In China’s fast moving, connected world of wealthy consumers, it’s imperative for luxury brands to innovate in order to stay relevant. Enter the world of art and luxury collaborations, one that Hong Kong-based media company The Art Gorgeous has been documenting for the past year. Now it’s asking readers to vote for their favorite capsule collections, campaigns, and social media moments that have dominated the global cross section between art and luxury.
2017 was the year luxury brands sought out Chinese artists that would give them more relevance in the China market, while also giving further credence to China’s cultural role in the industry.
Among the nominees, these are the five artist-brand collaborations of most import to the China market.
1. Cao Fei and BMW
Among The Art Gorgeous’s leading Art x Brand Collaborations is one between Guangzhou-based multi-media artist Cao Fei and German automaker BMW. They worked together to create an “Art Car” that not only brought the worlds of luxury automobiles and contemporary art in one room, but gave the exhibition a heavy dose of tech.
The artist was BMW’s first collaborator from China, and with Art Car #18 she followed high profile contemporary artists including Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol. For a luxury brand steeped in history and heritage, Cao’s contribution was a car of the future and a nod to China’s rapidly evolving relationship with their smartphones. During the exhibition at Art Basel, the audience could direct their phone towards the sleek black car and, with the help of AR, they could see digital, colorful swirls dancing above the vehicle.
2. Sun Xun and Audemars Piguet
BMW wasn’t the only brand to debut a Chinese artist in an ongoing collaboration project. Though it didn’t make The Art Gorgeous’s list, luxury watch label Audemars Piguet showcased the work of Beijing-based contemporary artist Sun Xun in an Art Basel exhibition late last year as part of its Audemars Piguet Art Commision. Then in March, artist Cheng Ran showed his short film “Circadian Rhythm” at Art Basel Hong Kong as part of a commissioned piece by the watchmaker for a show in Shanghai.
3. Liu Bolin and Moncler
In a very different kind of partnership, Italian fashion house Moncler brought together renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz and China’s “invisible man”, artist Liu Bolin for its fall and spring campaign shoots. In it, Liu wore a Moncler down jacket and camouflaged himself among icebergs in Iceland. Moncler CEO Remo Ruffini told Jing Daily in an interview following the campaign’s release that the intended audience for the advertisement was a worldwide one as the brand strives to adopt a “contemporary and global approach to research in a tireless quest for innovation.”
4. Supermafia and Sankuanz
Flipping the script, one of the nominees for the prize is a Chinese fashion label that worked with European artists. Streetwear label Sankuanz made the SuperGorgeous Award nominees list for its collaboration with Swiss visual arts collective Supermafia for its Fall/Winter 17 show at Paris Fashion Week.
5. Jeff Koons and Louis Vuitton
Of course, many other Western artists made the list, some of them for collaborations that made major waves in Chinese social media circles.
One of these was the handbag capsule collection Jeff Koons did for Louis Vuitton, titled “The Masters”, which featured a reimagining of masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, and other big names on a selection of totes and carryalls.
The launch spurred a flurry of mixed reviews on Weibo, some of which joked that the bags easily looked like counterfeit products, a market notoriously challenging for high-end brands selling online in China. While some defended the bags, others suggested LV should look to brands like Gucci that set an example for creatively engaging the millennial, art-curious generation.
Despite this reception, Louis Vuitton launched its second collection with Jeff Koons late last year, this time featuring the likes of François Boucher and Monet.
This global trend of intersection between fashion, art, and design is likely only going to increase as both brands and artists look to engage new and younger audiences that consume content in an increasingly visual way.
“I do believe we are going to see more of these collaborations, but brands should remember that there are many more ways to tap into the art world than a capsule, which doesn’t make sense for every label’s DNA,” said The Art Gorgeous founder Cordelia Noe.
“If it is being done in a smart way, such collaborations can be fruitful for both sides. … However it shouldn’t just exist to follow a trend. The brand’s clients also sense the real nature of such collaborations and become more critical.”