We are excited to speak with Asia Art Initiative's Founder and CEO, Pablo Espinel Rudolf. Find out more about AAI's vision of making contemporary art more accessible to new audiences and how art forms part of a lifestyle that is represented beyond the traditional channels.
Tell us a little more about the Asia Art Initiative. How did it start and what is the Initiative’s vision and goal?
Asia Art Initiative (AAI) is a boutique art consulting firm whose primary aim is to create dialogues between art and other disciplines such as fashion, jewellery or design, making contemporary art more accessible to new audiences.
In my 5 years as a Director and Member of the Executive Board at Art Stage, I was able to observe not only how contemporary art rose to play a very important role in our lifestyles but particularly how the boundaries between art and other lifestyle disciplines had become totally blurred.
As a response, I founded AAI 2 years ago. I wanted to create a platform to make contemporary art more accessible, more comprehensible, by allowing it to expand across other disciplines without compromising its status as art objects that have stories and a place in the broader art ecosystem.
Founder and CEO of Asia Art Initiative, Pablo Espinel Rudolf.
Image Courtesy of AAI.
AAI is presenting its first major collaboration between one of China’s most avant-garde contemporary artists and one of Europe’s leading luxury houses this month. How did this partnership between Wu Jian’an and BVLGARI come about?
AAI’s relationship with BVLGARI started last year, when they were looking for an innovative way to engage their top clients. We suggested an exclusive workshop and talk with Wu Jian’an, who had recently been commissioned for the China Pavillion at the Venice Biennale 2017. It was a successful match given Wu Jian’an’s dedication to combine traditional crafts with modernity, an approach shared by BVLGARI.
A few months later BVLGARI invited us to Rome with the intention to further explore the collaboration. During what I must say was a perfectly organized and hospitable trip – we were able to visit the prestigious BVLGARI high jewelry workshops and ateliers, private collections in Rome including BVLGARI’s Heritage Collection and were even given an exclusive afterhours private tour to the Sistine Chapel – we discussed Wu Jian’an and BVLGARI’s synergies and the possible partnership.
Then, last December, Wu Jian’an was asked to be the first artist ever to create a contemporary art project at their New Curiosity Shop.
Image Courtesy of Bulgari.
What is the concept behind Wu Jian’an for BVLGARI and The New Curiosity Shop from an art perspective?
AAI created a site-specific art project with Chinese artist Wu Jian’an that would reflect BVLGARI’s values and heritage as well as the objective of the New Curiosity Shop which is designed to attract a younger audience. The theme, thus, had to heavily rely on this ancient/modern duality. Wu Jian’an is the perfect match with his rich cultural background, his love of colours, and his dedication to combine traditional crafts with modern technologies such as laser cutting and 3D modelling.
To bring old and new together, Wu Jian’an created ‘Two great snakes compete for a pair of beautiful butterfly wings’ and ‘Dinosaur’ which deal with snakes forced to use modern creativity to survive in a Chinese folk mythology influenced setting. The snake is the core symbol of BVLGARI as well as a traditional Chinese symbol. The snakes in both works all evolve, through competition or cooperation. It is up to the audience to decide which produces longer lasting results as Wu Jian’an proposedly leaves this point open for debate. At the end it relays a clear message to the younger audience: creativity and evolution are of utmost importance to survive and thrive in the constantly changing and competitive landscapes we live in today.
Dinosaur, 2018 Serpent skeleton, red deer antler and metal 110 x 60 x 42cm.
Image Courtesy of AAI.
What are some of AAI’s considerations when matching an artist with a brand or vice versa? Are there any challenges in creating a synergy between an artist who may not necessarily be famous with a global luxury lifestyle brand?
AAI usually introduces a selection of artists to the brand which we deem appropriate based on their values, heritage and objectives. There are many discussions, and we usually visit them in their headquarters to get a better understanding of their expectations and their brand identity. What makes us different is that no collaboration is the same and that although the unique artists we propose may not be mainstream ones, they share core values and sense of aesthetics with the brand which for us is far more important.
Mainstream artists, although clearly advantaged in fame, often chose to work with multiple brands simply because they can. This lack of exclusivity can be seen as a disadvantage by some brands and this is where AAI fills the void. Of course there is the initial hesitation to lesser known artists but thankfully AAI has a strong network among luxury brands which helps to overcome this challenge. Throughout my time at Art Stage I worked closely with luxury brands in the industries of fashion, watches, yachts, jewellery, amongst others who were interested in establishing a connection with contemporary art.
Two great snakes compete for a pair of beautiful butterfly wings, 2018 Hand dyed and waxed paper-cut, water color, cotton thread, paper and silk. 236 x 201 x 11.5cm (framed).
Image Courtesy of AAI.
Through such initiatives, AAI detaches the way that an artist and their works are presented, away from the traditional association to a gallery or a museum. By expanding this presentation of art in a novel form, how does art become more accessible?
Gallery / museum visitors know they want to see “art”. They take a conscious decision to visit the exhibition and that is their objective. In a way, the audience is made up of “art converts”, strictly speaking. On the other hand, in these kind of partnerships, the audience of a specific brand enters their familiar space unsuspectingly and is then surprised by an art project. While AAI puts great effort in preserving the artistic essence of the work of art, the sole fact that the audience is exposed to it in a known setting, free from the rigidness of a gallery or museum, allows for a completely different and immensely accessible experience to appreciating contemporary art.
In a nutshell, if we continue with the religious analogy, our initiatives aim to explain and bring the liturgy closer to the “non-converts”.
Artist, Wu Jian'an.
Image Courtesy of the artist.
With collaborations between art, fashion and design, lines are inevitably blurred between the different disciplines. What is AAI’s role here to ensure that the status of the work as an art object is not compromised?
AAI is straightforward from the start of the project that we are aiming for a collaboration which inspires the artist and the brand to join forces to create a contemporary art project. It is of utmost importance that the brand understands this, and, in that respect, BVLGARI has been a great partner. As part of their heritage department programme, their travelling exhibitions have integrated art, photography, fashion and jewellery seamlessly by setting respectful boundaries across disciplines.
Any upcoming projects for the second half of this year? We would love to know what is next on the agenda for AAI.
We have an exciting project with a major fashion brand coming up! Sadly, we are not able to share details yet but stay up to date on www.asiaartinitiative.com.
Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.
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