Known for her contemporary portraits of Chinese women, renowned Chinese artist Yu Hong teamed up with jeweler Tiffany & Co. recently to create a series of portraits to promote the company’s key-shaped jewelry. Featuring Yu’s specially created portraits of famous female personalities such as actress Zhang Ziyi, professional tennis player Li Na, and singer Li Yuchun, the collaboration focuses on the concept of “unlocking the possibilities.”
Hong seeks to forge a relationship between Tiffany’s keys and the audience by connecting the everyday experience of people in China with the stars she paints. In one released promotional video, Zhang Ziyi talks about her fears of failing as an actress, and a phenomenon common to many Chinese people growing up: latchkey children (yaoshier 钥匙儿), or children of working parents who come back from school to an empty house.
“For my generation growing up in China, the key is very familiar,” says Zhang in the video. “We would each have a string and a key to go home.” She then talks about how keys are symbolic in Chinese culture to unlocking possibilities.
Luxury brands have crossed paths with art many times to reach out to Chinese consumer through collaborations with local artists or supporting the local arts scene. Tiffany has previously partnered with Chinese composer Tan Dun to appeal to affluent consumers through classical music. Italian roaster illy commissioned the efforts of Chinese artist Liu Wei to design special-edition cans and cups last year, and Swiss watchmaker Swatch has teamed up with photographers Birdhead. Dior enlisted several contemporary Chinese artists to create pieces for an art exhibit. Bottega Veneta provided a public platform for local artists with an exhibition space in one of its Shanghai boutiques, and Hugo Boss launched a Hugo Boss Asian Art Award to reward emerging artists who have made great contributions to the Chinese art world.