With more than a billion daily users, WeChat is an essential tool for cultural destinations striving to connect with China. The vast majority of Chinese museums are already well-established on WeChat, but there remains huge potential for western institutions to utilize the platform to engage Chinese audiences. Jing Travel examines how cultural institutions performed on WeChat across August and looks behind the numbers by giving insight on successful strategies.
Western Museums and Cultural Institutions
August marked a turning point for many U.S. museums. After five months of coronavirus imposed lockdown (and forced digital experimentation), institutions from New York to Chicago began welcoming back visitors.
Since April, a taskforce of more than 20 museums has meticulously devised safety guidelines to meet this moment. And yet, reopening means more than introducing visitation protocols and hygiene standards, it requires a willingness on the part of visitors to share enclosed spaces with strangers. The need to generate excitement may help to understand why many New York museums chose to waive ticket fees for the first month of reopening. Whether this short-term generosity will be rewarded into the Fall is a multi-million dollar question.
How did the museum get its name? What’s the trendiest selfie spot? What are the collection’s must-see works? London’s Victoria and Albert Museum took Chinese audiences on a playful whirlwind journey through the museum with its debut live stream on short-video platform Kuaishou this month. Led by Li Xiaoxin, Assistant Curator, Asia, viewer questions were expertly answered in real-time and the museum also took the opportunity to introduce upcoming pop-ups in Hangzhou and Shenzhen. With more than 100,000 views to date, the world’s leading design museum has found its latest China engagement tool.
For city dwellers, COVID-19 lockdown turned familiar streets into hushed, unfamiliar places. The Museum of Modern Art played with this global experience by looking at the architectural history of its home city, New York, in a virtual exhibition “Open City”. MoMA’s WeChat post on the exhibition included grainy black-and-white footage of skyscrapers, 17th century maps and artworks from its collection detailing the evolution of the city. Informative, engaging, and visually driven, it ranked as the museum’s most read post since early April.
Chinese Museums and Cultural Institutions
A host of European museums faced criticism this month for placing revenue over ethics in their relationship with Chinese organizations. Irrespective of one’s position on the conversation enveloping Centre Pompidou, Tate, and the V&A (among others), one point is clear; the importance of relationships with Chinese cultural organizations — and thereby cultural audiences — is impossible to ignore.
Since July, the British Museum has held a pop-up in Shanghai, Christian Dior has taken over a floor of the Long Museum, and the V&A live streamed to Chinese audiences on Kuaishou. Three drastically different approaches to engaging Chinese cultural audiences. With coronavirus’ impacting museum balance sheets, drawing revenue from alternate markets, such as China, will only grow in importance.
European luxury brands continue to use art exhibitions as social currency to connect with Millennial and Gen Z consumers. Christian Dior is the latest with a two-month exhibition at Shanghai’s Long Museum West Bund. “Designer Dreams” presents 70 years of creativity through 250 gowns and archival footage. As lockdown has eased in Shanghai, residents are eager to reengage with cultural attractions, a point reflected by the museum’s increased programming and the popularity of its posts detailing free days at Long Museum’s two locations.
The contemporary art museum in Beijing’s 798 Art District continues its reputation of curatorial firsts. In 2018, it became the first museum to host abstract American artist Sarah Morris’ entire filmic oeuvre, last year it held China’s first comprehensive Picasso exhibition, and now it’s staging Elizabeth Peyton’s debut Mainland show. “Practice” is a touring that arrives in Beijing from London’s National Portrait Gallery, a sign that UCCA is deeply connected within the international museum circuit.