Tag Archives: China

New Photos, Video of Tallest Glass-Bottom Bridge

If you are afraid of heights, look away now because this story is all about the world’s tallest and longest glass-bottom bridge. New photos have emerged of what’s poised to become, arguably, the world’s most dizzying glass-bottomed bridge in China. Scroll to the bottom of the article for the video.

Located in the national park that inspired the floating mountains of James Cameron’s film Avatar, the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge is not for the faint of heart, connecting two precipices 300 meters above the canyon floor. The transparent bridge spans 430 meters in length, 6 meters in width and can accommodate up to 800 people.

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Designed by Tel Aviv-based architectural firm Haim Dotan Ltd., the feat of structural and architectural engineering holds 10 world records including the world’s highest bungee jump. The bridge is meant to be “as invisible as possible,” work seamlessly with nature and give visitors the sense of floating in mid-air.

Zhangjiajie National Park is located in the northern part of Hunan province. The bridge is expected to open this summer.

Though the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge will claim several bragging rights when it opens, the one title it won’t hold is being China’s first glass bridge. Last fall, a glass walkway opened in central Hunan province at a more modest height of 180 meters.

More pictures follow,below the video:

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tallest longest glass bottom bridge China

 

Michelin Guide Announces Shanghai Edition

Having conquered the culinary world of Europe, Singapore and Seoul, the Michelin Guide has now set its sights on Mainland China. With a focus on Shanghai, the book is slated to be unveiled later this year.

Lauded as the ultimate restaurant guide – a handbook for foodies on the road if you will – its international director Michael Ellis said “The richness and quality of Shanghai’s culinary scene completely won us over.” He added that “The city is an economic and cultural crossroad, and its gastronomy is the result of a strong culinary heritage which makes the dining scene very exciting. Shanghai’s culinary scene range from popular to fine dining restaurants, and we are eager to discover the high quality of Shanghai’s gastronomy and starting the selection.”

Some say Michelin has been expanding into Asia to match rival Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards, a spinoff of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Being based in Asia as we always have been, we wonder what took Michelin so long to get out here. Better late than never we suppose. Here is our earlier story on Seoul and Singapore.

The Michelin Guide Shanghai 2017, will be released later this year and will represent he 28th edition of the international collection.

 

 

Armani Supports Miaoran For Milan Fashion Week

Having a good eye for new fashion designers with potential, Italian fashion icon Giorgio Armani has decided to host the label of Chinese designer Miaoran in the Armani/Teatro space as a part of Milan Fashion Week. This all comes into place as a part of his ongoing support program for fresh talent.

“Discovering new talents on the international scene is something interesting and stimulating, since it enables me to confront myself with very different stylistic ideas and creative visions” said Armani, in a report by WWD. Miaoran definitely fits that criteria to a key. His primary aim seems to be eschewing form and gender – creating ambiguous styles with oversized proportions. The designer picked up his skill by studying in Italy.

In thanks to Armani, Miaoran called the opportunity a “huge honor for a young designer who comes from far away”. When June comes around, we’ll be able to see what interesting styles he has to offer, amongst the other offerings over at Milan.

Interview: Artist Wang Guangyi

Best known for his ‘Great Criticism’ series of paintings, which uses imagery of propaganda from the Cultural Revolution juxtaposed against household Western contemporary brand names such as Coca Cola, Google and Louis Vuitton, Wang Guangyi is undeniably one of the leaders of the new art movement that started in China after 1989.

Despite facing constant criticism for his works, Wang sees these criticisms as a motivation to step out of his psychological comfort zone, to make changes, and seek objects, which can come into effect in our contemporary society. Wang begins to think about the final form of artistic practice by creating works associated with great men, symbols and myths. These works involve no direct representation, but instead focuses on the exploration of the concept.

冷战美学, 2007

冷战美学, 2007

Born in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province in 1957, Wang Guangyi studied art within the context of the Cultural Revolution initiated by Mao Zedong in the 1970’s. Wang enrolled at Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts and graduated from the oil painting department of the academy in 1984. Wang currently lives and works in Beijing, China.

From 12 January to 12 February 2016, [email protected] presents ‘Image Correction’, an exhibition showcasing Wang’s aesthetic expression of the political paradox. Wang illustrates major historical events, which we are unable to ignore. Through his works, Wang considers this series as him “playing a serious game”. The works in his new series have strong connections with each other – specific, relevant and correlating.

Our friends at Art Republik spoke with Wang to find out more about his iconic works and living through the Cultural Revolution.

What is it like being an artist in China during, and then after, the Cultural Revolution?

For an artist, all the experience is meaningful that will enrich his art creation after that. About the Cultural Revelation, for me, there is sense of the aesthetic feeling in that chaos.

导师, 2011

导师, 2011

Tell us more about your series ‘Great Criticism’ and why you decided to stop that series?

There is no doubt that what my ‘Great Criticism’ series represents are the two different ways of brainwashing: fetishism and socialist utopian. I put these two kinds of images with totally different meanings together, which leads to a paradox of them. Probably there are peculiarities of transcendence and theology behind this paradox. After I’ve created the images, the cultural context has changed, there is now risk that the original meaning of these images have been wrenched. The sense of this risk is one of the reasons that I stopped making the works of ‘Great Criticism’.

You’ve noted in your works political and commercial brainwashing through propaganda in this world. Having achieved great success as an artist, do you think you have been affected by any kind of propaganda at all?

Of course, all things that people experience will leave marks.

导师, 2011

导师, 2011

How are you dealing with criticism and government scrutiny towards the political and religious depictions in your works?

As an artist, I am concerned more about the mysterious and unknowable things. I’m not interested in practical and specific issues.

Tell us more about your new series ‘Image Correction’.

In my view, there are complex historical elements in images, and these elements have formed very complex historical memories for an artist’s creation today. When the artist arouses this memory, there is no doubt that the memory will be unconsciously corrected as individual interpretation. When I myself correct massive idol-like images, they come to mind as negative film. Hence, image correction.

*For more information, please visit www.mocaloewen.sg

Story Credits

This article was originally published in Art Republik

ITA Channels Batman at Beijing Auto Show

With styling that boasts sharp geometric angles on a black exterior, the ITA Karlmann King seems to come straight from the domain of a certain fictional caped crusader. It was unveiled by ITA at the Beijing Auto Show and we present the facts here as the AFP reported them, despite conflicting reports on the name (ITA vs IAT) so take note search engine robots, we aren’t trying to game anyone! The domestic carmaker had indicated that they were planning to put the car into a limited production of 10 units globally, but it turned out to be just a working prototype for now. Even in that state though, its eventual price is slated as a jaw-dropping $1.85 million – an amount of money that you could use to buy four Bentley Bentayga SUVs, a Lamborghini Huracán and a Ferrari 488 Spider.

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The SUV is hand-built on a Ford F-450 pickup truck chassis and stands at six-meters long. The cabin is still a work in progress, but it retains the Ford pickup dashboard setup. The only difference is that it’s dressed up with Alcantara wrapping and gold accents. With seats for only four, the interior space feels like a limo, and to ramp up the luxury factor there are tables for rear seat passengers, a bespoke porcelain set for drinking tea, and a champagne cooler. In a nod to the Rolls-Royce starlight headliner, the roof liner is full of optic lights, and there’s so much wood you’d think you were in a log cabin.

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Though it seems only an eccentric billionaire like Bruce Wayne would want to get in on this, especially at that cost, China has no shortage of excessive spenders. Well, the current situation does not inspire confidence even in that… Still, this appears to be the strategy ITA is basing this model on – uniqueness and exclusivity, something which is extremely desirable among the rich over there. Whoever can find the spending power to splurge on this metal monster can well expect himself to be the envy of the roads.

Still, we have to wonder what that excessive price tag is about since there is nothing particularly special about this model. It is easily more than 20 times the price of a Ford F-450, which it basically is. Also, we aren’t sure if the maker is called ITA or IAT as the AFP source this story is built on calls it ITA but other sources, including Bloomberg call it IAT…

This story was built on an AFP base, is not Batman-shaped in any way, and is absolutely free for your entertainment.

Porsche Cayman Boosted to 718 in Beijing

When the Cayman came out in 2005, it was seen as a ‘lower-tier’ model, if such a thing can be said for a marque like Porsche. This was probably a reaction to the Cayman’s accessibility than anything else. Over time, Porsche has tailored it into a model more than able to hold its own. Now, at the Beijing Auto Show, the 718 (a similar uplift was done on the Boxster) is the version of the Cayman that keeps itself affordable, while still providing the best specs. The car will go on sale September, and will cost €51,623 (a price sitting below the Boxster), while the special S variant will cost €64,118.

First thing to note is the exterior, which features sharpened lines and a redesigned nose for larger air intakes. The sills are etched deeper and the side vents are bigger and boomier. There’s a new diffuser and exhaust design on the back. All this keeps in with a keener and more developed muscularity to the whole frame.

On the other hand, like the Boxster, the Cayman’s had its insides turned-out as well. The flat-six has been swapped out with a more environmentally adequate (no internal combustion engine could be called eco-friendly) flat four-cylinder turbocharged unit. Rest easy though, speed freaks, because the car is even faster than before. The base 2-liter model offers 300hp, a 0-100km/h time of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 275km/h when specified with Porsche’s PDK paddle-shift transmission. If you want a slightly sportier thrust, the S version will have a 2.5-liter engine and a variable geometry turbo, delivers 350hp, a 0-100km/h time of 4.2 seconds and a top speed of 285km/h via a PDK transmission. This speed combines with sharper steering, wider rear wheels for grip, an upgraded suspension, and a powerful braking system as standard.

Porsche-Cayman-Interior

On the interior tech front, the Cayman sports an infotainment system with all the latest gen features, such as extensions for smartphones, and access to Apple CarPlay as well as Porsche Car Connect. For those that want to tick all the option boxes, they can add the Sport Chrono Package and the active suspension management system – their controls are now mounted on the steering wheel as a rotary dial, just like on the 918 Spyder hypercar.

All this bodes well for the Cayman, at least on paper. When it ships, we’ll see whether the verdict is justified.

 

This story was written in-house, with an AFP story as the source and AFP images.

Future Alternatives: What’s Next For Chinese Cars?

With the Beijing Auto Show ongoing this week, some of the important questions being talked about involve solving some huge problems attached to the idea of transport – such as the issue of pollution, or how to fix China’s road congestion. Electric cars and driverless cars may be the next big thing in the Chinese automobile scene but quite a lot of work is needed to get these measures off on the right track.

Electric Measures

Everyone has a general picture of Chinese smog and air pollution as a big problem but fixing it has always been quite rough. China’s government, though, is turning to electric cars as the key to solving the health crisis. Only one percent of the cars owned by the huge populace are actually electric cars, but that accounts for much. The country already took the number one spot for electric models last year with some 247,000 “zero emission” cars sold — quadruple the number in 2014 — according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. To incentivize drivers, the government is giving up to 55,000 yuan subsidies ($8,500) for each car, and electric cars are even exempt from traffic restrictions in China’s congested major cities.

Yet, while electric cars are more popular worldwide, particularly high-end brands like Tesla, the hefty price tags and restricted driving range means it’s still a niche market. Their evolution has been mainly state-subsidised, as in Norway, which has the world’s highest penetration at 17 percent of new sales in 2015. Still, the sizable market in China tantalizes many manufacturers.

Jean-Francois Belorgey, an expert with consultancy EY, predicted that by 2020, up to 750,000 electric cars will be sold in China every year. “China is perhaps the one place in the world where the automobile industry can achieve the economy of scale needed to bring down costs,” he said. In the meantime, the government is aiming for the loftier goal of at least five million rechargeable cars on the roads by 2020.

Both domestic manufacturers and foreign manufacturers are already planning their models and releases. One of these, on the domestic front, is market leader BYD, which also makes the Denza brand in a joint venture with Daimler. France’s Renault plans to release its Fluence ZE in China in 2017, and PSA group will be showing a unique C-Elysee electric sedan at the Beijing show that is due next year. Chinese companies have also provided funding for Western firms’ development projects, including Britain’s Aston Martin and the US’s Faraday Future, which sees itself as a possible competitor to Tesla.

Still, this isn’t the end of the problem. Ben Scott, an expert of electric cars with IHS, noted that it was merely “moving the CO2 from the exhaust pipe to a power plant somewhere” and, although it addresses the issue of “the concentration of particles”, it helps way less for the greenhouse effect. As long as power is still generated in carbon-intensive ways, the problem will still stick.

Drive Less

While many people would argue that the joy of the car comes from the control of the ride, the larger and more pragmatic Chinese populace are less particular about that. According to a survey by Roland Berger consultants in 2015, which found 96 percent of Chinese would consider an autonomous vehicle for almost all everyday driving, compared with 58 percent of Americans and Germans. We’ve heard, seen and perhaps experienced the horror stories of the accidents, often captured on Youtube and propagated on social media, and that probably accounts for the appeal – better safety through autonomous technology.

Still, the road has many flaws, especially because of large questions looming about the technology itself. “If you have someone jumping out in front of an autonomous car, does the car have to choose between killing that person, or swerving and crashing and killing the passenger?” asked Robin Zhu, senior analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. Quite a paradox worthy of Isaac Asimov himself, if you ask me. Yet, Chinese businesses are ready to jump into the fray, taking the same path as companies like Google, BMW, Volvo, and Toyota.

Last week, ahead of the Beijing Auto Show opening on Monday, two self-driving Changan cars made a mountainous 2,000 kilometre (1,200 mile) journey from Chongqing in the southwest to the capital in the country’s first long-distance autonomous vehicle test. Another Chinese Internet giant, LeECO, is also venturing into autonomous technologies, unveiling Wednesday in Beijing an electric car that can park itself and be summoned to its owner’s location via smartphone. And late last year Baidu tested China’s first locally designed driverless vehicle, a modified BMW, with a 30 kilometre ride through the streets of Beijing.

The ready market is also bringing in interested parties from the outside, with top companies aiming to refine their driverless technologies. Swedish manufacturer Volvo, owned by China’s Geely since 2010, this month announced plans to test drive up to 100 of its vehicles on Chinese roads this year. Changan, a partner of Ford, is set to roll out commercial autonomous vehicles for motorways from 2018, while mass production of driverless city cars is projected to begin in 2025. The ultimate prize, notes the analysts, will be when mass transport firms such as taxi-hailing giant Uber, or its Chinese rival Didi, can deploy huge fleets of robot taxis.

On the logistical side of things, analysts are less optimistic. Production costs were still too high to make a robot taxi fleet viable, BCG’s Mosquet said. “There are still many questions to be resolved” before fully autonomous vehicles can be put into public use, said Jeremy Carlson, a senior analyst for HIS, pointing to an inadequate infrastructure and “chaotic traffic situations” on roads shared with cyclists and pedestrians.

In the push towards the future, though, it may be hard to stop moving. The only way to face the various hard-hitting issues within the country is an open mind, and a will for innovation.

Beijing Auto Show Blows Hot and Cold

The global car industry is going through a roller coaster ride right now, with sales peaking in many markets yet many of the biggest players find themselves embroiled in scandals. As the Beijing Auto Show opens April 24, the industry faces both more sobering news and exuberant breakthroughs. According to consulting firm McKinsey, auto sales growth is projected to grow in China by just five percent annually over the next five years. China is the world’s number one auto market so if things pan out as McKinsey say they will, there will be much pain to go around.

The bright spot though is hinted at in the image we used above. That is the new concept car from LeSee, the automotive division of Chinese tech firm LeEco, and it is packed with impressive high tech offerings, including a one-piece glass roof, from windscreen to rear window. The BBC says it makes a Tesla Model S look “downright ordinary.” Before we go back to the doom and gloom, the other bit of interesting news here is that LeEco is the major investor backing Faraday Future, the US-based start-up we reported on here.

“After years of double-digit growth, China’s auto market is slowing down. A cooling economy is one of the primary factors in the deceleration of what remains the world’s largest market for automobiles,” McKinsey said.

Domestic and international carmakers face increasingly cutthroat competition for consumers whose preferences have become “more practical”, it said.

The anti-corruption campaign under President Xi Jinping has reduced the appeal of luxury cars, it added, and “significant numbers” of consumers believe they can meet their transport needs by leasing, co-owning, or renting vehicles.

“There’s no sign of momentum,” said Michael Dunne, CEO and strategist at Dunne Automotive in Hong Kong. Competition is growing and “the China profit machine is slowing”, he said.

Competition for market share has become more intense as Chinese carmakers have improved their offerings, particularly in the surging SUV segment, where sales leaped by over 50 percent in the first quarter of 2016 as consumers opted for bigger cars on the country’s hair-raising roads.

Namrita Chow, principal China analyst at IHS automotive, said that international manufacturers can no longer “overlook the Chinese brands, saying, oh they don’t have what it takes to be a competitor. Those days are gone.”

Indeed, LeEco is a prime example of what Chinese firms are bringing to the table, or promising to at any rate. LeEco and Aston Martin announced a partnership February that will allow the British automaker to build its own fully electric ride, likely based on the Rapide saloon.

If nothing else, this illustrates that fears of a slowdown are offset to some extent by opportunities created by the rapidly changing industry, analysts said.

GM China president Matt Tsien said earlier this year that the global giant “expects the automotive industry to change more over the next five to 10 years than in the past 50 years”.

General Motors’ president Dan Ammann pointed to “the inevitable march toward autonomous vehicles” as an opportunity, saying: “We think self-driving cars have the ability to significantly make roads safer”.

More than half of over 3,500 consumers surveyed by McKinsey wanted to upgrade their cars and report co-author Paul Gao told AFP: “The growth is still solid. Five percent out of a big base still makes China a very attractive market.”

 

This story was written in-house, based on an AFP report and various news reports, including the BBC report cited. The image featured is from the AFP.

Italian Wines on the Rise

As he swirls a glass of yellowy green wine made from the trendy pecorino grape, Fabio Centini purrs with enthusiasm.

“I hadn’t even heard of this grape 15 years ago,” the Italian-born chef-restaurateur from Calgary, Canada tells AFP between slurps at a tasting of top pecorinos from the Offida area of the Marche region.

“But it is exactly what my customers want. People are looking for new varietals, new experiences.”

Centini is one of 55,000 industry professionals from 141 countries gathered in Verona this week for VinItaly, a giant showcase for the best the country has to offer the world’s wine lovers.

The 50th edition is the biggest yet and crammed aisles speak volumes about the buoyant state of a sector that employs 1.25 million people and produces more wine than any other country.

Led by a boom in sales of prosecco, which has surpassed champagne to become the world’s favorite bubbly, exports of all forms of Italian wine hit a record 5.4 billion euros ($6.2 billion) last year, up more than five percent on 2014.

The trend looks like continuing. A Mediobanca survey found 92 percent of producers anticipating higher sales in 2016, underpinned by investment which grew 18 percent overall last year and by 37 percent in the surging sparkling sector.

Strength in Diversity

It is all a far cry from the days when Italian wine was synonymous internationally with straw-wrapped bottles of chianti of variable quality and sometimes questionable provenance.

“They have taken out a bit of the monkey business,” says Centini, a VinItaly regular since 1990. “There was a time when you didn’t always know what was in the bottle.”

Although recent growth has been led by sparkling wine and strong sales of easy-drinking pinot grigio and other competitively priced varietals, there has also been an awakening of interest in Italy’s indigenous red grapes.

These include aglianico, negroamaro, nero d’avola and primitivo (which shares its DNA with zinfandel) from the south and Sicily, and montepulciano from the central region of Abruzzo, where producers have been quietly picking up international awards in recent years.

The sheer variety can be baffling for consumers and a shortage of strong producer brands is seen as a weakness on global markets.

But Italian wine expert Andrea Grignaffini says diversity is becoming a strength.

“Often the same grape gets made in a different style in different parts of the country, even in the same zone. It is complicated even for us Italians to understand.

“But that’s Italy. And the industry is moving so fast now, fashions change. When the moment of one wine passes, it is good to have others to take their place.”

Change is also afoot at the top end of Italian wines with producers in Tuscany and Piedmont battling to catch up with the Asia-driven gains of France’s Bordeaux and Burgundy.

International critics have recognised a major leap forward in terms of the quality and consistency of the best brunellos, chianti classicos, barolos and barbarescos since the 1980s.

“Better than France”

But Stephanie Cuadra, of leading Tuscan estate Querciabella, said Italy’s fine wine champions also had to be able to transmit “a sense of origin, a sense of place,” in the way that Burgundy, where tiny parcels of land are classified on the basis of minute variations of soil and micro-climates, has done very successfully.

“In terms of fine wine, we are an obvious alternative to France and as palates mature in emerging markets they become more curious, it is a natural evolution,” Cuadra said.

Moves towards officially recognising sub-zones in Italy’s leading wine areas have got bogged down by local battles over re-classifying areas in a way that will inevitably produce winners and losers.

While insisting that Italy’s wines are better than their French rivals, even Prime Minister Matteo Renzi acknowledges that the French have done a better job of selling their wines on global markets.

French wine retails at prices that are 120 percent higher on average than Italy’s output and total Gallic export earnings are some 60 percent higher.

“In the last 20 years, Italy has let too many opportunities slip by in this sector,” Renzi said during a visit to VinItaly on Monday.

The flipside is that there is still plenty of room for growth, particularly in Asia, which accounted for only 3.4 percent of Italian exports last year. Italian producers are noticeably underperforming in China, which increased imports by 60 percent overall in 2015 but by only 15 percent from Italy.

That was one reason why Renzi’s guest at VinItaly was Jack Ma. The Alibaba boss told his audience that the Internet could provide a digital bridge linking Italy’s 300,000 producers with what is potentially the biggest wine market in the world.

“China will be home to half a billion upper-to-middle-class consumers in the next 10 years,” Ma said. “You must reach out to them where they are.”

Download the Epicurio app on iTunes or Google Play now, to learn more about wines and purchase your very own bottle, today.

Energies Unleashed: Singapore Art Exhibition

Opera Gallery Singapore, is proud to present ‘ENERGIES UNLEASHED – Katrin Fridriks & Liu Jiu Tong’ from now to 1 May 2016. Through their works, this exhibition explores the pictorial vocabularies of energy and movement in various stages of metamorphosis. Applied through visual manifestations of suspended movement – both physical and metaphysical – Katrin Fridriks and Liu Jiu Tong seek stillness within incessant changeability.

Katrin Fridriks (b. 1974) is an abstract painter from Iceland, currently living and working in Paris and Luxembourg. Addressing the political atmosphere of her remote home country and the controversy of scientific innovation, her explosive works are striking in their dynamics of color and movement. Maintaining a liquid-like viscosity on the canvas, Fridriks’ paintings are surreal and incessant, resulting in striking and energetic works that entrance the viewers down to the finest details. Using vivid and explosive strokes to create her works, Fridriks’ works of abstract expressionism are as emotional as they are intelligent.Energies-Unleashed-Art-Republik-Katrin-Fridriks

By concentrating the ‘explosions’ in the centre of her paintings, Fridriks confers a sense of mastery to them which cannot be attained in all-overs, where the paint covers all parts of a canvas in a similar pattern. Here all the energy is concentrated in an epicentre, a centre of gravity. Many of Fridriks’ works indeed look like they had a source of energy at their heart rather than having a form being imposed on them from the outside. The feeling that her paintings emerge from the centre contributes to the feeling of self-containment they evoke.

Liu Jiu Tong (b. 1977) was born in Suide, a province in the highlands of northwest of China. He graduated from the Art Institute of Xi’an and was influenced by the ancient and majestic styles of ChangAn art. He went on to work in Beijing before moving to Shanghai, where the multicultural spirit of the city was an important influence to his style. The international cultural changes he witnessed enabled his art language to evolve, and his works are integrated with both Western technique and Eastern artistic concepts. As he was also heavily influenced by the Shanghainese way of life, his artworks are presented with the tensions and lively rhythms of life.

Despite his young age, Liu’s artworks have been exhibited in many prestigious international shows such as: the International Contemporary Art Exhibition of Paris and the ninth Contemporary Art Exhibition in Milano. In particular his painting ‘Distant Traveler’ was nominated for the seventh International Price Arte Laguna. A great number of his works have been published in the Sotheby and Christie’s catalogues.Energies-Unleashed-Art-Republik-Liu-Jiu-Tong

For ‘ENERGIES UNLEASHED – Katrin Fridriks & Liu Jiu Tong’, the works of Fridriks feature infinitely expanding color splashes across finely crafted surfaces. Including subtle influences of Japanese calligraphy and almost imperceptible line details, Fridriks’ artworks depict the natural interconnectivity of different elements that can or cannot be directed and controlled.

Interplaying the abstract and the figurative, Liu’s unrestrained landscapes are inspired by renowned Chinese poets of the Warring States and Tang Dynasty. Eluding to form, Liu expresses a lyricism swathed in tenacious layers of paint, vigorously applied and condensed onto canvas like a fleeting moment trapped between open fingers.

Through the spectacular works of these two artists, they reflect on the beauty of movement captured in the present moment.

*For more information, please visit www.operagallery.com

Volvo Ocean Race Sails for Hong Kong in 2018

The next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, will see the sailing event visit Hong Kong. Over the course of nine months and 40,000 nautical miles (74,080 km) the fleet of sailing yachts will stop off at more than 11 host ports.

“For 43 years the Volvo Ocean Race has visited the majority of the world’s most prestigious and iconic ports, with one obvious exception and that port has possibly the most wondrous waterfront in all the world,” Jon Bramley, the event’s director of news said at a press conference in the city.

Come February 2018, the participants will be visiting the site of the former Kai-Tak airport that is now an ocean cruise terminal, during the 13th edition of the race for up to two weeks. Other cities hosting the race that starts in 2017, include Alicante, Spain; Newport, Rhode Island; Auckland, New Zealand; Capetown, South Africa and well as Lisbon, Cardiff and Gothenburg before finally ending in the Hague, Netherlands.

The route has yet to be confirmed by organizers where competitors will spend weeks at sea between ports piloting their identical 65ft monohulls through treacherous waters. The seven teams made up of members from 19 nationalities including China, Ireland, Argentina and Antigua participated in that edition of the race will survive on a diet of freeze-dried food and a maximum of four hours of sleep a day.

US Cruise Liner Sets Sail for China

China’s population of 1.3 billion seems to hold great promise for the US-based cruise liner Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCL), who announced Tuesday they were to venture into China next year with a ship tailor-made for the market there. The Norwegian Joy plans to go into service in March 2017, where it will be based at Shanghai and Tianjin ports, and provide services geared towards Chinese tastes like food options, casinos, mahjong rooms, as well as duty free shopping. The 20-deck liner will have a capacity of 3,900 passengers and joins 12 other liners that have homeports in China, nine of them foreign-owned

The country’s burgeoning middle class spells a large potential for rising demand, noted Steve Odell, NCL senior vice president and managing director for the Asia Pacific. Data from the Cruise Lines International Association reported that China accounted for about 50 percent of the cruise trips within Asia that same year. Cruise operators are eager to grab a slice of the Chinese market, which could grow to nearly $10 billion in cruise package sales by 2018 from around $6.8 billion in 2013.

Odell has plans running already, with an office open in Singapore for the Southeast Asian market. “If you think of things on the macro scale, there’s a lot of confidence that (ships) going to China (are) going to get filled up. What will happen probably is that there’ll be a lot more pressure on price than before, but that is normal supply and demand economics,” he said. Further data showed that about 2.2 million, or 10 percent, of the 23 million passengers who made cruise trips worldwide in 2014 came from Asia, with this figure only set to rise.

Odell notes that they’re “still in the… infancy of developing a cruise market in China”. Hopefully, this development will lead in to further and more interesting developments for the Asian industry.

Bang & Olufsen: New Major Shareholder from China

Chinese billionaire Qi Jianhong, is now the biggest shareholder in Danish company Bang & Olufsen. His stock in the brand that produces luxury stereo systems and TVs is now held through two companies that he owns. Sparkle Roll Group Ltd. BVI and Sparkle Roll Holdings Ltd.BVI now own a total stake of 18.7% in the company.

Negotiations of the purchase by China’s 422nd richest man who has a net worth of 8 billion Yuan, came after a drawn out sales process by other shareholders. With bleak results that resulted in no strategic buyers and one suitor — who eventually bought the stakes, the successful sale was unconfirmed up until Wednesday. His purchase of 5.67 million shares at a price that is 14% higher than the closing price, now allows management to shift its focus on turning the fate of the company around and in turn increasing sales.

While revenue at the upmarket consumer electronics firm is far from shabby, the company reported a net loss for December to February. The net loss is attributed to the high-cost of the electronics where a television can set you back nearly $8,000 at a time when prices of flat screen sets continue to take a dive. The healthy sales is thought to be due to the strong performance of B&O PLAY — a line of standalone, portable products targeting a generation that listens to music on smartphones instead of home hi-fi systems.

This article was written in-house based on an article in Bloomberg Technology.

Huawei Reaches to Leica for Flagship Phone

The Chinese company Huawei has announced a partnership with the respected camera company Leica for its next flagship phone in a bid to better its premium smartphone selection. At a time when Chinese firms are struggling against market dominators such as Apple and Samsung, this partnership is a milestone for Huawei.

“We are going to launch our P9 flagship phone very soon and this is a product that we worked with Leica to produce,” Huawei deputy chairman Guo Ping said at a press conference held at their Shenzhen headquarters. This was also parallel to an announcement that there was a jump in profits from their consumer division. Since its founding in 1987, Huawei has become one of the world’s top manufacturers of network equipment, operating in 170 countries and expanding rapidly into consumer electronics such as smartphones.

Huawei-Leica-P9-Phone-AFP

But the company remains mired in controversy with certain governments. US officials view Huawei as a security threat due to links to the Chinese government, while Australia barred them from bidding to build its national network due to warnings from security agencies. With this partnership, they hope to gain the prominence required to help win broader global consumer appeal.

The reveal of the Huawei P9 will take place on April 6 2016, where all the secrets the phone has to offer will finally be on full display.

China Beauty Standards Under Spotlight

In a world where some people fork out thousands for double eyelid surgery and other such “improvements”, model Ju Xiaowen, with her distinct face and single eyelids, seems to be anti-thetical to all that. The Xi’an model was chosen as the new face for L’Oreal Paris in February, indicating a clear divide between what Asians themselves think is beautiful, and what Westerners look for in Asian Beauty. On the other hand, on the runways of China Fashion Week, which concluded on Thursday last week, many models seem to fit into what is known as the ‘Chinese Traditional Aesthetic’ – “big eyes, double eyelids, and a pale & serene beauty.”

The above conception of the Chinese Traditional Aesthetic was “diagnosed” by Roye Zhang, chief agent for China Bentley Culture & Media. The company has been operating since 2003, exactly when China’s fashion industry was still in its infancy. “There are big differences between eastern and western aesthetics – a face we find beautiful in China won’t necessarily work abroad, and vice versa,” he said.

Overseas shows sought men with “single eyelids and small eyes, who are thinner and not so tall”, and women who “look like Mulan from the Disney cartoon — she’s not exactly pretty, but she’s memorable at just a glance”. In an interview with Vogue, Ju Xiaowen herself noted the beauty schism by stating that “In China, we still like big eyes and a high nose—that’s the classic beauty in China, although I think that’s going to change”. She revealed that she herself took measures that other women took when she was still living there, such as curling their eyelashes and putting double-stick tape on their eyelids.

The gulf in perception is to the point that Zhang’s agency has to bring in foreign CEOs and bookers to look through their pre-vetted Chinese talent. “The vast majority of our models are more suitable for the Chinese market – there’s only a very few of them who will be able to go abroad,” he said.

One such model who seems to fit the criteria for being both locally and internationally suitable is the 21-year old Xu Naiyu. She’s been a frequent walker for the runways during the Fashion Week, showing off everything from a simple green top to a pieced-together dress accessorised with protective goggles and a yellow-streaked wig. Xu wanted to be a model from a young age, and is currently in her second year at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology studying modelling and design. She booked her first professional gig only in 2014 but has since walked shows both in China and abroad at the star-studded Milan and New York Fashion Weeks.

“If you want to get to the next level, you still have to go abroad to fashion capitals like Milan or Paris, because this profession is one that came into China from the outside world,” Xu said. Indeed, the Chinese version is a pale shadow of the overseas Fashion Weeks. There are no major foreign brands, and only simple sets with just two locations. The fashion industry of the world’s second-largest economy is full of brands unknown elsewhere, and few designers are integrated with the international fashion buyer system.

“In this industry, luck is so important,” Xu said in between events at the Beijing Hotel, a longstanding establishment near Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital. She also noted that the industry was “torturous” at times, lamenting that “I’m not that kind of single-eyelid girl who’s instantly recognizable”.

This may serve as a sharp and ironic jolt for those coveting some form of idealized Asian beauty. Before you put your own eyelids under the knife, you may want to take some time to ponder whether other people might see it differently.

Chinese Prefer Paris for Luxury Shopping

According to a recently released report, Paris will supplant Hong Kong as the destination of choice for Chinese consumers snapping up luxury goods.

Prepared by the Boston Consulting Group, the report states that more Chinese tourists are expected to take advantage of the weak euro this year and book a trip to Paris in search of monogrammed bags and red-heeled shoes.

For the report, 1,000 Chinese affluent consumers were asked to name the city where they expected to make a luxury purchase in the next 12 months.

Paris ranked first, followed by Hong Kong and Tokyo. This is unsurprising of course considering the Chinese customer revealed this pattern in 2015 but the story will get to that later on.

While proximity has traditionally made Hong Kong the first choice, this year consumers are expected to make the trek to the French capital, which is upheld as a dream shopping destination for the affluent Chinese. Great news then for swanky Paris hotels!

Nearly one in four Chinese respondents said they buy luxury goods abroad because they can find better selections.

One in three respondents said they believe it’s important to buy goods in the country where they’re made. The same ratio of respondents said the shopping experience abroad is superior to the experience at home.

The latest forecast hinges on expenditure stats from 2015: Last year, of the 100 billion euros spent on luxury goods, only 23 billion was spent domestically in boutiques in China.

Chinese consumers poured the most money at luxury boutiques in Europe (€35 billion) followed by the US (€14 billion).

According to the report, consumer spending among the Chinese rose from €70 billion in 2012 to €100 billion in 2015.

Analysts also offer insight into the demographic profile of consumers over the next four years: 81 percent will come from the upper middle-class and upper classes, while 65 percent of consumers will be Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1990).

Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot of where wealthy Chinese consumers bought their luxury goods in 2015:

Europe: €35 billion

US: €14 billion

Hong Kong: €13 billion

Russia and the Middle East: €13 billion

Macau: €2 billion

Insight: Resilience of Bangkok Property

Despite being hit by political turmoil, the robustness and resilience of the Thai market proved to be stable throughout the various turbulences. According to Suphin Mechuchep, managing director at JLL, part of the strength in the Bangkok market comes from a good balance between demand and supply in the market, as well as the political stabilisation in the second half of 2014.

Moreover, there are other factors that will add to the optimism of the market. For starters, Thailand’s reform roadmap—amidst the stability so far—will enjoy more clarity in policy and direction, and all of this will bolster investors’ and businesses’ bullishness and overall consumer confidence. Moreover, the military government had gone ahead with various major capital spending initiatives, seeking to stimulate the economy through major infrastructure investments, all of which are expected to lift the country’s macro-economy soon, which will in turn help to grow the capital’s various property sectors.

The main property players remain well-funded and have the means to acquire income-yielding assets, or to grow their land banks. In fact, some of these developers have launched their own real estate investment trusts (REITs), which are in turn partly funded by a vibrant stock market in the country. All these ensure a sustained institutional demand for property further upstream, which keeps the market growing at a healthy pace. Beyond local factors, global trends including a low interest rate and low oil prices translating into residential markets having improved household balance sheets (as energy costs now take up less income) are expected to bring about a boost in the local property market.

The trends seen in the market corroborate these observations. According to data from Colliers, over 11,000 condominium units were launched in the city in the second quarter this year, about 9.5 percent more than in the first. Over 75 percent of these new launches were in the area connecting Bangkok along new subway lines. Moreover, significant numbers of luxury condominium units were bought up by investors despite selling prices being high and a competitive leasing market (with investment yields only hovering at about 3.5 percent, based on JLL estimates). Most of such investors have bought for capital appreciation, as opposed to seeking rental income, since prime condominiums in central Bangkok see an average of 20 percent price rises between when they were offered for sale off-plan, and when construction is over.

Some fret about the weakness seen in local demand. According to the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the confidence of new home buyers (also known as the New Residence Buyer’s Confidence Index) fell from January to June 2015 to 63.9, the lowest in the past year. The weakness is said to be due to various factors, including a dim outlook that Thais in general have taken about their own economy. However, that gap is increasingly filled by foreign buyers, as many major Thai developers have gone overseas to market their projects, particularly in China, Hong Kong and Singapore. This has led to a rise in the average take-up of condominium units, especially for units in the price range of $260 to $520 psf, which registered a rate of 90 percent. Those in the higher range of $651 psf also did well, at 80 percent. What is clear therefore, is that the demographics and dynamics of the Bangkok market is changing, and that could be just where the next big opportunity is.

Story Credits

Text by Willy Teo

This story first appeared in PALACE.

Asia’s Top Bar is in Singapore…

There is a new bar capital of Asia and it is Singapore, according to a new ranking of Asia’s top watering holes. The city-state has four entries in the top 10 – the most of any country – and the top spot of course, for 28 Hongkong Street.

In the inaugural edition of Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards– a spinoff of the World’s 50 Best Bars– a panel of 154 judges including “high-level” bartenders, bar consultants, brand ambassadors, journalists and global bar hoppers weighed in to pronounce the best drinking hotspots across Asia.

Taking the top spot is a Singapore bar famous for its discretion. Since opening in 2011, 28 Hongkong Street has built up hype by playing itself down in the manner of a secret, clandestine speakeasy.

Tucked away in a downtown thoroughfare, the bar is non-descript with nothing but the street number to identify itself: There is no awning, no flashing lights, or swanky, velvet-roped entrance.

But once inside the beige doors, the bar’s swish clientele sip on cocktails like the Modest Mule, made with lemongrass-laced vodka, ginger beer, lime and rosemary, and the colorfully named Whore’s Bath, made with manuka honey vodka, umeshu (liqueur made with Japanese apricots) poire liqueur, lemon and Hawaiian lava salt pickled ginger.

“28 Hongkong Street is an emblem of the region,” editors write. “A benchmark of quality across drinks and hospitality.”

Overall, Singapore and Hong Kong tied with nine spots each on the list, followed by Tokyo, which scored eight spots.

But with four of the top 10 spots, including the No. 1 ranking, Singapore is the big winner this year.

The results also surprised editors, who predicted Shanghai to finish fourth after Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo with the number of bars represented.

Instead, Bangkok nabbed the spot with six addresses including Vesper, the city’s top-ranked bar in 17th place.

“Bangkok’s people have a serious case of cocktail fever and, with the number of international ‘tenders setting up in the city and locals opening up their own places, it is only going in one direction from here.”

Here are the top 10 bars in Asia, according to Asia’s 50 Best Bars:

  • 28 Hongkong Street, Singapore
  • Speak Low, Shanghai
  • High Five, Tokyo
  • Lobster Bar & Grill, Hong Kong
  • Manhattan, Singapore
  • Quinary, Hong Kong
  • Operation Dagger, Singapore
  • Jigger & Pony, Singapore
  • Union Trading Company, Shanghai
  • 10. Omakase + Appreciate, Kuala Lumpur

Slump in Chinese Art Sales Reported

A report end March revealed that the Chinese art market was in a slump, with auction sales of living artists’ works falling by 45%. Even so, China surpassed the US as home to the largest population of billionaires in the world last year, which indicates an increase in the pool of super-wealthy art collectors. The reasons for the reported slump may slowing growth (the world’s second-largest economy slowed to its weakest in a quarter of a century last year at 6.9 percent) and the widely reported corruption crackdown by President Xi Jinping.

“A heady mix of the continued anti-corruption campaign, which has put a stop to gifting art to government officers, and a slowdown in the economy have combined to see both sales and the number of top works at auction pretty much halve,” said Hurun Report chairman Rupert Hoogewerf.

The Hurun Report collates the auction results for the 100 most lucrative artists and slowdown in sales was first captured here. For this report, the sales for the 100 artists totaled $56.5 billion, with only three female artists on the list. The most valuable artist was ink painter Cui Ruzhuo, known for his large scale traditional landscapes. Cui’s works fetched $120.4 million, far ahead of second-placed oil painter Zeng Fanzhi, who saw his sales value crash by 62 percent. There were no figures on whether the average price of individual works had decreased. An odd entry included Jack Ma, CEO of Internet giant Alibaba, who was included solely for a collaborative painting he did with Zeng Fanzhi that sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for $5.3 million.

Some artists seem to be unfazed though, preferring to stick to the merits of their own work over material gain. Huang Jiannan ranked seventh on Hurun’s list and saw the auction value of his works drop by 45 percent last year, but he shrugged off the loss. “These statistics measure the flow of my works in the market – it has nothing to do with me. I don’t get the money from these sales directly,” he told AFP.

Critics such as Xie Chunyan believe that focusing on auction values is a poor judge of Chinese artists’ worth, noting that “Just because this little British guy Hoogewerf says he wants to find a common standard to measure things 1, 2, 3 doesn’t mean that this is the best method”.

Though many believe China’s art market has been overheated in recent years, Cui seemed positive and had a message of proactivity to other artists. “Our current downturn and backwardness shouldn’t discourage us; we artists should unite together and for the sake of our art market and our nation walk out towards the world, hand in hand, striving ardently together,” he said. All this seems to indicate one thing, no matter what happens to the market, and no matter whether for sales, aesthetics, or national sentiment, artists will still make art.

French Wines Find Favor in China Again

For a wine-grower, precision and luck are elements of the utmost importance to ensure that the best harvest is reaped for a full-bodied and hearty glass of wine. Right now, French wines face the twin perils and opportunities of climate change and China, both of which offer strong challenges. Bordeaux was one such region flanked on both sides by various new developments, both good and bad, from both science and the marketplace.

China Profits

After reaping a meagre harvest in 2013, Bordeaux wines faced depressed sales in 2013 and 2014 to China because of a frugality drive that made officials wary of opening high-end bottles of wine.

But Saint-Emilion wine merchant Philippe Casteja said last month that the Chinese market was stabilizing. Exports were up 3.0 percent to 1.83 billion euros ($2.05 billion), according to the Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB). After two years of dropping, sales jumped 37%.

Overall turnover was 3.8 billion euros last year, up 1.0% over 2014 with 640 million bottles sold.

“The Chinese speak of a ‘new normal’ – and now instead of proposing exceptional wines we are targeting a consumer market.” Casteja noted, speaking of the Bordeaux region in general.

Climate Pressures

Yet, with the release of a new and somewhat alarming study by Nature Climate Change, Bordeaux’s current short-term sales may be the least of their worries.

Grapes are extremely temperature sensitive fruits. Exceptional vintages are generally produced when an early harvest develops from a rise in heat due to things like hot summers or a late-season drought. “For much of France, local climates have been relatively stable for hundreds or thousands of years,” said Elizabeth Wolkovich, an assistant professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of the study. Looking back through records dating all the way to 1600, it was found that harvest dates have moved up by two full weeks since 1980 compared with the average for the preceding 400 years.

Droughts helped heighten temperatures just enough to bring in the harvest a few weeks early, said lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York City and lead author of the study. These were uncommon circumstances in the past. “Now, it’s become so warm thanks to climate change, grape growers don’t need drought to get these very warm temperatures,” Cook added.

In the short term, the resulting growth in temperature has caused some beneficial effects through certain stand-out years. For Bordeaux, 1990, 2005 and 2010 have all been described as once-a-century vintages, while in Burgundy 2005 and 2009 are said to hold exceptional promise.

Yet, in the long term, the result may be unsustainable. In 2003, the same year where a deadly heat wave hit Europe leading to thousands of deaths, grapes were picked a full month ahead of their time but did not produce particularly exceptional wines. “If we keep warming, the globe will reach a tipping point,” said Wolkovich, pointing to what happened in 2003.

“That may be a good indicator of where we are headed,” she added. “If we keep pushing the heat up, vineyards can’t maintain that forever.”

The result could be an identity crisis for French wines. While other wine producing regions like California and Australia can head for a new ‘terroir’ better suited to these grapes, France has an elaborate structure of rules and special areas dictating which grape varieties are to be grown in what proportion. French wines such as Champagne, Sauternes, Margaux or Saint-Emilion are grown only in such authorised areas. For many wine-makers, changing these rules is tantamount to changing the core aspects of the wine. Among the grapes that may no longer be well-adapted in the future includes signature grape varietals — Pinot Noir in Burgundy, and Merlot in Bordeaux.

The ability to adapt to such revelations gained from information sources, whether about the market or the climate, will be the key decider in which wine producers can ride the market with the best possible produce and the best possible profits.

This report was compiled by in-house writers, in combination with a wire report and image from the AFP. Find out if any of these winning wines are on Epicurio now. Download the app on iTunes or Google Play now.