Press > K11 Art mall gives shoppers their Monet’s worth

K11 Art mall gives shoppers their Monet’s worth

The K11 Art Mall, which opened last year on fashionable Huaihai Road, in Shanghai’s upscale Huangpu District, is as serious about art as it is about retail. Works of art are displayed throughout the 300,000-square-foot mall, though the prime gallery space occupies the lowest basement level, where a recently concluded exhibit of 40 paintings by Claude Monet was packed with viewers every day. An exhibition of Korean designers titled “Ticket to Seoul” is scheduled to run through the middle of this month, and next month will see a solo show by Gary Baseman, an American artist and illustrator known for his “pop surrealism.” 
The mall, creation of Adrian Cheng, executive director of Hong Kong based New World Development Co., is touted as a new kind of shopping environment that embodies Cheng’s core values of “art, people and nature.” 
The mall occupies six levels of a 61-story skyscraper renamed K11 after its renovation in 2013. For its use of energy-saving technology such as natural light and recycling rainwater through the open courtyard’s vertical hanging gardens for cooling, the project earned a LEED Gold certification. 
“It’s a unique center,” said Eugene Tang, Jones Lang LaSalle’s head of retail for Shanghai and eastern China, who praised the packaging, the marketing and the “clever use” of material and design. “Within its small scale, they did a great job.”
High-end tenants include Balenciaga, Burberry, Chloé, Dolce & Gabanna and Max Mara. 
“With the art space, you create a lifestyle space,” Tang said. “You are not targeted to a particular range of customers; it’s open for more variety. It’s a good place to hang around.”
Tang cites The Urban Harvest, the organic restaurant on the mall’s upper floor, where patrons may choose from green vegetables growing hydroponically in large planters within sight of their tables or take their pick of the mushrooms thriving in a nearby dark room. 
One drawback, says Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, is that the mall reaches out to too many demographics. “There is a clash between their luxury brands and the restaurant section: One targets wealthy Chinese, the other is directed at the middle class, so the shopping environment is a mix of slipper-wearing families with screaming kids and Hermès-toting elites.” The problem is that the former tend to put off the latter, asserts Rein, author of The End of Copycat China: The Rise of Creativity, Innovation, and Individualism in Asia.
Another difficulty might be the mall’s location. “It’s not the only player on the block,” said retail research analyst James Roy, a CMR associate principal. He points out that the K11 Art Mall is located across the street from Lai Sun Group’s Hong Kong Plaza, which has an Apple store and a Tiffany. 
Tang sees no problem. “I would rate [K11] as the best refurbished project in the past 24 months,” he said. “I think they did a great job. This mall works in this particular space.”
Cheng seems to think so. He says he is planning to open about a dozen art malls in China over the next five years.  — Spencer Rumsey