Unusual Chinese art image no 74 Yarn bombs in Shanghai

19 fabric tree waraps

A couple of trees in Shanghai became a local delight after they were draped in yarn knittings last year. However, the beauty and fame didn’t last long, as the Shanghai government promptly removed the much adored accessories.

The phoenix trees on Nanchang Road were “yarn bombed” by a group of expats, the Shanghai Daily reported. Yarn bombing, also known as graffiti knitting or “kniffiti,” is a kind of street art that uses colorful displays of knitted yarn on public facilities. The movement is believed to have originated in Texas, US, in 2005 after Magda Sayeg first covered the door handle of her boutique with a knitted cozy.

As the colorful outfits successfully stunned passersby the next morning, netizens also showed their admiration towards the creative works, saying “they added beauty to the city.”

However, the city government removed the outfits, citing concerns that they would cause harm to the trees’ healthy growth.

This decision has triggered heated discussions online. While some say the government made the right decision, others are arguing that the city should be more open to creative minds.

“The sweaters that fit human bodies may not suit the trees as well,” argued @Yueluoxishanby on Twitter.

Unusual Chinese art image 64 Carry that load!

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French photographer Alain Delorme completed a series of photographs 2009-11 entitled Totems. He specialises in composites using Photoshop ‘to present a type of augmented reality’. The huge loads he often depicts are symbols of wealth. He compares Shanghai’s dynamic growth with the relative poverty of many of the workers in the city. Via Orientally Yours, Tumblr, photo copyright Alain Delorme.

Fashion in China: the traditional aesthetic goes international

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Very much based on a Chinese aesthetic, Guo Pei’s dramatic twist on blue and white porcelain presented at Hong Kong Fashion Week a couple of years ago.

It’s all about fashion in today’s China. New found wealth is fuelling a fashion boom in most of the larger cities of China. The luxury goods sector has always commanded the attention of Chinese shoppers, especially the younger ones. But most of those luxury goods were imported. The difference these days is that China’s own high end luxury fashion business is now powering on . . .

Recognition internationally came a couple of months ago when the Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York unveiled China: Through the Looking Glass. This exhibition paid homage to the influence of pre-Communist China’s influences on Western fashion. The vast exhibition didn’t just fill the Hall of the Costume Institute, but also all of the Museum’s Chinese art galleries. It was notable that the show came exactly 100 years after the founding of the Met’s Asian art collection in 1915.

guo-pei Top designer Guo Pei

A month earlier, in April, a new book was published, Fashion China by fashion curator Gemma Williams: an anthology of writing and illustration of the work of no less than 41 Chinese fashion designers.

The Met’s opening party was graced by stars and personalities like Rihanna, who wore a creation by Guo Pei, often regarded as China’s first significant couturiere. Chinese actress and personality Fan Bingbing was also there, as was American Vogue‘s chief editor Anna Wintour lending her approval to the emergence of Chinese fashion onto the world stage. Other significant recent events have included the opening in Shanghai of The Conde Nast Center of Fashion & Design and the Istituto Marangoni. Already a fixture on the international fashion circuit, Masha Ma has had her own label in Shanghai since 2008. She now divides her time between Shanghai and Paris where she launches her creations at Paris Fashion Week.

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Traditional Chinese underwear given a modern lingerie twist. The bellyband by Dudou. Much of their underwear is fashioned in silk and hand-painted, a world away from the functional garments of the past.

chinese trad style undies Increasingly, Chinese fashion designers are becoming less ‘Chinese’ and do not feel the requirement to pay obeisance to Chinese history or culture. They are now developing their own identities and truly cosmopolitan, international designs. As Xiamen-based designer Shanguan Zhe (founder of the Sankuanz label), puts it, ‘It’s hard for me to say that my designs have just a Chinese aesthetic or just an international aesthetic.’

Shanguan Zhe of Sankuanz                                                                             Shanguan Zhe of Sankuanz

Has Liu Yiqian got his $36m. back?

It seemed like the sale of the century when Shanghai taxi driver turned billionaire, 52 year-old Liu Yiqian, spent over US$36million on a tiny 500 year-old chicken cup at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong in July 2014. Those who thought he was mad, felt their fears confirmed when he paid for it ( with 24 separate swipes of his Amex card) and promptly sat down and drank tea from it.wpid-liu-drinks-from-chicken-cup-lr.jpg.jpeg

It seemed like an awful lot of money: he beat London art dealer Eskenazi to the post. But in Shanghai three weeks ago, we picked up word on the street that he has made all the $36m. back already. Apparently, he licensed reproduction of the chicken bowl and more than 100,000 have been produced in Jingdezhen, the porcelain city. They sell at around $50-60 a piece, complete with elegant box and are, indeed, selling like hotcakes! There is also a rather more expensive replica at around $1,000. He presented one of the replicas to the UK’s Prince William on his visit to Shanghai recently.

The production quality is really quite good and it has caught on with Chinese who can’t quite afford the real thing but would like to grace their coffee table with something associated with great wealth. There is also a rather more expensive reproduction for the better heeled.

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Two views of the reproduction chicken bowl, above

 

What’s really going on in China

opinion hl

We have just returned from three weeks in China, visiting Shanghai, Jingdezhen and Beijing, and are currently travelling in Japan. It is more than ten years since we lived in Shanghai and it is quite remarkable to reflect on how things have changed dramatically in the last decade or so.

It was staggering to spend, at the Paulaner Brauhaus in Xintiandi (downtown Shanghai), a swingeing £9.80 (US$15) on a pint of draught beer. Ten years ago, that would have paid for a week’s modest drinking. It was equally staggering, in Japan this week, to pay just over £2 (US$3.00) on a pint of draught beer. It all used to be quite the other way round. Japan was the most expensive country in East Asia and up and coming China amongst the cheapest.

Now it has all changed. Mr Shinzo Abe has introduced measures to boost the Japanese economy using central bank easing (Abenomics as it is known). The yen has declined in value dramatically and, all of a sudden, Japan is a bargain basement country. What’s more, it is full of Chinese tourists (at least Tokyo is) and they seem to be frantically buying up rice cookers. Apparently, they are a fraction of the price they are across the water in Shanghai.

Are there any messages here for those of us in the world of art and antiques?We think there are. China is in the process of transit from a low cost economy where most everything was cheap to a high cost economy. There will, of course, always be a large section of the population in China which is cripplingly poor but there is an ever growing middle class which has large savings (often in a hole in the wall rather than a bank) and spare cash at the end of the month.

The pressure of all this cash is bound to push up prices, quite apart from the aspirational factor whereby the newly wealthy seek to improve themselves and their neighbours with newly acquired high taste and culture. Hundreds of millions of Chinese will be looking for a piece of porcelain here, and an ancient scroll there.

We think we know what that implies. The giddy rise in prices in China is set to continue and that can’t be bad for business . . .

Shanghai sculptor Chen Dapeng announces Olympia exhibition: welcomed by Minister for Foreign Affairs

From Paul Harris in Shanghai SONY DSC The renowned Shanghai sculptor Chen Dapeng today opened a major retrospective exhibition of his quarter of a century of work and took the opportunity to announce publicly that he will exhibit at this year’s Olympia Winter Art & Antiques Fair (November 2-8 2015).

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More than 150 people attended for the announcement and exhibition opening. Minister of Foreign Affairs Xie Wei speaks.

Following his successful exhibition at the Carousel du Louvre in 2013, he now seeks to expose his body of work to the British audience. Several Chinese government ministers and other dignitaries attended the event which was held in the grounds of The Dragon Building in the Songjiang suburb of Shanghai.

The Dragon Building, built in the shape of China’s most significant emblem, was designed and built by Chen Dapeng and, together with other associated buildings, provides studios, workshops, offices and home for the 53 year-old sculptor. More than 150 guests from the media, government, business and academe attended the event which also featured tai chi demonstrations, and traditional Chinese music and dance. It was also attended by Ana Perez Grassano, the Paris-based Argentinian artist who is in Shanghai to paint Chen Dapeng. The event was filmed by Xinhua News Agency and Shanghai Television. It is an integral part of The Shanghai People’s Festival 2015.

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs from the office of the government of Shanghai (now a region of some 25 million people), Mr Xie Wei, welcomed Mr Chen Dapeng’s efforts to export art from China to the west and evinced his support for the Olympia exhibition. Mr Chen Dapeng also publicly announced that Paul Harris Asia Arts (www.PaulHarrisAsiaArts.co.uk) has been appointed to represent him in the UK and to organise his exposure at Olympia. Paul Harris Asia Arts is a sister business to ChineseArt.co.uk.

A 200 sq m series of stands have been booked at the Olympia event and it is thought he may well be the largest single exhibitor at the Winter Art & Antiques Fair, the most significant public exhibition of its type held in the winter months.