Adrian Peter Tse
May 18, 2015

Marketing art in Asia and the King of Kowloon

HONG KONG - Given the creative and cultural significance of art, marketers don’t approach art marketing in the same way as traditional brand marketers. Yet the art industry in Asia is valued in the billions, and is beginning to enter the conversation around ecommerce and user experience.

Marketing art in Asia and the King of Kowloon

According to Jehan Chu, a leading art advisor and founder of the Art Research Institute Hong Kong, taste in art can be subjective, but the value of art isn’t.

“As art experts, we use many of the same techniques used to value any asset,” said Chu. “From size, age, past record prices, quality and presence of the work and while all of these have a range of subjectivity, there’s a lot we [art experts] can agree on to establish at least, a baseline value.”

Similarly, while art professionals think about marketing artists and their work, they rarely call it marketing. Chu believes the motivations are different to typical marketers and that the art industry has to walk a fine line between what’s commercially viable and acceptable in order to maintain a level of elegance and sophistication.

“You have to be careful about the mechanisms you use to promote and can’t appear too sales-driven,” said Chu. “Whereas a traditional company or a brand may be trying to drive sales, a gallery may be trying to drive not only sales, but awareness, appreciation, exposure and ultimately a place in art history.”

Yet, the commercial side of art is increasingly ‘digital’ and for-profit in nature. As many commercial transactions take place online through auction sites such as Sotheby’s, the art industry has joined the conversation on digital marketing and user experience. (Story continues below)

In this video, Campaign Asia reporter Adrian Peter Tse takes to the streets to explore the late art and cultural icon Tsang Tsou Choi's (the King of Kowloon) last remaining street artworks. Guided by art expert Jehan Chu, Tse also heads to Dominic Allon, managing director at Google Hong Kong to understand Google Cultural Institute, the tech giant’s initiative to digitize and preserve art globally.

According to Chu, the average online art buyer in Asia spends around US$10,000.

“We have the data for that,” said Chu. “Buying art online is not like buying detergent or other kinds of online shopping. As a professional, I can buy without seeing the art in person and pay $10,000 or $500,000 because I know the artist, work and what to expect.”

For the average consumer however, Chu recommends a more cautious approach. On the flip side of commercial art is general art appreciation and cultural creativity.

With Tsang Tsou Choi and the King of Kowloon project, Chu believes that the Google Cultural Institute has helped make a more compelling case for preserving the street artists’ work as well as for getting the attention of Hong Kong people.

“The hardest thing about art and promoting the King of Kowloon is that a lot of Hong Kong people just don’t care,” said Chu. “But now with the online access and a brand such as Google involved, it lends substance to the project, which might just go on to impact local creativity.”


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