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
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.
Posted in Business, China, Economy, Investment, Luxury
Tagged beijing, China, hong kong, import, London, Luxury, luxury society, macau, Paris, retail, ruder finn, second-tier, shanghai, spending, tokyo
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
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.
Posted in Art, China, Chinese Art, Culture
Tagged Art, arts, beijing, carnegie hall, China, chinese, Culture, guangzhou, hangzhou, israel, New York, ningbo, oliver twist, performance, production, romeo and juliet, shakespeare, shenzhen, theater, theatre, tianjin, xi'an
Interest Of New Collectors, Government Support Growing As More Museums Mount Large-Scale Exhibitions Of Work By Top Artists
Wang Guangyi's work seems to be (finally) accepted and promoted by the Chinese government's cultural elites
Recently, we translated a speech presented at the first-ever conference of Chinese collectors of contemporary Chinese art delivered in Beijing by influential art critic Li Xianting. In this speech, Li called on Chinese collectors to get busy buying, preserving and presenting top-quality works of contemporary Chinese art in order to ensure younger generations in the country will be able to view and understand their artistic heritage. Li called art collecting “a form of cultural creation,” the responsibility for which lies in the hands of the country’s new generation of art collectors. From Li’s speech:
We can’t expect the government to establish, from top to bottom, an art museum system in such a short amount of time, not least because the construction of the “hardware” is so difficult, but what’s harder is [assembling] the artwork itself, because up until now the collection in the government’s museum of contemporary art has been really poor, and not only because in the past three decades the important works of Chinese contemporary art have flowed overseas. Can the government spend the money to collect contemporary art? Aside from lack of funds, the hardest thing is that within a considerable amount of time, could the government possibly recognize the value of a contemporary art value system?
Whether by coincidence or by design, a news item in China’s Global Times today announced a spate of high-profile museum exhibitions of two of China’s top contemporary artists, Zhang Xiaogang and Wang Guangyi. Although as recently as last month Li Xianting decried the Chinese government’s slow movement on arts education and investment in cultural capital, these two exhibitions seem to indicate that development is beginning in earnest. From the article:
While the recent inclusion of a selection of contemporary Chinese artworks in exhibitions held at state-run museums across the country has been considered by many as a sign that Chinese contemporary art has been officially embraced by the government, others in the art world are calling for more to be done to recognize the genre.
Posted in Art, auction, China, Chinese Art, Culture, Investment, Museums
Tagged Art, art collection, beijing, CCP, China, contemporary art, contemporary chinese art, CPC, government, guangdong, guangdong art museum, li xianting, national art museum, political pop, wang guangyi, zhang xiaogang
Luxury Carmaker Builds Showroom On Jinbao Street In Response To Growing Chinese Demand
Bugatti's choice to open a showroom in Beijing shows the company's intention to expand in the China market
China’s growing automotive demand has been great for automakers of all stripes, from up-and-coming budget domestic brands to the world’s most expensive and exclusive marks. Already this year, companies like Japan’s Mitsuoka Motor Co have announced their intentions to build showrooms in China, Porsche debuted its Panamera Turbo at the Shanghai Auto Show, Ferrari created a China-only version of its 599 GTB Fiorano, and Rolls Royce received 20 orders for its $250,000 Ghost after presenting the automobile in Hong Kong.
Now Bugatti, the high performance French automaker, has opened its first-ever showroom outside of France, located on Beijing’s swanky Jinbao Street. From Alibaba News:
“The opening of the show room, the first one in the world, shows Bugatti’s confidence in China‘s luxury carmarket, “said Mr Kuo-chung, President of Bugatti China.
Kuo-chung said backed by sustained economic boom, China now has a significant number of billionaires, pointing to the annual Hurun Report which said China now has more known dollar billionaires than any other country bar the United States.
Posted in Automobile, Business, China, Investment, Luxury
Tagged auto, Automobile, beijing, bugatti, China, ferrari, france, Investment, Luxury, luxury automobile, mitsuoka, porsche, rolls-royce, showroom
Forum Provides Opportunity For Western, Chinese Collectors, Curators And Artists Come Together To Discuss Future Of Art Collecting In China
Western and Chinese experts discussed a wide range of important issues in art collecting at the Global Collecting Forum in Beijing (Photo: CRI)
Although the last few years have seen the rapid rise of the New Chinese Collector of contemporary Chinese art, the relatively late arrival of Chinese collectors means that the vast majority of major works of contemporary Chinese art remain in the collections of Western art collectors (such as the former Swiss diplomat-turned-prolific collector Uli Sigg, who owns around 2,000 pieces) or Western art museums and galleries. Although buying trends are changing, as more Chinese collectors and curators start to bolster their collections and diversify the artwork they acquire, one of the unique challenges that art lovers in China must face is the dearth of contemporary Chinese artwork available for view in their local museums and galleries.
With these issues — the underdevelopment of Chinese art museums and the growing interest in private art collection in China — in mind, this weekend the Global Collecting Forum was held at Beijing’s Reignwood Theater. The forum brought together a number of prominent Western and Chinese art collectors, museum curators, gallery owners and artists, whose work was shown at an exhibition which included pieces by prominent Chinese artists like Cai Guoqiang, Xu Bing, Liu Xiaodong and Wang Guangyi. According to Cultural China:
[Chinese writer-filmmaker Sun Shuyun], who was a guest at last year’s ISD forum, has met some of the world’s best-known art collectors and museum directors there. But she was somehow left with the impression that many of these “leaders of art collecting actually knew very little about Chinese art.”
The situation is expected to improve as this year’s forum brings over 30 leading art experts from Europe, the United States and Russia to meet with their Asian counterparts in the Chinese capital. Those set to show up include Baroness Kennedy QC, a trustee of the British Museum; Alexandra Monroe, senior curator at the Guggenheim Museum; and Derek Gillman, director of the US-based Barnes Foundation, a top collector of Post-Impressionist paintings.
Posted in Art, auction, Business, China, Chinese Art, Culture, Investment, Museums
Tagged Art, art collecting, artist, barnes foundation, beijing, british museum, cai guo-qiang, cai guoqiang, CCA, China, Chinese Art, chinese contemporary art, conference, contemporary art, global collecting forum, guggenheim, met, metropolitan museum, New York, reignwood theatre, russia, xu bing
Paint Work Takes Inspiration From Song Dynasty Porcelain
Lu Hao's one-off Ferrari incorporates many Chinese elements, from the jade start button to the cracked porcelain paint scheme
To build greater brand equity and strike a chord in the Chinese market, many companies have been known to create limited-edition “China only” versions of their products inspired by Chinese culture or history. Today, Ferrari announced its collaboration with the Chinese contemporary artist Lu Hao — “well known for his models of Beijing, his playfulness with architecture and geographical images in rapidly evolving modern China” (ArtZine) — on a one-of-a-kind China edition of the 599 GTB Fiorano (the regular model will be limited to a run of about 12 in China). The one-off edition by Lu will be auctioned off at a charity function in Beijing later this month.
Lu’s Ferrari features a unique trompe-l’œil paint job incorporating the faint green hue and distinctive cracked pattern of Ge Kiln porcelain from China’s Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279), but some of the most fascinating elements of the “China” edition are in the car’s interior. From Auto Express:
The China edition of Ferrari's 599 GTB Fiorano features ancient Chinese accents
The ignition button is carved from jade and insribed with the ancient Xiao Zhuan symbols for ‘engine start’, while other novel additions include a rev-counter marked with Chinese characters, a matching luggage set embroided with the route of the silk road – traditionally the most important trade routes in China – and an engraved plaque unique to each car.
Posted in Art, auction, Automobile, Business, China, Luxury
Tagged Art, beijing, China, china only, chinese, contemporary art, contemporary chinese art, contemporary chinese artist, exclusive, ferrari, ferrari 599 GTB, ferrari 599 GTB fiorano china, fiorano, lu hao
Zhang Yimou Directs The Puccini Masterpiece For Second Time
Zhang Yimou is directing "Turandot" for the second time; This time in a much newer venue
Chinese director Zhang Yimou has, over the years, become the “go-to” man for large-scale productions in China. From his “Impression” shows in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and elsewhere in China to the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics, Zhang has developed a name for himself as more than a filmmaker. This week, Zhang flexes his theatrical muscles once again, directing the Puccini opera Turandot for the second time (the first was in 1998) at one of the country’s largest venues — Beijing’s National Stadium, colloquially known as the “Bird’s Nest.”
Sina English, via Xinhua, writes about the debut performance:
The opera began at about 7:30 p.m. The composing team set up a 1,000 square meter screen with 40 million pixels and 32 projectors at the stadium.
“The Bird’s Nest version of ‘Turandot’ brings to the audience a completely new audio-visual feast with modern and fashionable elements,” said Zhang.
Posted in Art, China, Chinese Art, Culture
Tagged beijing, bird's nest, China, national stadium, performance, puccini, turandot, visual arts, zhang yimou
One Of China’s Top Contemporary Artists Branches Out In Extraordinary New Beijing Exhibition
Zhang Xiaogang's newest exhibition shows a great artist in transition
Contemporary Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang, long known for his ethereal family portraits, has moved into uncharted territory with his newest exhibition, “The Records,” running from September 27 to November 15 at Pace Beijing. The show, which showcases more sculpture and less painting, is a move in a completely new direction for Zhang. As he pulls away from the portrait painting which launched him into the international spotlight, does this show give us an indication that top Chinese contemporary artists are developing works for a more domestic audience?
One of the major shifts we’ve seen among major Chinese artists in the last year or two is a stronger effort to reach mainland Chinese viewers and less of a reliance on the “traditional” symbols and icons that initally drew the attention of Western collectors and art lovers. Zhang Xiaogang’s newest exhibition, which is less Cultural Revolution and more 21st century than his early ’90s output, definitely marks a new chapter in the artist’s work. Does this indicate that he’s finished with traditional canvas-and-oil work? Or is it just an artistic master flexing some new muscles?
According to Pace Beijing, the show presents the artist’s newest works from 2008 and 2009, including prints on steel plates, sculptures and installations:
Since his earlier works, Zhang Xiaogang never ceased the traces left by history in one’s soul and memory. In this new works, Zhang through employing some unique materials join together “landscape”, “object”, “self”, and scars, collective icons, as well as journal entries, which all carried historical and memorial meanings. He uses new artistic forms to further deepen the subject of “history and contemporary”. In other new works, Zhang creatively combines thoughts and form, continuing the tradition of writing poems on paintings.
Several photos of the exhibition are posted on Chinese contemporary art forum Art Ba-Ba.
Posted in Art, China, Chinese Art, Culture
Tagged art exhibition, beijing, CCA, China, Chinese Art, chinese contemporary art, exhibition, pace beijing, zhang xiaogang
Dozens Of New Chinese Collectors Converge To Discuss Art Values, Top Artists, And Closing China’s “Art Gap” Between Key Figures And The Public
The First Annual Conference of Collectors of Chinese Contemporary Art attracted a number of top critics, artists, and journalists
We’ve been looking a lot at the New Chinese Collector — the up-and-coming art collector who has become a fixture at art auctions around the world without really being understood by many seasoned collectors or auction houses. What is so fascinating about this group is the way that mainland Chinese collectors have really developed organically, and come together out of collective interest in the subject to become more informed about what art is out there, how much it costs — and should cost — and which artists they should be buying for their personal collections.
Recently in China, the 5th Annual Songzhuang Art Festival (which we profiled last month) was held in Beijing, with more than 1,000 artists taking part. As one of China’s most well-attended art festivals — owing mostly to Beijing’s international visibility and status as China’s artistic and cultural center — the Songzhuang festival lends itself to important or high-profile events. This year, one of the most unusual of these was the “First Annual Conference of Collectors of Chinese Contemporary Art” (首届中国当代艺术收藏家年), headed by art critic Li Xianting (栗宪庭). As the domestic audience becomes increasingly interested not only in museums and galleries but in specific types of art, and the middle class continues their (new) tradition of diversifying assets, it will become even more important for the domestic “New Collector” to understand the art and the market itself. At Songzhuang, the “all star cast” of attendees is a good indication that many in China are motivated to help their art market (and art audience) mature and develop rapidly.
As this Artintern article (Chinese) points out, many influential members of the Chinese art world — including conference chairman Li Xianting — feel that it is important for the Chinese collector to become intimately familiar with Chinese contemporary art not only to fill a gap in public knowledge but also to catch up to western collectors of Chinese art:
Chinese contemporary art began with the opening of China [in the late 1970s]. However, with no standard of value in the domestic contemporary art market, collecting and business in contemporary Chinese art was started in the West. Since the late 1970s in Chinese contemporary art — for example after the “Stars Fine Arts Exhibition — foreigners in Beijing have created a ring around the market, a ring which is still increasing. When overseas institutions or individuals gather up works at a low price that we have identified as a representation of Chinese contemporary artwork, then sell them back to China at a very high price, [these artists] are reported in domestic media as overnight successes and superstars. This has been to the detriment of the local Chinese contemporary art market.
At the annual meeting, the Chinese contemporary art critic Li Xianting — the chairman of the event — said, “To establish China’s own contemporary art market, we have to establish China’s own artistic value standards and use these standards to guide the market — is the art guiding the money or is the money guiding the art? China must take its own stand.”
Posted in Art, Business, China, Chinese Art, Culture, Museums
Tagged beijing, China, Chinese Art, chinese art collectors, chinese contemporary art, contemporary art, mainland china, new chinese collector, songzhuang, songzhuang art festival
Implications For Second- And Third-Tier Cities, Consumers Immense As High Speed Rail Set To Increase Connectivity
Bombardier's ZEFIRO technology features maximum operating speeds of 380 kph (Image courtesy Bombardier)
China’s already extensive, but in some places aging, rail system has benefitted greatly from the government’s massive stimulus spending over the last twelve months. Earlier this year, the New York Times noted that the Chinese stimulus plan — which targeted, among other infrastructure projects, highways and railroads — could likely be a key part of the development of China’s interior cities, many of which have yet to reap the same benefits of the country’s economic growth as their much larger, east-coast counterparts like Shanghai:
The [Chinese] stimulus plan, one of the world’s largest, promises to carry the modernity of China’s coasts deep into the hinterlands, buying the kind of great leap forward it took the United States decades — and a world war — to build, and priming China for a new level of global competition.
China will spend $88 billion constructing intercity rail lines, the highest priority in the plan. It spent $44 billion last year and just $12 billion as recently as 2004, said John Scales, the transport coordinator for China at the World Bank.
As 2009 nears its end, China’s investment in rail infrastructure has not slowed, and in fact remains relatively sustained, due to the size both of the stimulus package and the country itself. Recently, Bombardier Sifang — Bombardier’s Chinese joint venture — nabbed an enviable contract to sell 80 “super high speed” trains to China, a contract worth an estimated US$4 billion (27.4 billion yuan). From China Daily:
CSR Bombardier Sifang (Qingdao) Transportation Ltd, a joint venture of Canadian train maker Bombardier and CSR Sifang Locomotive and Rolling Stock Ltd, signed a 27.4 billion yuan contract with the Shanghai Railway Bureau, under which the company will build 80 high-speed trains.
Posted in Automobile, Business, China, Investment, Luxury
Tagged beijing, bombardier, China, chinese, city, efficiency, green, new york times, rail, railroad, second-tier, shanghai, third tier, transportation, travel