Bringing art to the masses — K11 Founder Adrian Cheng

K11 Art Mall, Hong Kong

K11 Art Mall, Hong Kong

My team and I are researching Chinese millennials along with Generation Z (those born after 1995) because these groups will have the most spending power in the next 30 years, yet remain a puzzle.

K11 Art Foundation, the non-profit organization founded by Adrian Cheng, has been promoting Chinese contemporary artists and curators through collaborations with leading institutions such as the Pompidou, MoMA PS1, the Royal Academy, and Palais de Tokyo. Here Adrian talks about art and branding in the development of K11 Art Malls and C Ventures, his new fund focusing on tech-driven brands. 

The K11 concept is now approaching its tenth anniversary. How has it aged and evolved? Is the world more receptive to museum retail now?

We are to expand K11 by opening Art Malls in nine Chinese cities by 2023. With locations in both Shanghai and Hong Kong, the Art Malls were first launched in 2008 to help increase dialogue and engagement between art and the public. Our expansion will facilitate more arts-education initiatives and inspire future generations.
The museum retail always aims to bringing people new experiences and knowledge. For example, the ObEN AI technology recently funded by K11 can simulate a person’s voice, face and personality—we will reach millions of new customers and create experiences that will shape the future of retail. One day, consumers will be able to ask a virtual avatar based on their favorite celebrities for fashion advice, a more interactive experience than engaging with a simple chatbot that doesn’t yet have the level of personalization consumers expect. K11 is therefore not only a retail space, but a cultural destination that offers an inspiring journey of the imagination.

What is distinctive about the Chinese millennial? Do you find that this demographic is more responsive to the art and leisure concept than others?

My team and I are researching Chinese millennials along with Generation Z (those born after 1995) because these groups will have the most spending power in the next 30 years, yet remain a puzzle. Having that said, there are still some traces to tell about the millennials—the way they consume is different. They’re not owning things, they’re renting things. It’s that idea of YOLO—you only live once. This sizable demographic—the population of Chinese millennials and Gen Z-ers equals the workforce of the United States. and western Europe combined, has increasingly sophisticated needs and interests in technologically driven global brands.

Does K11 function primarily as a brand, or as a platform for other brands? Do you play a role in linking other brands and artists?

All platforms that I built allow every talent to inspire each other, and each brand that we engage is continuously growing—ever evolving, colliding, revolutionizing—together through collaborations. Establishing connections, like investing, is an art. I plan to provide the brands with strategic support via K11 investment fund, where all projects span across retail, art and culture, and the K11 Art Malls, where my museum-retail concept of incorporating art into shopping experience is being realized all these years. 

Moving forward with C Ventures, to what extent will art continue to be a point of focus for you?

I founded C Ventures—an investment fund with its eye on technology-driven brands and services that cover art, media and fashion. I think it drives and answers much to everyone’s curiosity of new trends, and make an elevation of tastes. It is more of an “investment club” than a traditional fund—what I’m building is a cultural ecosystem that connects coteries from fashion, media and creative platforms globally and allows them to collide, cross-pollinate, and grow. Driven by the sharing economy, the use of digital technology, and an appetite for bespoke luxury, we have a firm belief in global connectivity, which will be crucial for the future of the fashion and lifestyle markets. And we always have strong interest in companies that are springboards for the creation of communities, and this creation is itself an art.