For millennials, the museum gift shop is typically an uninspiring and old-fashioned place to buy products. But ever since it opened in Midtown Manhattan in 1989, the MoMA Design Store has sought to counter these perceptions by providing hip, well-designed and exclusive products to culturally-attuned audiences.
Though separate from the world-famous art museum, MoMA’s Design Store has set equally high curatorial standards and has built on the success of its two New York City locations by adding venues in Tokyo and Kyoto. The store’s latest venture is an opening in Hong Kong’s newest art mall, K11 MUSEA, that has it focusing its eye unblinkingly on the booming Chinese market. “It was a natural fit for MoMA Design Store to open its next international outpost in Hong Kong,” the Design Store’s team stated via email. “When we were presented with the opportunity to work with K11 MUSEA in their exciting, new location, we jumped at the chance to connect with Chinese audiences.”
Set to be the largest of its Asian stores, MoMA Design Store’s arrival to Hong Kong is both well-placed and timely. K11 has developed a prominent brand on the Chinese mainland through stores in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Shenyang, and the New York-based company will benefit from this visibility while simultaneously adding clout to K11 MUSEA, which aims to become a cultural hub in Hong Kong — signalled by its decision to host The Festival de Cannes Film Week in November this year.
The art mall’s self-definition as a space encompassing art, design, culture, and high-end retail correlates to MoMA Design Store’s mission statement and should ensure a successful partnership aimed at showcasing leading international designers to a sophisticated market. “We are thrilled to bring some of our most successful collaborations to the Hong Kong market,” the MoMA Design Store team added. “Our merchandising and curatorial teams are collaborating with the K11 team to create products that will be new and exciting for shoppers in Hong Kong.”
The Chinese demand for quality, museum-produced cultural goods, sometimes known as ‘wenchuang,’ is on the rise. Prominent Chinese institutions such as Beijing’s Palace Museum and Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum — which houses the Terracotta Army — have tapped into this trend with limited-edition offerings that have been sold both in brick-and-mortar museum stores and through online portals. And with MoMA’s U.S. e-commerce site already shipping off to China, K11 will also provide an additional channel through the launch of a website specifically meant to serve the Hong Kong market.
The increasing ease of cross-border travel and the completion of the Hong Kong / Zhuhai / Macau Bridge have helped the numbers of Chinese visitors to Hong Kong increase dramatically – close to 15 percent in the past year. This will provide MoMA Design Store with a considerable sample size with which to evaluate the tastes of Chinese consumers, and should the reception with those travellers prove successful, one can expect a mainland China store to follow in the not-too-distant future.
“This was my first visit time in the design store” said Liu Haiyan, a tourist from northeast China, after shopping at the Manhattan Soho location, “it is a good place to buy gifts for friends and family…[if MoMA Design Store opened] in China I think it would be successful.”