The ac­ci­den­tal art cu­ra­tor

A look at how the founder of Tix Me­dia made the tran­si­tion from science to art, and the role his fa­ther had to play in it

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - In Shang­hai


For more than 20 years, Xie Ding­wei was an elec­tron­ics en­gi­neer in the United States. He had worked in Sil­i­con Val­ley, con­sid­ered to be the world’s tech mecca, and was highly ex­pe­ri­enced in the elec­tronic and semi-con­duc­tor in­dus­tries. While he used to spe­cial­ize in han­dling dig­i­tal, ana­log in­te­grated cir­cuits and cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies on fin­ger print anal­y­sis, Xie now runs his own com­pany that is, strangely, from a com­pletely dif­fer­ent in­dus­try.

Founded by Xie in 2011, Tix Me­dia is a com­pany that is ded­i­cated to in­tro­duc­ing Western art­works to China and it has or­ga­nized show­cases fea­tur­ing mas­ter­pieces by great artists such as Pablo Pi­casso, Claude Monet and Sal­vadore Dali.

Xie’s de­ci­sion to change ca­reers could per­haps be traced back to his fam­ily. Af­ter all, his late fa­ther Xie Zhiliu (1910-1997) is rec­og­nized as one of the top pain­ters and con­nois­seurs of tra­di­tional Chi­nese art. His mother, Chen Peiqiu, also a painter, was renowned for her ef­forts in au­then­ti­cat­ing an­tique Chi­nese paint­ings. The lat­ter, who is now in her nineties, is still ac­tively cre­at­ing art. Both fa­ther and mother are ranked among the most re­spected ink artists of the 20th cen­tury in China.

Sur­pris­ingly, Xie’s mother was against her chil­dren tak­ing up art as a pro­fes­sion be­cause be­com­ing an artist didn’t seem like a vi­able ca­reer choice back then.

“My par­ents had gone through a se­ries of po­lit­i­cal tur­moil, and they were se­verely im­pacted ev­ery time as they were artists,” Xie said. “Un­til the 1980s when China opened up to the world, there had never been an ef­fec­tive mar­ket for art. My par­ents’ paint­ings were mostly given to friends as gifts. By late 70s, their paint­ings were sold through the state-owned an­tiques store to over­seas, be­cause China was in ur­gent need of for­eign cur­rency at that time.”

As a re­sult, Xie ended up study­ing engi­neer­ing. He left for the US to fur­ther his stud­ies in 1981, re­turn­ing only in 2005 when he wanted to let his chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ence the Chi­nese cul­ture as well. Xie first worked as a free­lance engi­neer­ing con­sul­tant and his foray into the arts scene only came when he was asked to help put to­gether an ex­hi­bi­tion of his fa­ther’s works.

He has never looked back since. Next year, Xie will help to launch a new mu­seum in Lin­gang New Town that is ded­i­cated to his par­ents’ art­works.

The de­ci­sion to set up Tix Me­dia

Xie Ding­wei,

was largely due to a golden op­por­tu­nity to host the il­lus­tri­ous works of Pablo Pi­casso. Musee Pi­casso, a mu­seum in Paris ded­i­cated to the work of the Span­ish artist, had closed for ren­o­va­tion in 2010. In an at­tempt to raise more funds for the cause, the mu­seum took a large num­ber of paint­ings from its col­lec­tion and em­barked on an in­ter­na­tional tour.

When the tour reached Asia, Xie was pre­sented with the chance to pro­mote the show, and he gladly obliged. With the help of in­vest­ments from a friend in the real es­tate in­dus­try, they founded Tix Me­dia just to present the Pi­casso show in China. The ex­hi­bi­tion was held at the China Pav­il­ion of the 2010 Shang­hai World Expo from Oct 18, 2011 to Jan 10, 2012.

Till to­day, the ex­hi­bi­tion has the honor of be­ing the largest and long­est show­case of Pi­casso’s works in China. How­ever, the project was un­prof­itable.

As the to­tal value of th­ese mas­ter­pieces amounted to a stag­ger­ing 6 bil­lion yuan ($937.66 mil­lion), the sub­se­quent loan fee, trans­porta­tion and in­sur­ance costs were nat­u­rally ex­or­bi­tant. Fur­ther­more, ac­cord­ing to reg­u­la­tions on pub­lic cul­tural es­tab­lish­ments, tick­ets to spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tions can­not cost more than 20 yuan.

To get around this, Tix Me­dia had to rent the ex­hi­bi­tion space at the China Pav­il­ion of the 2010 Shang­hai World Expo be­fore they could set the prices of their own tick­ets, which ended up be­ing 80 yuan on a week day and 120 yuan on week­ends. The rental fees, to­gether with the set up cost, made the Pi­casso ex­hi­bi­tion an ex­tremely ex­pen­sive in­vest­ment that failed to pay div­i­dends.

How­ever, the prob­lems made for a good learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Xie.

In 2014, the K11 Art Mall on Huai­hai Road Mid­dle for­tu­itously of­fered its mu­seum space to Xie for free when they found out he was plan­ning an ex­hi­bi­tion of works by French Im­pres­sion­ist artist Claude Monet. Be­cause the gallery was lo­cated in the base­ment of what is es­sen­tially a shop­ping mall, Xie faced much dif­fi­culty in con­vinc­ing the Paris Mar­mot­tan Monet Mu­seum that the lo­ca­tion was good enough for an ex­hi­bi­tion of that mag­ni­tude.

“Had I been an artis­tic ma­jor, I would prob­a­bly have not been able to make it hap­pen,” he said, “But I was an en­gi­neer and we were trained to solve all kinds of prob­lems.”

Xie’s ef­forts even­tu­ally paid off and the ex­hi­bi­tion turned out to be the most suc­cess­ful art show in Shang­hai, draw­ing close to 400,000 visi­tors. The art in­dus­try was so en­cour­aged by the suc­cess that a se­ries of ex­hi­bi­tions cel­e­brat­ing the works of artists such as Van Gogh and Joan Miro soon took place across Shang­hai.

Be­tween Nov 20 and Mar 6, 2016, Tix Me­dia will be pre­sent­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion of works by Pierre-Au­guste Renoir. The event will fea­ture more than 40 paint­ings that have been loaned from 14 mu­se­ums and gal­leries across Europe and North Amer­ica.

“My am­bi­tion is to bring the works of great artists to the Chi­nese pub­lic,” Xie said. “As long as Tix Me­dia can make ends meet, we will carry on with this work.”

Had I been an artis­tic ma­jor, I would prob­a­bly have not been able to make it hap­pen. But I was an en­gi­neer and we were trained to solve all kinds of prob­lems.”

founder of Tix Me­dia


Xie Ding­wei founded Tix Me­dia in 2011 for the sole pur­pose of show­cas­ing art­works of Pablo Pi­casso, but the com­pany has since gone on to hold many more art ex­hi­bi­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.