Culture net cast wider

Updated: 2012-12-21 07:45

By Yao Jing (China Daily)

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 Culture net cast wider

A contemporary artwork presented by the Louise Blouin Foundation, a not-for-profit cultural space in London. Photos provided to China Daily

Enthused by Chinese art and culture, Louise Blouin has grand expansion plans for her publishing business

Media mogul Louise Blouin, the French-Canadian founder and CEO of US-based Louise Blouin Media, has been spending a lot of time in China recently.

The country has become the focus of expansion plans that she hopes will take its art and culture to the world.

The 54-year-old's latest trip was in November, following stops in Singapore and India, to announce the expansion of Blouin Artinfo China, a website about Chinese art and culture.

The website launched four years ago as a basic portal for information about Chinese art and culture. Now Blouin has re-launched the site with more content and a larger staff, and plans further growth in the coming months.

"We did a pre-technical launch a few months ago. It is ready now for more content and we are hiring more people," she says.

Blouin Artinfo China is the company's first foray into the Asian market and Blouin hopes it will be a sort of cultural bridge with the rest of the world.

"The first thing is that we want to bring your culture to the world and bring a percentage of the world's culture to China," she says.

From offices in New York, London, Paris and Beijing, and with a team of over 300 writers worldwide, LBM publishes Artinfo websites in English, French, Portuguese and Chinese, as well as more than 90 catalog titles each year for institutions such as the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum.

Some articles on the Chinese website are translated from the company's worldwide site, but Blouin plans to change this as additional people join her current Beijing team of eight staff members and three freelancers.

Access to the website is free and Blouin regards it as an educational tool to teach people about art and culture. Its income is generated mainly through advertisers, which currently include Russian auction house MacDougall Auctions and Lab-Yit, an Italian contemporary art platform based in China.

"We have Chinese and international brands advertising on our sites, depending on where they want to go," says Blouin.

Blouin was surprised the first time she saw one of her magazines, Modern Painters, in a Chinese university five years ago. That encouraged her to begin looking at the Chinese market, but she remains cautious.

"In terms of business, our magazine is growing at 15 percent year-on-year compared with a 200 percent increase in our Internet business," she says. With this in mind, she chose to enter the Chinese market online only.

Online is also a much simpler procedure than producing a printed publication, which involves registering a serial number and dealing with printers.

Blouin's China portal focuses on news and analysis concerned with art, culture, fashion, luxury, design, architecture and travel.

 Culture net cast wider

Louise Blouin, CEO of US-based Louise Blouin Media.

"A lot is happening in the contemporary space," she says. "Art schools and museums are being built; there is a rich set of resources available to the fields of architecture, performing arts, design and visual arts."

In fact, China has overtaken the United States, becoming the world's largest market for art and antiques last year.

China's share of the global art market rose from 23 percent in 2010 to 30 percent last year, pushing the US to the second place with a share of 29 percent, according to a report released by the European Fine Art Foundation earlier this year.

The next stage of the website is to produce an English version so the rest of the world can read about China's art and culture scene, says Blouin.

Although she admits to not being an expert on art, her travels have given her an appreciation of culture and art from around the world, she says.

Prior to founding LBM in 2000, she was the founding partner and co-CEO of Trader Classified Media, an international leader in online and print classified advertising. For more than 15 years, she managed a business with more than 70 companies, 400 publications and 9 million readers every week.

"I was able to understand different cultures and the sensitivity of culture as I had been working for 15 years in different countries. I thought cultural exchange would become more important in the background of globalization," she says.

That realization led her to launch LBM and buy several magazines including Art+Auction, Gallery Guide, Museums and Culture+Travel.

For Blouin, culture is anything that becomes "part of our DNA", and people should be open to it, ready to embrace it and prepared to preserve what's good about it.

"Everyone seems to dress in the same way," she says.

"The new generation is going after the Western style. However, it should not be a civilization of consumption; it should be a civilization of soul and values."

For her, Chinese culture is like an old friend, she adds, having visited the country more than 10 times in the last 25 years.

Her son has been learning to speak Mandarin since he was six years old and accompanied her on a trip to Shanghai in 1990 to help him learn the language.

"We stayed six weeks here. My son, who is 22, can speak and write Mandarin now and his last girlfriend was Chinese," she says.

Blouin is also chairman of the London-based Louise Blouin Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting cultural dialogue, and provides 35,000 square meters of exhibition space and lecture facilities.

In a strategic partnership with the United Nations Office for Partnerships, the foundation also hosts the annual Blouin Creative Leadership Summit in New York City.

Blouin may seem like a workaholic, but she says she understands a balance is needed between family and work.

That won't stop her expanding the business. Currently there are websites in 12 countries and Blouin has plans to launch a further six over the next 14 months.

(China Daily 12/21/2012 page21)