X+Q Art: A mix of Art, Design and Business

Joanne Kuai
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Record-selling Beijing sculptors Qu Guangci and Xiang Jing are in town today, celebrating their new corner shop called X+Q Art in My Good Goods Creative Store at Macau Design Centre. Business Daily talked with leading contemporary Chinese artist Qu Guangci about this joint adventure and the broader art/business scene
What is X+Q Art?
The name X+Q comes from the first letter of my name and the first of my wife’s, Xiang Jing. We are established artists in the Chinese contemporary art world and we wanted to create a public art project that puts art on a commercial and business platform. Making sculpture pieces that can be enjoyed by a larger group of people and, more importantly, shared as a gift. I wouldn’t say this is simple art. Each piece has a story of modern China behind it, and we want to see people share that story.
Some contemporary Chinese artists are more focused on creating so-called ‘controversial’ or ‘radical’ works. You’ve stated that you wanted your art works or products to more approach people’s daily life. How is that going so far?
X+Q’s brand concept has been widely recognised, both domestically and internationally. As a gift of art, X+Q bears the love and surprise that the artists wish to offer for people’s everyday life. Our products have a wide range but we aren’t planning on expanding the business to some sideline products, such as bags. We’re going to focus more on sculpture, since that’s our strong suit.
Many contemporary artists, especially in China, take the challenges and confrontation against the system and authority as core themes and direction in their artistic creation as their artistic language. But as a matter of fact, there are many other artists in China working in different artistic directions. Their ideas and works are all very interesting and worth looking into. You’ll find all kinds of artists with carious ideas working in Beijing. They influence and inspire each other while remaining independent. It’s relatively free and creative-friendly.
Businessman or artist
How do you balance the roles of artist and businessman?
They are both human. Nowadays, the boundary between art and business is increasingly blurred – they influence each other and promote each other. Art is promoted through business approaches, while business is marketed in the name of art. I’ve never bothered myself with the identity issue, and never thought about labelling myself in that way. As I have said, whether art or business is not the fundamental concern. My passion lies in the arts and X+Q is more like a social practice, a public art project. It is a platform for us to experiment. And after four years effort, it’s showing results.
What’s your perception of the art business and the Chinese market?
I believe that business has its culture as well, and fair trade represents the spirit of democracy and equality. In recent decades, we’ve been neglecting business. The commercial scene in China is far from mature. There are few good businessmen. The Chinese art market has such a short history that there’s still a lot to learn from the West. Chinese business culture is still evolving in the light of the growing economy.
Do you think the government has given enough support?
The art business doesn’t need government support. Business has its own laws of nature. It should be developed according to its own environment. I hope the government doesn’t mingle too much as they don’t necessarily know what is good or bad. Sometimes, these bureaucratic measures do more harm than good; choosing to promote what they perceive as good can be unfair to the others.
What we need is just a fair system and mechanism that guarantees that good art works, designers, artists and brands have a fair opportunity to grow and compete in the market.
You’ve been devoted to developing the brand X+Q. How do you manage your time in terms of running the business while creating your own art?
Our company has a team of around 40 people. I focus more on the commercial side, while Xiang Jing is acting more like an art director – she’s in charge of the quality of the design as well as conducting some experiments.
Honestly speaking, our artistic road was paved without much hardship. We’ve never experienced real difficulties or tests. Our art somehow can be preserved in its original and pure way.
In terms of creativity, I believe artists create based on their passion. I don’t need to balance my time. When an idea or creativity hits me, I just work. Did you seen my large-scale piece exhibited last year? Whoever asks this kind of question doesn’t know the lives of artists.
Do you expect to be the leading Chinese creative design brand, with global acclaim as an example to other Chinese artists or businesses?
X+Q Art has achieved recognition both domestically and internationally. It’s good timing for us after years of accumulation. We don’t wish to be the pioneer of any sort but we do represent a standard. In China, the business atmosphere is poor – people think the cheaper, the better. It’s a vicious circle. Our aim is to bring something exquisite and the standard lies in the quality of our products.
I believe product is the core. We even have our sort of research centre now to improve the design, techniques and final presentation of the products.
This year, we’re going to Maison & Object (MO) – a major art trade show – that’s going to take place in Paris in September. MO, this large lifestyle platform and the crossroads of business and creativity, has existed for 20 years. Yet, no Chinese brand has ever been invited. X+Q Art is the first one. Moreover, we’re going to be featured in the main exhibition hall. I believe it’s a breakthrough marking a Chinese brand that has finally been recognised in this field. It’s a starting point for Chinese brands, from zero to one.
Macau impression
What brings you to Macau this time?
We have a good bond with Macau. Back in 2003, we’d already had an exhibition in Taipa. I’ve come to Macau many times. Even when I was working at the University, I helped with exhibitions of Mainland artists coming to Macau.
The partnership with Macau Design Centre has been incubated for a long time. X+Q Art doesn’t easily establish joint venture if there is no good partner. With this trusted partner in Macau, we believe the brand can enter the territory in a more cultural and artistic way.
Would you consider showcasing your artworks in some casino resorts here since the local gaming industry has been urged to develop a non-gaming sector?
Personally, I like Macau the city very much. Every time I’m here to meet up with some friends and have some good time together I feel like the people here in Macau are more calm and peaceful compared to the fickle ambience of Hong Kong.
However, honestly, I have zero interest in gambling and many times I’ve come but the only contact I have with casinos is that I live above them. That’s it. I’ve never purchased a single chip. I consider the gaming industry to be a totally diseased industry. It’s like a cancer of the human race. It doesn’t create any actual value. Macau people in that sense all carry original sin.
Nevertheless, if the government wants to support the creative and cultural industry, it probably needs good money as well as good taste. I haven’t been approached by any gaming operator for an exhibition or any sort of partnership. But if there is, I would capture the opportunity, as there is no harm doing anything that could contribute to art.
Qu Guangci
Famous contemporary Chinese sculptor Qu Guangci was born in Shanghai in 1969 and received his MFA from the China Central Academy of Fine Arts Sculpture Department. Since 1999, Qu has been invited to exhibit his works around the world, including China, Germany, France, the United States and throughout Southeast Asia. To date, he has held nine solo exhibitions. He resigned from his university teaching position in 2007 to found X+Q Sculpture Studio, together with his wife Xiang Jing. He established the art brand X+Q Art in 2010, and now currently lives and works in Beijing.
Xiang Jing
Born in Beijing in 1968, Xiang Jing graduated from the Chinese Academy of Fine Arts Sculpture Department in 1995. She was a lecturer in the sculpture studio of the Fine Art College of Shanghai Normal University from 1999 to 2007. Her works have been exhibited in art centres in Asia, Europe and North America, and collected by significant galleries, institutes and collectors.
Courtesy of X+Q Art
Macau Design Centre
Macau Design Centre (MDC), formerly an old deserted factory in the Areia Preta, it is the first innovative multi-functional building designed to promote Macau’s cultural creative industry. Being revitalised into a multi-functional design centre, MDC offers various forms of business co-operation and diverse lifestyle together with design galleries, exhibition hall, design studios, bookstore, performance venue, café and rooftop garden.