Shop­ping mall shows cater­ing to na­tion’s cul­ture vul­tures

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS - By RIAZAT BUTT

In Novem­ber, the K11 Art Mall in Shang­hai will host a Salvador Dali ex­hi­bi­tion, the first Dali ex­hi­bi­tion in China to be au­tho­rized by the GalaSal­vador Dali Foun­da­tion since 2001.

It is the sec­ond block­buster show to be held in the re­tail de­vel­op­ment, the first be­ing the 2014 Monet show that brought to­gether 40 orig­i­nal art works from the French im­pres­sion­ist in­clud­ing the world-fa­mous Wa­ter Lilies. It at­tracted around 350,000 visi­tors in three months. The av­er­age ticket price was 100 yuan ($15).

“We made no money from Monet,” said Dou­glas Kot­wall from the K11 Art Foun­da­tion. “Most of the money went into things like in­sur­ance and lo­gis­tics.”

The foun­da­tion, which has its head­quar­ters in Hong Kong, is blur­ring the lines be­tween cul­ture and com­merce. There is art in the Shang­hai mall’s 3,000 square me­ter base­ment and art in the shop­ping ar­eas, too.

China is not short of places to en­joy art. The gov­ern­ment said it wanted 3,500 mu­se­ums by 2015, a goal it reached three years ahead of sched­ule, with Bei­jing and Shang­hai hav­ing the lion’s share of in­sti­tu­tions.

Of the coun­try’s 1,560 art gal­leries in 2013, 742 were in the cap­i­tal. A frac­tion spe­cial­izes in con­tem­po­rary art, Chi­nese or for­eign. No Chi­nese main­land mu­seum is in The Art News­pa­per’s top 10 list for visi­tor at­ten­dance; Europe dom­i­nates the rank­ings, although Taipei’s Na­tional Palace Mu­seum holds steady at sev­enth place.

The Taipei mu­seum or­ga­nized the top-three best-at­tended ex­hi­bi­tions in 2014, with more than 12,000 visi­tors a day en­joy­ing the work of fa­mous artist Tang Yin of Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644).

A sim­i­lar num­ber of peo­ple vis­ited a show about Em­peror Qian­long (reigned 1736-1795) of the Qing Dy­nasty (16441911), which in­cluded 45 pieces loaned from Bei­jing’s Palace Mu­seum. Half of the Taipei mu­seum’s visi­tors are from the Chi­nese main­land and onethird are lo­cals, said The Art News­pa­per.

Shang­hai Mu­seum’s 2014 free ex­hi­bi­tion Trac­ing History at­tracted 629,233 visi­tors in just un­der three months, mak­ing it the 13th most-vis­ited ex­hi­bi­tion in the world last year, ac­cord­ing to the pub­li­ca­tion.

An omis­sion from the list is the Palace Mu­seum in Bei­jing, which had more than 15 mil­lion visi­tors last year.

“But, as in pre­vi­ous sur­veys, we have treated it as a spe­cial case. Si­t­u­ated in the For­bid­den City, it is part of a larger visi­tor des­ti­na­tion and so it is dif­fi­cult to com­pare it with a stand­alone in­sti­tu­tion,” the news­pa­per said. The Lou­vre wel­comed 9.26 mil­lion visi­tors in 2014, with for­eign visi­tors rep­re­sent­ing 69 per­cent of ticket sales. About 7 per­cent came from China, the mu­seum said.

“The visi­tor num­bers we got for Monet are prob­a­bly more than most (Chi­nese) mu­se­ums see in a year. That’s a rea­son for putting it in a com­mer­cial space,” said Kot­wall.

“Peo­ple in China are un­fa­mil­iar with go­ing to a mu­seum or gallery. But they’ll go to a mall ev­ery week­end. That’s one of the mis­sions we have — public art ed­u­ca­tion. Art is not in the na­tional cur­ricu­lum be­cause ed­u­ca­tion here is more about pass­ing ex­ams. But the Chi­nese are crav­ing new cul­ture and new things. For Dali we are hav­ing a par­al­lel show, with es­tab­lished and emerg­ing Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary artists, to show the in­flu­ence of sur­re­al­ism.”

Kot­wall said peo­ple who come to K11’s shows are in­ter­ested in art and want to learn about it. “They are ed­u­cated, they have gone over­seas and have come back. The next level of lifestyle for them is art. Art con­nects them to the out­side world.”

K11 is plan­ning 19 Chi­nese projects based on its art-re­tail model. The big­gest will be in Shenyang, cap­i­tal of Liaon­ing province, cov­er­ing 260,000 square me­ters.

Other re­tail de­vel­op­ments are also at­tempt­ing to broaden cul­tural con­sump­tion in China, stand­ing out in a crowded mar­ket­place by or­ga­niz­ing ex­hi­bi­tions of con­cep­tual art and pho­tog­ra­phy.

“Art at­tracts cus­tomers,” said Ge­orge Wong, chair­man of the real es­tate devel­oper Parkview Group. “It helps to sell things. It’s also an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity to present art to the public.

“Most artists want their work to be seen. There is noth­ing wrong with gal­leries but they are a place for trad­ing. It is my wish to give the public an ed­u­ca­tion in art. But I want them to touch it and in­ter­act with it. Paint­ing is for your eyes only.”

The 2014 Monet ex­hi­bi­tion at Shang­hai’s K11 mall.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.