DESIGN guru Alan Chan probably needs no introduction.
The Hong Kong native and creative professional has been open to any challenge in his more than 40 years as a designer and has recently become a frequent visitor to Shanghai — precisely to Park Hyatt Shanghai.
By invitation from the previous general manager of the hotel, the designer-artist has created his home away from home in the hotel as a popup concept store to share his inspirations in life and offer a unique insight into his mind as well as to incubate creative projects.
Chan has carefully curated the 200-square-meter space on the 86th floor of Park Hyatt, showcasing objects ranging from collectible furniture, delicate home ware and decor, exquisite arts and crafts to everyday objects such as biscuit tins or vintage tin toys.
“I’ve been seriously collecting in the last decade, yet I’ve been buying things all my lifetime,” Chan said. “For example, those 100-year-old China and Japan export silverware objects I’ve been buying from London and Paris are considered one of my major collections. I have over 600 pieces.
“I love to collect export goods as a channel to understand how the East and West mix together through merchandising and trading. Those kind of stories interests me very much,” he said.
Chan collects a great variety of artifacts, ranging from old postcards, tin toys and posters to objects like Song Dynasty-style reproduction vases as well as astonishing works by renowned artists such as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Chapman Brothers.
“The fun of collecting is not to focus on one thing,” Chan said. “By collecting a wide spectrum of objects, I learned so much about history and culture and gained chances to know so many artists and designers. Knowing an interesting person is also a part of the fun.”
The wide range of objects collected by Chan over the past decades have been the source of inspiration for his East-meets-West design philosophy. His passion in exploring and collecting astounding objects has nurtured a unique sense of picking out items with high appreciation and investment value.
“27” is the designer’s Shanghai home where he welcomes old and new friends to share his inspirations through the souvenirs he has acquired. “27” is also a place where guests might find some objects they would like to take home as souvenirs for their own life journeys.
During the interview, Chan showed me a recent “treasure” (a horse-racing toy) he found in Panjiayuan Market in Beijing.
“As a creator and artist, I have a pair of very open eyes. For me Panjiayuan is like a Disneyland. I love to discover treasures among the junk,” he said.
When buying artworks, Chan said he started from the designer’s point of view.
“I buy things with my aesthetic instinct. The purchased items often arouse my interest to look further into their history and culture, and further down, to the background of their creators or artists. Now I buy young artists’ works because it gives me a challenge that nobody realizes. If I buy an artwork and in two years the artist’s works become popular in the market, that means I have a good eye. I’m trying my percipience by buying more and more young artists’ works.”
The design guru is eyeing artists including Chen Man, Ren Zhe, Wu Xiaoshen, Yang Shewei and Yang Xiaojian. “By collecting their works, you encourage and support those young artists. This home is about exchanging culture through curating,” he said.
Chan said this curated “home” in Shanghai reflected his previous aesthetics for the home interior. “The way I accessorize and display objects is all about emotion. I hope to create an elegant stage which is modern yet classic to shed light on those invaluable treasures and let the stage evolve to a lifestyle brand that genuinely reflects the content of contemporary Chinese culture to date.”
It is also a platform that allows creative practitioners to showcase their works. Workshops, talks and seminars are hosted occasionally, offering a chance for creating shared synergies and collaborative visions.
For example, at a recent event at “27,” the venue was set up with floral decorations by renowned florist Huang Yijun, who naturally blended the joyous colors of nature into Chan’s collections to create a perfect romantic atmosphere for the event. Huang, who spent eight years studying in Japan, is a florist and teacher who trained at the Mami Flower Design School.