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Purse Party: Digging Through 300+ Rare Luxury Bags and Xiao Quan's Photos at K11

Jul 19, 2016 | 13:38 Tue
John Lennon and Yoko Ono probably never expected a purse exhibition in a Shanghai mall to borrow the name of their 1960s peace / anti-discrimination campaign, Bagism. But instead of using bags to cover people's entire bodies so we don't stereotype them based on appearances, and just, like, listen to their words, K11's latest show focuses on the bag's more traditional role -- a status symbol and an object of beauty and desire.

The show goes deeper than just fashion, though. "The world's first ever high-end handbags and Chinese contemporary art crossover" features over 300 handbags from big fashion houses throughout history, alongside art installations from 15 Chinese artists and a solo exhibition by Xiao Quan, arguably China's finest portrait photographer.

As comprehensive as a mid-scale exhibition can be, Bagism's collection ranges from antique handmade lucite handbags from the '50s to Judith Leiber's iconic "007" black satin bag and more conspicuous 21st century offerings like Moschino's matchbox handbags and Chloe Wise's bread bags.

You also get to have a closer look at rare and exclusive bags designed for or owned by celebrities and royal families. People like Jane Birkins, Elsa Schiaparelli, Grace Kelly and Queen Elizabeth, to name a few.

So, the other half of this show is an exhibition by artists like Zhang Enli, Xu Zhen, and Li Shuang. They all contributed paintings, videos, and art installations created under the topics of "desire", "information", "advertising" and "consumer". Seems like a bit of a tangent from handbags, but hey, it's that crossover market.

The big deal here is Shanghai's first widescale showcase of photographer Xiao Quan. Named Our Generation and Twenty Years with Marc Riboud in China, these two mostly black and white photo galleries are must-sees for anyone curious about China's art and literary scene in the '80s and '90s.

Stunning and vivid, often with the subjects looking directly into the camera, Xiao's portraits capture the expressive moments of China's most important modern authors, poets, filmmakers, and musicians, like Sanmao, Gu Cheng, Zhang Yimou, and Dou Wei.

Xiao's film skills didn't come from nowhere. World-renowned reporter Marc Riboud was his tutor and beloved friend. The previously unreleased collection Twenty Years with Marc Riboud in China shows Riboud's journey in China documented by Xiao's observant eyes, along with personal letters and old documents between Xiao Quan and other artistic minds. An extraordinary experience and a highlight of the show, for sure.

BAGISM is on daily at chi K11 Art Space until Oct 9. Tickets cost 120rmb at the door or 100rmb on Gewara. They also have a series of talks featuring the aforementioned artists and photographer during the entire exhibition. You can visit or follow their wechat (sh_k11) to get more info.


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