• Leverage Celebrity. For brands and businesses, tapping into celebrity fanbases to sell products is commonplace. Art galleries and institutions should consider it a means of reaching new audiences.
  • Utilize Livestream Platforms. In China, livestreaming and e-commerce are increasingly intertwined. Art institutions that incubate and support artists might consider using livestreaming platforms to sell work.

In a time of global turmoil, does the world really need more artists? More galleries? More live streams? These were the questions posed in the most recent performance from Chinese artist Hu Xiangqian, with more than a little irony — Hu is an artist, a gallery owner, and, most recently, a live streamer.  

More than a decade ago, Hu gained traction in Chinese art circles when he ventured into the wilderness for 15 days and filmed “Superfluous Knowledge”, which humorously captured himself, a self-described city boy, surviving in an alien environment. His latest piece, “Superfluous Gallery: Performance on Live” held on July 3 and 4, used elements from the previous work in a performance centered on selling works of art — via live stream.  

Hu’s experiment worked. His broadcast on the streaming platform of Baidu, China’s Google, was watched by 1.96 million netizens and sold all listed artworks.

Celebrity endorsement was key to “Superfluous Knowledge”’s success. It invited folk band Wutiaoren, Yang Muzi from pop outfit Oner, the author Yang Hao, as well as prominent fashion influencers, to take part in a spectacle sponsored by Long March Space, a gallery in Beijing’s 798 Arts District. 

The appearance of familiar faces not only worked to break up Hu’s broadcast with live performances, but also gave audience members a chance to interact with the artists directly and become a part of the artwork itself. As many users expressed in the comment section, it was a welcome antidote to the often elitist world of art galleries.

Another familiarity was the template of the Baidu livestreaming program, one mirroring e-commerce platforms Taobao and Pinduoduo, which allowed users to browse ‘products’, save favourite items in a shopping cart, and purchase with a single click. 

Baidu Live Stream

Hu performed alongside folk band Wutiaoren as part of the Baidu livestream. Image: Gallery Weekend Beijing WeChat.

The works on sale were curated by UCCA Center for Contemporary Art director You Yang and predominantly featured young, Guangzhou-based artists with all proceeds going towards supporting local creators.

“Works in this live broadcast embody cutting-edge Chinese contemporary art and have important collection value,” said the UCCA in a WeChat Post, “Your viewing and participation makes you a permanent part of Hu Xiangqian’s work “Superfluous Gallery””.

The marriage of e-commerce and livestreaming has been a prevailing trend across 2020 in China. The success of Baidu livestreaming in “Superfluous Gallery” presents an alternate selling channel for Chinese galleries that are enduring a testing year. Mainland galleries have been largely closed since February and were setback further by the cancellation of the art fair circuit

Although the past few months haven’t necessarily demonstrated society’s need for more artists and galleries, it’s certainly exposed a broad-based desire for Chinese audiences to access them through more, non-traditional channels.

Edited by Richard Whiddington


Jing Culture & Commerce