X+Q Art Design for Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 - 1900, V&A Museum, London

When aesthetics bring two together

Can art be the shared common ground for Europe and China?

Though there is a world of difference between Europeans and Chinese, there are some common threads that they share – the appreciation of history, civilization and artistic tradition.

The common links have been aptly summed up by Winston Churchill, the late British prime minister, when he said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

China’s claim to be the oldest and most continuous civilization often finds credence in its rich artistic traditions that stretch uninterrupted from the Neolithic era to the present. Modern day Chinese, amid all the glamour associated with social transformation, are looking for a coherent set of values derived from the diversity and richness of their history, as well as the traditions and aesthetic values embodied in Chinese arts.

Contemporary Chinese artist Liu Jianhua's porcelain art installation "Between" at Pace Gallery London

Contemporary Chinese artist Liu Jianhua’s porcelain art installation “Between” at Pace Gallery London

The phenomenal interest in Chinese art and antiques that is being seen in Europe is a reflection of this soul-searching process.

There are two conditions that need to be met to sustain the Chinese interest in buying art. One is appreciating culture;  and the other is having the financial means to afford it.

Chinese investment in the UK is now at an unprecedented high level, ranging from state-backed infrastructure investment to purchases by wealthy individuals. The opportunity to exploit this economic capital seems to be recognized, with many auction houses and antique dealers investing in Chinese-language signs and prominently displaying the UnionPay logo in their shop windows.

However, on closer inspection, you will find that these establishments tend to hold a welcoming but cautious attitude toward newcomers. For them, credibility established through the reputation built up over the years is the most important calling card for the trade, even more important than new-found wealth.

In a highly regulated market, the boldness of adapting to the change of new customers relies on cautious and intelligent execution. People are likely to start with an area that they feel comfortable and familiar with, perhaps a place of higher transparency in business regulations.

Take Asian Art in London, an annual London city-wide antique art fair, as an example. Its bilingual marketing collateral this year is in traditional Chinese rather than the simplified Chinese commonly used in the Chinese mainland.

Royalty and celebrity collectors often flock to the Masterpiece London, an art, antiques, design fair held at the Chelsea Royal Hospital in summer. This year a Hong Kong Pavilion was held at the fair, organized in partnership with Fine Art Asia, one of the largest Asian fine art fairs based in Hong Kong.

All of these seem to be sending mixed signals to Chinese buyers. On one level they recognize the rise in interest in Chinese antiquities and an increase in the wealth of Chinese collectors; however, they continue to use more familiar territories such as Hong Kong as a conduit to the mainland.

The Chinese elites are often drawn to Europe by the respect for authenticity and diligence when conducting business. They are drawn to spend some of their newly earned economic capital in exchange for cultural capital in the form of art.

Some of them may even hope to understand the history of their past through the artwork, in the hope that by understanding the past, they will be able to better appreciate where they are going.

 

X+Q Art Design for Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 - 1900, V&A Museum, London

X+Q Art Design for Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700 – 1900, V&A Museum, London

However, it is not only the Chinese who have developed a newfound love for the tradition and innovation demonstrated in many of these works. Their European counterparts continue to demonstrate a strong interest in Chinese historical pieces. The current V&A exhibition “Masterpieces of Chinese painting 700-1900” has been received warmly in the UK, with many struggling to secure tickets for the show.

 

Some of the Chinese traditional values illustrated through the paintings are surprisingly similar to the pursuits of British gentleman; for example the leisure activities in pursuit of happiness during prosperous times.

The paintings also depict the notion of embracing solitude to move away from materialist temptations. This carries a striking similarity with moral views held in the Victorian era some 300 years ago.

For many Chinese, the traditional Chinese artworks hold more than just financial value. They embody a set of philosophical, symbolic and historical values that are shared by the nation. It is as if audiences in the East and West have found a common ground, a shared social value through the appreciation of traditional Chinese artists.

The active expansion of Chinese consumer power has inevitably caught the attention of the demand-led art market in Europe. With economic capital sure to change hands, it remains to be seen whether this renaissance in Chinese art will allow the East and West to establish a common ground through shared cultural understanding.

Click here to view the original article on China Daily Europe

Publication: China Daily Europe

Topics: China, Art market, Art Fair, Culture, Economic capital, Cultural capital

 

Photographer Luo Hao for GQ China

China and the second child

For many readers, no matter where they come from, the collective childhood experience begins with the line “Once upon a time” – reading and playing with their siblings and parents. Imaginations are ignited in infancy by fairy tales drawn from diverse cultures and languages, carried far and wide by the wonders of storytelling.

However, for Chinese children there is something missing in the social experience: a sibling. In 1979, the government introduced the family planning policy, limiting each family to one child. Ever since then the “single child” generation (Balinghou in Chinese – literally, young people who were born after the 1980s) has missed out on the experience of playing, sharing and growing up with siblings.

Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair

This year, the third Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair (CCBF) opened just as China announced a change in policy, allowing all couples to have two children for the first time in more than three decades. The reform will have a profound impact on society. Markets that serve the younger generations, in particular, education and publishing, are certain to feel the impact.

The booming children’s market
There are 230 million children under the age of 16 in China, with an average of 16 million born every year. With the introduction of the new policy, one can only imagine that the number will grow at an even more incredible speed – an estimate puts it at 3 million extra babies each year. Already the world’s largest publishing market (Open Book statistics), China has a children’s market accounting for 18% of the total (turnover RMB9.9bn/GBP990m) and is set to continue its 20% year-on-year growth trend, reaching up to 30% of the total market.

Just before the opening of the CCBF, 11 November marked Singles Day in China, a phenomenon that has evolved into a record-setting retail event, with Alibaba reaching US$14.3bn (RMB91bn) total sales in a single day. The new urban middle class in China has fully embraced consumerism, and the current generation of parents has driven a purchasing frenzy. The Magic School Bus, the bestseller on Dangdang.com, sold 193,700 copies in a single day.

Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair

JD.com, the largest B2C online platform for electronics goods in China with an annual sales turnover of RMB260.2bn (GBP26bn), entered the book market in 2010. In the past year it has seen a 60% increase in its book sales, overtaking Amazon to become the number two book e-retailer in China, just after Dangdang.com. Although currently books account for only 1-2% of its total sales, JD.com is ambitious to set up an online children’s club with customised recommendations, as it is the market leader in sales of mother and baby products.

Yang Ye, the General Manager of books at JD.com, and Children’s Buyer Zhang Ge suggested three key factors for an international title to succeed in the Chinese market. First, brand quality: how the book is perceived in the West and other Asian countries such as Japan and Korea; second, becoming an early seller – JD.com is the exclusive online retailer for Secret Garden, which has sold 800,000 copies since June; and last but not least, social media marketing via WeChat.

Learning about siblings and friendship
However, despite the scale of consumerism represented by these numbers, there are even bigger challenges ahead. It is the generation who grew up without siblings who are now facing the new option of having a second child. Parents and children who are both of the single child generation are keen to read stories that allow them to look at the world a little differently from their personal experience. Just what is it like to have a sibling?

An interesting example of such a story is Shh! We Have a Plan (Walker), which won the prestigious Chen Bochui International Best Picture Book Award at the fair. It is a story of four friends who try to catch a beautiful bird, and is beautifully illustrated by Chris Haughton. The story ends with a quote by Albert Einstein: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

A story about going on an adventure with friends, making friendships, and facing competition among peers/siblings helps to illustrate how to interact with others at an early age. The virtues of working together and being respectful to your peers are some of the topics that appear to work exceptionally well in China today.

During the three-day fair at CCBF there is a refreshing Scandinavian presence, with a special area dedicated to Moomin – only recently introduced to China on its 70th anniversary. However, according to its Chinese publisher Shanghai 99, even for internationally renowned characters, a successful introduction to the Chinese market can still prove challenging. Chinese parents are more likely to choose home-grown series, because they weren’t exposed to many international titles when they themselves were young. Sales of Shanghai 99’s bestselling Big Red Dog series have reached 1.5m; however, bestselling Chinese titles such as the Laughing Cat Diary series can easily reach 500-600 million copies. Almost 90% of international titles are sold online rather than through traditional retail stores, said Han Xiaohong, founder of Dandelion Children’s.

Photographer Luo Hao for GQ China

Photographer Luo Hao for GQ China

With the first Disneyland in mainland China set to open in Shanghai next spring, the place is buzzing with the desire to see the latest and best content from all over the world. Preschool products such as picture books are a booming market for the 300 million middle class consumers in China. Even Le TV, the largest online streaming company in China with 50 million daily users, is exhibiting for the first time at CCBF this year. It is setting up an edutainment channel aimed at families with children (accounting for 47% of its current users), and has started to acquire international content from broadcasters and publishers.

With the recent change in policy, it still remains to be seen how the Chinese will react. The children’s publishing industry needs to tap into that reaction and be ready to assist future parents in educating a generation. Will the international children’s market produce content that appeals to this exciting and yet challenging market? Here is your chance!

 

Click here to view the original article on BookBrunch

Publication: BookBrunch

Topics: Books, China, Society, Culture, Children

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China Philharmonic Orchestra at BBC Proms
G&H LCM
Meltdown Festival

Carnet de Voyage Debut at Meltdown Festival

Carnet de Voyage (traveling notebook) is a site specific sonic and visual live performance. A collaboration between Rosey Chan and Mimi Xu, Carnet de Voyage creates cinematic experience using analogue and digital languages as they revisit various music inspirations.

Invited by James Lavelle, curator of  Meltdown Festival 2014 at Southbank, Carnet de Voyage, along with Neneh Cherry, presents a site-specific 3-D visual and musical journey in collaboration with film director Mike Figgis and cutting edge animation maker UAU Studio.

Carnet de Voyage/Nenah Cherry
Meltdown Festival 2014
Queen Elizabeth Hall
18th June 2014

 

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X+Q Art at Paul Smith Melbourne

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Paul Smith Melbourne is pleased to announce the forthcoming exhibition of handmade sculptures by X+Q Art.

The brainchild of contemporary artists Xiang Jing and Qu Guangci, Chinese art collective X+Q Art construct colourful and vivid stories with their arresting sculptural pieces.

Showing in galleries from London to Shanghai and with the exhibition recently on display in his shop in Faubourg St Honore, Paris, Paul Smith is delighted to be hosting the artists’ work in his Melbourne shop. Two of China’s most successful modern artists, Xiang Jing and Qu Guangci have created complimentary pieces that sit side-by-side in the Paul Smith shop each capturing a whimsical and humorous tone.

In her I Have Seen Happiness sculpture series, Xiang Jing aims to celebrate youth and create an optimistic mood with her vibrant rabbit sculptures flocked in rich shades of red, blue, yellow and green.The collection is particularly appropriate given Paul’s own fondness for rabbits.

Whilst in The Angelest Qian and The Angelest Kun, Qu Guangci fuses Eastern and Western sentiments, referencing both in his series of winged oriental angels. Similarly bright to Xiang Jing’s I Have Seen Happiness, Qu also aims to illuminate visitors instilling brightness and positivity through art.

26th February – 10th April 2014
Paul Smith, 120 Collins Street, Melbourne

The brainchild of contemporary artists Xiang Jing and Qu Guangci, Chinese art collective X+Q Art construct colourful

Yundi Emperor Fantasy low res

Yundi – Emperor | Fantasy

Following Yundi’s successful ‘China Piano Dream‘ the classical star pianist is coming back to Europe with a 25 date tour throughout the continent in 2014.

At his concerts in Germany Yundi will perform romantic works by Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann as well as Ludwig van Beethoven. Schumann’s Fantasie in C Major op.17 is also on Yundi’s new album, which will be released exclusively at the start of the Germany tour. In 2007 he performed with the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra for the first time, being the first Chinese musician to work with them and now he is again collaborating with the prestigious orchestra and conductor Daniel Harding on his new album Emperor.

Yundi concert tour

 

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In Spite of it All

 

We cannot be completely uprooted, we all have a cultural basis.
Mario Rizzi, Out of Place (2005)

This exhibition of work from the Sharjah Art Foundation presents an intriguing discussion on identity and social changes through a series of video installations, which was set in an unique cultural background. Bi-cultural? No. This is the intersection of three distinctive cultures and civilisations, Arabic, Chinese and European (Western).

A number of contemporary Chinese artists have responded to the personal and social cost of rapid economic development and urban changes in China. Liu Wei’s Hopeless Land (2008), was filmed at the outskirts of Beijing, a place which was used to be the home for suburb farmers and unavoidably, suffered from the relentless urban sprawl in the recent years. It will soon become another soulless wasteland filled shining new residential buildings.

As a Chinese living in Europe, perhaps I have been Anglicised to think that it is all too rushed to disregard your cultural identity by destroying the original landscape. For me, the most interesting thing is to observe how the Emiratis responses to the pressing issue from a different perspective. There are only 25% of the populations in the UAE are Emiratis, and the rest are from all corners of the world.

Nikolaj Larsen’s work Rendezvous (2009) is a captivating interpretation of their lives. He spent a month traveling and filmed the workers throughout the UAE and their families back home. The result was two images which were projected on each end of the room, three times as high as your height , forcing you to think of the two cultural contexts in a dramatic contrast. Is one superior than the other? Not necessarily…

Fascinating stuff – In Spite of It All is a must see exhibition if you want to get under the skin of the modern multi-cultural Arab people.

In Spite of it All
03.11.12 – 03.01.13
Collections Building, Arts Area
Heart of Sharjah

 

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X+Q Art: Masterpiece of Chinese Paintings

X+Q Art, the brainchild of leading contemporary Chinese artists Xiang Jing and Qu Guangci is commissioned by the V&A museum to launch an exclusive range of scarves inspired by the major autumn exhibition Masterpiece of Chinese Paintings 700-1900.

Masterpiece of Chinese Paintings, 700-1900
26 October 2013 – 19 January 2014
The V&A Museum, London

The X+Q Factor – Financial Times How to Spend It

The Modern and the Tradition – ELLE Deco Taiwan