BRINGING ART TO LIFE: Leave it to Alibaba to modernize the tried-and-true museum alliance. The e-commerce juggernaut joined forces with Suzhou Museum for a on-site fashion show in Suzhou, China, on July 4. Models walked the runway more than once wearing museum-inspired designs and the show was also featured online throughout the day.
Eleven of the 24 looks that appeared in the show including an Abstract Geometry zip-front jacket are now being sold exclusively on Taobao. As of Tuesday morning, more than 2,000 units had sold out entirely, according a spokesman for the Suzhou Museum. There were no plans to sell any of the runway show items via the museum.
As a warm-up to the event, a joint exhibition of the design inspiration for the clothing that was later featured on the runway was displayed in the galleries from June 27 to 29. While the exact number of attendees could not be determined, more than three million people interacted online during the show, according to a spokesman for the museum, which specializes in ancient Chinese art, calligraphy and handmade crafts. Executives at Alibaba did not respond to requests for comment. Museum officials declined to disclose “further details about any type of monetary sponsorship or formal agreement with Alibaba,” the spokesman said.
Set in an IM Pei building, the Suzhou Museum “is the original inspiration for this fashion designs as it is representative of the culture, heritage and history of the area. The company was looking for a partner that truly showcased the unique background of China and local areas. The Suzhou Museum tends to explore the innovative modalities in culture and creative industry. The partnership which takes a look at the history of Suzhou and China takes in design inspiration from the physical building as well as collections found within the museum,” the spokesman said.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma is an artist himself. Last fall, “Paradise,” a spacelike view of the Earth with what seems to be scaled-down ice masses that Ma painted with Zeng Fanzhi, sold at Sotheby’s for $5.3 million. The art is meant to highlight the shrinking icecaps and the proceeds were donated to the Paradise International Foundation, which Ma and Fanzhi cofounded.
Located nearly 50 miles from Shanghai, Suzhou was a starting point for the Silk Road that linked China with Persia, India and Europe, and subsequently became the cultural capital for the Ming Dynasty from 1400 to 1700. This summer the Suzhou Art Museum is rebooting the city’s artistic image by leading the first “Suzhou Documents,” a citywide contemporary art exhibition featuring 40 artists and researchers. Zhang Qing, founding director of the Shanghai Biennial, and Roger M. Buergel, director of the Johann Jacobs Museum in Zurich, are curating the two-month event.