kansas City

“Looking East” Exhibition Showcases China’s Up-And-Coming Artists, Reflecting The Generational Difference Between Young Artists And ’90s Superstars

Guo Wei's art reflects the rebelliousness and angst of China's so-called "post-80s Generation" (Image: Kansas City Star)

Guo Wei's art reflects the rebelliousness and angst of China's so-called "post-80s Generation" (Image: Kansas City Star)

With regular news about China’s most famous artists selling works for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases well over a million dollars, over the past five years, it can be easy to forget that China’s art world is in a constant state of flux, with thousands of young artists coming out of art schools and vying for attention. Although artists like Yue Minjun and Zhang Xiaogang have quickly become major global art stars, China’s younger artists are little known outside of their home country (and, more often than not, are unknown there as well), so the news that Kansas City is mounting a relatively large-scale and far-ranging exhibition of works by young Chinese artists must give some of these art greenhorns some hope for their future prospects.

The “Looking East” group exhibition, held at the Byron C. Cohen Gallery for Contemporary Art, follows previous solo shows of Chinese artists Hong Chun Zhang, Chong Siew Ying and Deng Wushu at the gallery, and offers viewers a glimpse at many of China’s burgeoning young talents. From the Kansas City Star:

Three prints by Yang Qian seem shallow and self-indulgent compared with [Sheng Qi’s politically-motivatd] oils. Yang wields tremendous skill to produce voyeuristic fantasies of spying on beautiful women through moist windowpanes or in foggy mirrors.

Continue reading

LVMH Acquires Chinese Traditional Spirits Distillery: Could Westerners Be Sipping Baijiu In Coming Years?

Market Analysts See Foreign Investments In Chinese Traditional Liquor As Smart Move To Cash In On Emerging High-End Domestic Consumer

LVMH's baijiu joint venture with Wenjun Distillery could be a huge money-maker in China; But will it appeal outside the country?

LVMH's baijiu joint venture with Wenjun Distillery could be a huge money-maker in China; But will it appeal outside the country?

Although most westerners may be unfamiliar with baijiu, the traditional spirit of China, drinkers within the country have been sipping the powerful, often tear-inducing alcohol for centuries. Less famous abroad than Japanese sake or Korean soju, two of its descendants, baijiu is most certainly big business in China, with the most expensive bottles often selling for more than $10,000 USD. This high-end spectrum, populated by rare bottles produced by only a handful of companies, has apparently garnered the attention of more than one foreign company looking to get a piece of the premium baijiu market, as Diageo bought a 43% share in baijiu producer Sichuan Chengdu Quanxing Group last year and, recently, LVMH Moet Hennessy acquired a 55% stake in one of China’s top producers, Wenjun Distillery.

This acquisition should fit seamlessly with Louis Vuitton Moet Hennissey’s broader China strategy. As we wrote earlier this week, LVMH is making a massive push into the Chinese market, buoyed by figures that indicate China has leapfrogged past traditional luxury markets like the United States this year and should surpass the Japanese market within five years. Acquiring a premium baijiu with real brand pedigree — the first Asian brand to be owned by the LVMH group — is being greeted as a gutsy move, as the high-end baijiu market is both exclusive and highly competitive. As Karen Cho writes, the acquisition of Wenjun has huge potential as incomes grow throughout China, but — as uncharted territory — presents LVMH with a host of new challenges:

“This is the first experience for the whole LVMH group owning an Asian brand,” says Allan Hong, development manager at Sichuan Wenjun Spirits Sales Company. “Because of the great potential in China, the whole group decided to run the Wenjun brand as a super-premium brand in China,” he adds.

Continue reading

Conspicuous Consumption “Here To Stay” In China: How Will Retailers Take Advantage?

Luxury Market In China A Mixed Bag For Foreign Brands, Who Fight To Get Customers To Buy Inside China Rather Than Traveling Overseas

Although Beijing and Shanghai are China's "crown jewels," second-tier cities like Chongqing may ultimately prove the engines for the creation of a more comprehensive Chinese consumer culture

Although Beijing and Shanghai are China's "crown jewels," second-tier cities like Chongqing may ultimately prove the engines for the creation of a more comprehensive Chinese consumer culture

We’ve discussed recent reports on the rebound of the Chinese luxury market (which didn’t drop that much to begin with, despite global economic woes), and this year’s findings in McKinsey & Company’s Insights China report that China is rocketing towards the top of the list of the world’s biggest luxury markets. Although China remains one of the only bright spots in the world of luxury retailing at the moment, foreign luxury brands — despite rapid growth in the mainland market — often have difficulties convincing many of the country’s highest-potential customers (the wealthy and super-rich urbanites in top-tier cities) to buy their products within the mainland, strangely enough, because of the large luxury tax China levies on high-priced imported goods.

Possibly to combat this problem, as we’ve seen this year, many companies are looking towards second- and third-tier cities as a source of future growth, and perhaps leaving the top-tier cities alone and letting their Beijing or Shanghai boutiques function only as “showrooms” for ultra-rich customers who’ll simply buy the products on their next overseas or Hong Kong/Macau trip. In these smaller urban areas, middle- and upper-middle class customers, who still want to differentiate themselves through conspicuous consumption but are most certainly not part of the economic elite, could be the key for luxury brands who want their China locations to actually sell things rather than simply show them off like a real-life catalog. Middle- and upper-middle class urban professionals in cities like Xi’an, Qingdao, Nanjing and Chongqing — who make a decent living but can’t afford to fly to Hong Kong or Macau (let alone Paris or Tokyo) for luxury shopping sprees — are likely going to buoy luxury brands’ losses in top coastal cities.

Continue reading

British Theater To Stage “Romeo And Juliet” In Seven Chinese Cities

TNT Theater’s Tour Will Visit Tianjin, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing, Ningbo, Hangzhou And Xi’an

TNT's past staging of "Oliver Twist" was a big hit in Beijing

TNT's past staging of "Oliver Twist" was a big hit in Beijing

It seems that cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world are becoming increasingly commonplace, with large-scale events like Carnegie Hall’s “Ancient Paths, Modern Voices” festivals in New York and Orange County, the “Experience China in Israel” event in Tel Aviv giving foreign audiences a chance to see a cultural cross-section. Over the past few years in China, foreign cultural organizations and groups have made regular trips to the country to give Chinese audiences a chance to do the same. The most recent of these cultural exchanges, a staging of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” performed by Britain’s TNT Theater, began its seven-city tour of China this week, and is set to perform the play throughout the country until November 29. From Xinhua:

Cui Yang, general manager of the Beijing-based Milky Way Arts and Communications Co., Ltd, the play’s importer, said the new version featured a cappella (singing without instrumental accompaniment) and live score which was specially commissioned for the play. 

 According to Cui, all the sound effects in the drama were created by human voices instead of being pre-recorded.

The TNT Theater, founded in 1980, has been distinguished for its simple stage decoration, strong British style and cross-gender performances. It has previously won the acclaim of Chinese audience with dramas such as Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”.

In the run-up to next year’s Shanghai’s World Expo, and certainly in its aftermath, we should see a great deal more cultural exchange going on both inside and outside China, as more foreign audiences look to learn about China’s ancient and modern cultures, and Chinese audiences look to learn more about important global and historical trends.