The world’s largest multi-brand luxury retailer NET-A-PORTER has teamed up with Shanghai art fair ART021 to launch the “Incredible Female Artist Award,” an art competition aimed at elevating the profile of contemporary female Chinese artists. 

The announcement revealed Chinese actress Tan Zhuo would serve as a project ambassador and judge for the project. A group of 10 emerging female artists have been nominated to submit work responding to the prompt “She Says” (她说). Submissions will be presented in a group exhibition at JINGART, the annual Beijing art fair run by ART021, where a panel of five art industry professionals and Tan will judge. The winner will be exhibited at NET-A-PORTER’s booth at the 2021 ART021 fair in November.  

There’s an e-commerce element to the project with NET-A-PORTER selecting elements from the 10 artistic responses to “She Says” and creating tote bags which will be sold on its official Tmall flagship store. All profits will be donated to a Shanghai foundation geared towards supporting female artists. 

Some of the artists nominated for ART021 and NET-A-PORTER’s “Incredible Female Artist Award” include (clockwise from top left) Lei Ziyi, Liu Qinmin, Zhang Fengyuan, Zhong Diming, and Chen Dandizi. Image: NET-A-PORTER on Weibo

Why it matters

First off, ART021 and NET-A-PORTER serve a similar well-educated consumer base with large disposable incomes. For ART021, the collaboration raises its awareness beyond a circle of informed art goers, while NET-A-PORTER benefits from being associated with a cultural brand and engaging with issues that concern art and broader society.

That said, there’s nothing new to contemporary art, high-end fashion, and celebrity sharing space in China. Prada’s Rong Zhai mansion in Shanghai regularly hosts cultural events, the likes of Gucci and Chanel have launched pop-up exhibitions at major Chinese museums, and collaborations between fashion houses and artists, and brands and cultural institutions are commonplace. 

Where NET-A-PORTER’s initiative differs is in its socially conscious approach, an effort mirrored internationally by the company’s Vanguard and Net Sustain programs focused on emerging designers and sustainability issues respectively. Concentrating on female empowerment is a timely move given the unprecedented attention women’s issues received in China’s public square throughout 2020. Gender equality now ranks as a top social concern for Chinese youth, with luxury brands increasingly tailoring their campaigns to embody female independence against patriarchal stereotypes. In this context, NET-A-PORTER’s “Incredible Female Artist Award” is smart means of speaking to women’s issues, art, and fashion, and in doing so, better connect with a group that is the driving force of the global luxury industry. 

Additional reporting by Wenzhuo Wu


Jing Culture & Commerce