LONDON — Fashion and luxury brands — always present during Hong Kong’s Art Basel and London’s Frieze art fair — are no strangers the Shanghai art week, which usually runs in the second week of November.
Although this year’s two flagship art shows — Art021 Shanghai Contemporary Art Fair and the West Bund Art & Design Fair — recorded a dip in international exhibitors due to the pandemic, Shanghai yields more influence than ever in the art world: Given that China has emerged from the pandemic quicker than the rest of the world, it remains the only place where physical art fairs can take place.
Major luxury brands acted accordingly and shifted events to coincide with the art week to tap into the influx of ultra-high-net-worth collectors who flew into town. Some of them had to spend two weeks in mandatory quarantine before scouring the fairs and shopping for arty luxury items that can serve as conversation starters at gallery openings.
Chanel, for example, invited VIPs and friends of the house to an exclusive preview of “Design and the Wondrous: On the Nature of Ornament,” an exhibition at West Bund Museum, where the brand is one of the main sponsors.
A key piece on display there — “Slow Relief” by Danish furniture and lighting designer Louise Campbell — also shares a link to the Parisian fashion house as it was acquired by The Chanel Fund for Women in the Arts and Culture for Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Louis Vuitton opened a pop-up bookstore at the West Bund art fair. It featured a selection of titles about art, travel, photography, and publications by the brand, as well as the new ArtyCapucines collaboration with contemporary Chinese artists Liu Wei and Zhao Zhao.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Fendi and Dior, meanwhile, took up space at Art021, which was located at the Stalinist neoclassical Shanghai Exhibition Center, to showcase their latest artist collaborations with Baguette and Lady Dior handbags, respectively.
Fendi said its presence at the art fair aimed to “share a positive message of rebirth through art and fashion.” The brand’s booth featured an arched wall that resembles the signature architectural style of Fendi’s Rome headquarters Palazzo Della Civiltà Italiana. It was dotted with 3-D-printed Baguettes.
At the center of the space, there was an installation designed by the brand’s China brand ambassador, actress Tan Zhuo. Titled “The Unlimited Baguette,” it depicts a metallic rocket shooting from the bag, while the other nine artists — André, Chen Ke, Donna Ong, Fereydoun Ave, Jung Hwa Choi, Kendell Geers, Lucy and Jorge Orta, Nelson Leirner and Raman Hui — also interpreted Baguettes, displayed on cubes.
According to the brand, Zhuo’s installation suggests “that life contains unlimited possibilities.”
At the same time, Dior rolled out the fifth installment of its Dior Lady Art artist collaboration series in Shanghai, alongside the artworks that inspired the collaboration. In addition to Judy Chicago, who reunites with Dior for the project, the list consists of Joël Andrianomearisoa, Gisela Colón, Song Dong, Bharti Kher, Mai-Thu Perret, Recycle Group, Chris Soal, Claire Tabouret and Olga Titus.
In order to amplify the project to its customers with different levels of spending power in China, the brand set up an afternoon tea area inside the art fair for VIPs to enjoy French pastries and a cup of cappuccino with Dior logo foam, while its army of local ambassadors showcased the bags for their millions of followers on social media.
Emerging fashion designers were also dipping their toes into the art world at Art021. For example, the LVMH Prize-shortlisted Xuzhi Chen, who has relocated to Shanghai, displayed six pieces of art made with his signature fringes textiles and a video installation.
A short walk from the exhibition center, Prada offered an interpretation of American artist Alex Da Corte’s video work “Rubber Pencil Devil” at Rong Zhai — a Western-style mansion and once the residence of Chinese industrialist Rong Zongjing that the Milanese brand spent six years restoring to its former glory — with the support of Fondazione Prada.
Conceived in 2018, the video work is composed of 57 chapters and a prologue. In Rong Zhai, the work is presented by the artist in a site-specific exhibition format featuring 51 of the 57 acts on 19 large rear-projection multicolored video cubes displayed on the two main floors of the building.
More than 1,000 guests from art and cultural fields, such as Cao Fei, Li Qing and Yang Fudong attended the preview on Thursday. The exhibition was slated to run from March 10 to May 24, but was postponed to coincide with the Shanghai art week due to the pandemic. It will be open to the public from Nov. 13 to Jan. 17, 2021, with tickets available on Rong Zhai’s WeChat mini-program.
Fashion publication SuperElle also capitalized on the art week. It cohosted the Edge Ball with UCCA Center for Contemporary Art to welcome the institution’s supporters. The party took place on the top floor of the Edge building in Shanghai and served as a preview for UCCA Edge, UCCA’s museum opening on the same site in spring 2021. It will be UCCA Group’s third museum, after UCCA Beijing in 798 Art District and UCCA Dune in Beidaihe’s Aranya Gold Coast.
Sujia Zhuge, editor in chief of the SuperElle said the magazine takes the Chinese younger generation’s fast-growing love for art very seriously. Hence, the title released its first art-themed issue with pop star Jay Chow on the cover.
A lone wolf during the art week is Gucci. It did not directly participate with the art fairs. Instead, the Italian brand on Thursday transformed the city’s legendary mansion Hengshan House into the Gucci 1961 Club with a photo booth, a screening room and a dance floor to celebrate the reopening of its iAPM store, as well as the Jackie handbag.