While growing up in Singapore, I don’t recall visiting art galleries or events as a regular activity, either in school or in my own leisure time. Art, for me, was merely another subject in school, where you get some fun out of making colour imprints from cut-up tomatoes and potatoes. There were organized annual art & craft competitions where only the best pieces would be displayed – the less good pieces would be shelved at home for closed-door appreciation. In my memory, there was little about exploring art.
Things have changed dramatically in the recent years. There is an upbeat tempo in the art scene in this region. Unlike in the past, art has become more disposable and accessible – more informal pop-up locations than formal museums; more free and open events than having to pay for expensive entrance tickets; more recognition of local artists rather than only foreign artists whose names we can’t even enunciate; more close-to-heart topics than abstract art that we can’t connect with .
In this post, I will share some of my “art encounters in Asia” with you and conclude with some thoughts on how this changes the way we approach advertising and consumer insights.
The following 5 exhibitions are ones that have particularly captured my imagination. I feel it’s valuable for us to share these from us here in the Asia office back towards colleagues and readers in the West, so you can get a sense of what the new creativity looks like in this market and how it may differ from trends in London or New York galleries. Brands and marketers headquartered in the West need to pay attention to artistic expression coming from China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia etc in order to understand the interests, questions, concerns and aesthetics at play in these markets. Brands’ visual languages can’t be imposed from the West on to “the rest” any more – they need to listen and learn.
On to the art:
Art space in K11 shopping mall in Shanghai, China
This is the world’s first art shopping mall
A photography artwork inspired by the life-threatening air pollution in China
Artwork portray commoners in masks, each mask telling a different story
“I am afraid this will be a silence call for help”
Reflects the relationship between environment and people and the vulnerability of life
Singapore Art Museum (Singapore)
Actual-size installation on a Primary School in Yangon
Brings fresh perspective on living standards and education
Set in a developed country, this installation is a thought-starter to get people thinking about their own (comfortable) environment and dwellings
Noise Singapore 2013[J1]
An annual open-public event dedicated to recognize the creative works of youths – work ranges from art and design, music and photography
There is one of the photography pieces that were curated for 2013
This event encourages youths to showcase their creativity and infuse fresh perspectives
Art is clearly another language to communicate meaning and emotions without language barriers. It opens up a different window to interpret the world, cultures, environment, politics, society and emotions. This brings about new values and perspectives, which may change our attitudes and behaviour.
The increasing vibrancy of the art scene in Singapore – and across a region becoming more affluent and more middle class – means potentially new public sphere for ideas. It allows more space for expression and creativity. By creative, I am not implying that everyone will become an artist, but that the audiences are able to realize themselves as capable and inspiring thinkers. There’s more of a public forum for people to discuss representation, and meaning, and creative ideas – and for these thoughts to feed back up and be heard by artists, brands and cultural institutions.
This changes how brands should approach consumers with their communication strategy. While a single-minded message is the rule-of-thumb, this doesn’t mean the delivery must be linear. With a changing consumer profile, consumers are capable interpreting meanings with broader perspectives, and brands that recognize this – who don’t feel they need to talk down to their audiences, but who trust them to be able to interpet complex imagery and narratives – have a chance to win a greater share of attention, personal recognition, and loyalty.
Many brands have succeeded in this – Coca Cola is a classic example that doesn’t need further introduction. Absolut Vodka continues to build buzz with its limited edition bottles with iconic designs. In 2013, Absolut Vodka put up its first Absolut Canvas exhibition dedicated to the art and creativity of the brand at the Singapore History Museum. Other brands advertised using creative art installations to connect with people in their daily lives.
We also need to move away from the traditional marketing hierarchy. Consumers are no longer ‘external’ stakeholders but ‘internal’ stakeholders, who can play a fundamental role in directing the brand strategies. At FACE, we believe every consumer has a voice – hence it is essential for brands to engage with consumers at an early stage to shape the idea. Through co-creation workshops, brands can start conversations with consumers, build ideas and create stories together with them.
After all, it is an art to paint a full picture.
Calin Chua is a Research Manager for Face Asia. She has worked on a diverse range of brands, including Starbucks and Nokia.
Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.