Adrian Cheng, the young Chinese cultural entrepreneur, melds East and West so well: he was born in China, completed his higher education at Harvard, comes from a well-established family, and is under 40. His goals involve creating branded spaces, called K11 Art Malls, for young Chinese artists to display their work, thereby helping to create a new, young, Chinese cultural heritage.
Last year, I spoke with him about this idea, through the cross-pollinating different areas of art and aesthetics. In past years, he has created the K11 Art Foundation and the Malls, but this year, he and the renowned fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, have collaborated to create something quite new: an art/fashion exhibition at his K11 Shanghai Art Mall, called Get A Life! that combines contemporary Chinese art, and Westwood’s eco-sensitive fashion all with the theme of climate change concerns.
Recently, I spoke with him again, and asked him about this new exhibit that defined a disruptive fusion of art, fashion and eco-sensitivity. He replied that “…cross pollinating creative talent through disciplines remains a core purpose. But I’m also keen to promote idea exchange and debate so that we can educate across the board in very accessible ways.
A key brand platform and cultural vision I’ve conceived is The Artisanal Movement. It encompasses all aspects of creation: fashion, art, design, craft, to lifestyle, interiors and exhibits. What the movement promotes and what my team and I are doing in all our projects is to collect, connect and collide—be it ideas, traditions, people or forms of creative expression. Get A Life! —by collaborating with the brilliant Vivienne Westwood and her team, and forging a cross-cultural dialogue in China—is a fine example of this.”
But, I wondered about how this idea—combining climate change challenges, contemporary Chinese art and high end fashion—came about. These are very diverse ideas to catapult into one vision and exhibition. Adrian explained that fusing K11 art and its collections with Vivienne Westwood's fashion brand had many synchronies. “I’ve known Vivienne for a long time. We began to discuss what we could do together to spotlight the environment and sustainability, how we could start a cross-culture dialogue in China, and how the message could make a lasting, educational impact.
This was around the time when we launched our Shanghai K11 Art Mall, which houses our 3000sqm K11 art museum—so I thought why not create an exhibition, using art and fashion as a compelling draw, to inspire people to talk more about the interconnecting relationships between fashion, art and the world in which we live?”
That was the question: the Get A Life Exhibition was the answer.
The Exhibition, in the K11 Art Museum in Shanghai, is divided into six areas. The first five deal with many fashion pieces and a documentary, aligned to the impassioned causes—especially climate change—of Dame Westwood. The last area includes seven contemporary Chinese artists that display work in dialogue with Dame Westwood’s activism in her causes.
Adrian then added, “We’ve also chosen to support the rain forest charity Cool Earth. Collection points are placed throughout the K11 mall where people can make a donation. So, alongside the talks and workshops which explore where fashion meets the environment, there are multiple touch points and references to global green issues. Get A Life! and our satellite initiatives are addressing these issues in our small way, which hopefully will lead to bigger things, in China, and globally."
But beyond this exhibition, the K11 Art Foundation is busy with a number of projects, including a collaboration with MoMA, as well as an exhibition with New Museum, New York. Adrian is also launching his first furniture collection: a museum-quality collection he co-designed with a Japanese designer. It’ll debut in Milan this April at a venue to coincide with Milan Design Week.
“Lastly”, he said, “we have three new K11 Art Malls opening this year alone – in Wuhan, Guangzhou and Shenyang. So the scope for staging cross-cultural exhibitions is growing all the time.”
Adrian Cheng is s busy, Millennial visionary, and like his Art Malls, his reputation is growing all the time. More to come. Stay tuned.