Is Art’s New Silk Road a One-Way Street? In this four-part series, we look first at the rise and evolution of China’s art market over the past four decades; next, at ways in which Chinese collectors may now be reinforcing market dynamics that reduce sales for Western and Chinese artists; and third at possible strategies […]
When Chinese collectors and dealers began buying Western art in the late 90s, they confronted a market dominated by an oligopoly of auction houses and dealers that were concentrated in New York and London. Twenty years later, not much has changed.
People have been making art in China for at least 4000 years, but the modern era of China’s art market dates from the early 1980s, when the government opened the economy to private enterprise and the country began to recover from the ravages of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a period when most art, new and old, was derided as decadent and counter-revolutionary.
Tattoo culture has exploded in China in the last few years, as the country’s younger generations abandon centuries-old prejudices against the practice and embrace it as an expression of individuality. Chinese millennials are getting tattoos in record numbers, but some are being forced to keep them hidden.
Learning how to please Chinese audiences without alienating moviegoers in the US is becoming crucial for Hollywood as box office receipts stagnate in home market but explode in China. Quarterly ticket revenues in China surpassed those in North America for the first time ever in the first three months of 2018, with Chinese cinemas netting $3.15 billion compared to $2.85 billion in Canada and the US. Those figures were boosted by massive takings during the Lunar New Year holiday, always a peak time for Chinese cinemas, but China could become the world’s largest film market in whole-year terms in 2019.
Few people have had the opportunity to watch the rise of video games as an economic and cultural force as closely as Jordan Mechner, who began making video games while in high school in the 1970s. He had his first hit, Karateka, in 1984 while he was still in college, and later went on to create the Prince of Persia franchise, which to date has sold over 20 million copies. In a wide-ranging interview over Skype from his office in Montpellier, France, Mechner, who is also a successful screenwriter and graphic novelist, talked about the evolution of game design and where games might head next.
Chinese parents today are willing to spend more than their parents’ generation were to make their children smile. Retail sales of toys and games in China leaped over 250% between 2011 and 2016, making the toy market very appealing. Today, playtime in China is more about learning than fun and games—Chinese parents think play should be constructive, making educational toys more popular than traditional ones. Meanwhile, seizing kids’ playtime is also a key to winning the toy market, and that’s why toy brands are attempting to combine their products with a learning center.
As the world’s most populous country, China should have the potential to become the world’s most profitable music market, yet it is far away from that—China was the 12th largest market in 2016, with $202 million in revenue compared to the US’s No.1 ranking of $5.3 billion. But there are important differences in the way music is consumed that may give China a business edge. Led by internet firms like Tencent, China has adjusted to the digital future of music more quickly, with a whopping 96% of music revenue from digital releases and 75% of that number coming from streaming sales.
Many developing nations see China as a champion and as an investor. Western countries wish to see China shoulder a greater share of the burden of global leadership, and a growing number of Chinese citizens want China to reclaim its ancient role of international dominance. But is China ready to “lead the world?” Has it reached the stage where it can set the international tone, take the central role on global issues and provide preeminent guidance toward the future? To many the answer might be “yes”, but as the foundations of the powerhouse economy are actually weaker than they seem, that assessment may be premature.
eSports is more than playing digital games online. With an estimated market value of $104 million in 2017, it is a multi-billion industry that both traditional and tech companies are pursuing in China. It is about networking, with millions of people watching contests online at a same time, and about a new way for brands to get closer to Chinese millennial, a demographic many find tricky to connect to. Behind the momentum is both digital sophistication and a maturing internet ecosystem in China. Yet to continue expanding, the industry is facing the difficulty of finding an entrance for traditional sports like soccer and basketball.