March 25, 2015
Oh, Canada - Once in a Lifetime Survey of Canadian Art
“Everything is art. Everything is politics” – Ai Weiwei
Widow by Janice Wright
A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine and I decided to make use of a day during the week when neither of us had to work and go and see some art in Calgary. More specifically, we decided on the highly acclaimed Canadian art exhibition, Oh, Canada, presently on at the Esker Foundation Gallery in the heart of Inglewood. We first met at the Gravity café located at the foot of the Esker Building, named after the gallery with the same name on 9th Avenue SE. It was a great outing, as she and I were able to not only take in many fine works of Contemporary art of Canada, but also reminisce about how we met, extolling on our deep ties to China and the Chinese art scene. While my friend is an artist and used to have her own gallery down near the Calgary Farmer’s Market, not far from Inglewood, I have been a photographer most of my adult life and I was part of the Beijing art scene for about 10 years. At one time, too, I had an online art gallery which bought and sold Chinese contemporary art works. Ah, such memories. Having much in common, it was fun to share stories about our artistic times in Calgary and in China, all the while sipping tea and chilling out on that workless Wednesday.
The online website for the Esker Foundation states that, “Oh, Canada: Contemporary Art from North North America, organized by the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), is the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside Canada”. This is a somewhat interesting and key point, as it is basically an American art organization and art curator’s perspective and opinion on what THEY think are the important works of Contemporary Canadian art. We don’t really think of it being a big deal in North America, but I often saw exhibitions in China that were either curated by Chinese or curated by Americans, Canadians or Europeans. Hmm, ‘same same but different’ in what and how the art exhibition is curated, from concept to choice of who is included. On speaking with the gallery assistant behind the desk as we were leaving, she said that the exhibition consists of works by 62 artists and is spread out over four different gallery spaces - Esker Foundation, Nickle Galleries, Illingworth Kerr Gallery, and Glenbow Museum – all in Calgary. Furthermore, she told us that the curator, Denise Markonish, personally visited over 400 artists and their studios, deciding on the final 100 works based on what she saw from Vancouver Island sweeping across to St. Johns’ New Brunswick – an expansive curatorial concept in itself, to be sure. We both had a chuckle about the story of how well-known Calgary painter, Chris Cran, was able to exhibit a ‘piece’ of art in the exhibition without officially being invited to participate. More buzz was created by the fact that over 1000 guests attended the opening on Saturday January 31st, 2015. Great stories, great art - I highly recommend that if you have time, try and take in at least one of the four exhibitions, before the end of April, 2015. For more information, visit www.ohcanadayyc.com.
March 23, 2015
International Real Estate Tours with Chinese Characteristics
Manhattan south facing condo, similar to those being sought after by Chinese investors.
“60 percent of China’s wealthiest are contemplating a move [overseas]” – Juwai.com, a website geared towards connecting Chinese investors with properties overseas: 4.8 million property listings in 58 countries on their site.
This is a fascinating topic, especially for someone who lived a decade plus in China. There is a plethora of stories, reports and articles about the economic miracle that has been China since the early to mid-1990s, which almost seems a bit old hat now as it has been part of our political and economic landscape for quite a while. In the past 10 years or so, though, the world has witnessed special tours of Chinese out of the Mainland other than just for travelling, as they are exiting the country in droves for reasons of plastic and body surgeries, having babies, and shopping sprees for luxury items such as handbags, watches and vehicles. However, who would have envisioned the wealthiest of Chinese taking the great leap forward and investing abroad in real estate, given how hard it is to actually get the RMB currency OUT of China? According to a recent article in Bloomberg online, not only are Chinese paying $250 000 for a luxury 7 day real estate tour alone, but are investing upwards of $1 million US for a residential property buy, on the fly no less. The article talks about a well-heeled woman in her mid-30s who ‘impulsively’ purchased a $4 million dollar US condo in Manhattan on one of these special tours – in cash!
Lo and behold, I discovered that a good friend of mine, Bianca Weber-Lewerenz, who I knew from my expat entrepreneur community years back in Beijing, is doing a similar thing. She originally went to China from Germany and used her special engineering skills and expertise to start up Woodford International Ltd, a consulting company that focuses on assisting builders, home owners, and developers with construction services, from a European perspective. However, being the avid entrepreneur that she is, Bianca decided to extend her experience from China back to Europe in the form of real estate and investment style tours. Her intercultural background, as well as connections to German and French developers and investment companies, is a major appeal for Chinese who take her tours. Culturally, she not only knows where they are coming from but is familiar with where they are investing to. “My costs of a freelance engineering consultant are paid in advance (daily basis), and they can be recalculated against the final purchase in case of a successful business [abroad]”. Bianca adds that the Chinese that she works with have a good insight of the market and ask very detailed questions about what it is they are seeing and hopefully purchasing. However, the most important focus for these investors, of course, is price and value development for the future. She value adds by offering remodelling, interior design services herself, and can offer up licensed specialists in architecture, HVAC and other related services. A great advantage for keeping it all relatively direct, transparent and above all, efficient.
I could see this phenomenon coming to Canada. Just the other day I was reading an article online from Propertyshowrooms.com that stated that Chinese are turning their sights to Canada for real estate investing, especially over the past 12-24 months. Executive managing director of Colliers, Kirk Keuster said: "Canada is a popular investment target for a number of reasons: One is that it has a stable economy, the other is the stable political environment and thirdly, it has a very regulated, balanced banking system”. This topic is putting interesting ideas into my head. Stay tuned … :)
Will Calgary be able to entice Chinese real estate investment tourism?
For more information about Woodford International Ltd, please contact Bianca Weber-Lewerenz @ +49 1573 7418 358.
March 11, 2015
Stay Calm and... Find a Second Hand Shop!
"Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping" - Bo Derek
This morning I was watching Global News and they had a special guest on, as they usually do on the morning program. This guest was one of the founding members of Kijiji, Canada’s premiere second hand online market for pretty much anything… different than EBay, as you don’t ‘bid’ for stuff, you basically search, view and contact the owner directly. I have found my present and previous vehicles from Kijiji, as have many of my clients found home rentals in Calgary and all over Alberta. It was interesting to hear that Kijiji has been around for 10 years, and originated in Toronto, Canada, as Calgarians seem to feel that it is ‘theirs’.
Second hand for me is not new. No pun intended. In fact, I remember when we lived in Australia in the late 1970s and my mom, as thrifty as single parents come, decided that we would take the three bedroom bungalow in the Perth suburbs, but we would furnish it solely from Sally-Ann’s and thrift stores… that was an exciting time for a 10 year old kid, climbing around the isles of gently used antiques and retro furniture, not to mention knickknacks and ancient stuff from times gone by. Fast forward to being a starving student in Calgary in the mid 1990s, and there was Value Village. What a hoot, as it was not only practical, but was a fun place to venture in time for Halloween… once on a quick trip to Calgary in October 2009, I jumped into the Value Village in SE Calgary and picked up the most awesome outfit to finish off my “FemBot” conceptual costume, which I took back to China and wowed my friends at a well timed Halloween party in the far suburbs of Beijing. How could I have done that without Value Village?
Personally, second hand shopping became a business venture of mine in China, ca. 2005 - 2009, when I and a good friend opened China’s first and foremost second hand shop geared towards outfitting new mothers and fathers in the latest maternity wear, cribs, strollers, toys and pretty much everything for the baby… NU2YU Baby Shop was a huge success, not to mention, it was a lot of fun! I was sort of a Robin Hood, where I would rent a van and cruise out to the gated communities on the outskirts of Beijing and ‘buy’ from the expats and then ‘resell’ to the inner city expats and local Chinese who could not afford or find quality baby goods in the overpriced Beijing department stores.
Buying second hand or ‘gently used’, which is sometimes a more easy way to market it, is a lifestyle, I get that, as it is not everyone’s bag. However, if you are there and into it, then it serves three main purposes: 1) it saves landfills, as stuff gets recycled, regardless of price, and does not end up in the landfills here or globally; 2) it saves on having to import, as it supports local businesses who deal with second hand goods reselling and saves on import duties, costs of shipping and handling, too; 3) reduction for sure of anyone’s carbon foot print. Period. Not to mention, second hand store trawling is a great way to add to one of one’s many collections, you know, for those who collect cameras, retro dish ware, old hats ad nauseum…
Alas, I find myself in my mid 40s in Calgary and looking for work... and lo and behold, I am back buying and selling second hand; however, this time it is in the form of homes , not strollers and cribs... Yup, real estate is very much about recycling, reusing and reducing one's carbon foot print… resale homes are still a highly sought after commodity in Canada, and will be around for a very long time. In many ways, becoming a real estate associate was a nature fit. Next time you buy, will you consider a new or ‘gently used’ home?
March 5, 2015
Friendship vs. Facebook - meeting up with long lost friends
"You don't have to have anything in common with people you've known since you were five. With old friends, you've got your whole life in common" - Lyle Lovett
Ok, so maybe I didn’t know them since I was 5, but the saying still applies, even if it has been 15, 20, or almost 30 years since the last time that I really hung out with or was in touch with several old friends. Not sure why, but this past month or so has seen me get back in touch and reconnect with several old friends that I have not seen in a very long time. Long time, longer time, longest time. The funny irony is that two of these friends that I have seen lately are both not on Facebook or Twitter; they came to me in a more ‘traditional’ way of communication, one was by email (Mario) and one was by text (Kathy). Yes, in today’s world of communications, email and texting are somewhat ‘old hat’. Anyway, I digress …I actually have several friends who are not on social media, but somehow we manage to pick up where we left off, regardless that many of them live in other parts of the globe, namely China. These two recent ‘reconnections’, however, live in the same city and are adamantly opposed to joining social media and spending numerous hours a day online. Instead, Kathy and Mario prefer the more face-to-face form of friendship, and are quite content with their circle of friends and family that they see on a regular basis. This I find quite interesting, and when I met with these friends from the past, we really had things to talk about as we hadn’t had the ‘convenience’ of catching up daily vis-à-vis Facebook posts… I find that catching up with friends on Facebook is really about reiterating what I have and they have already posted - there is no news, really, more of a recap. So, to meet with these two was great, we reminisced about old times, school days, work, and caught up with anecdotes about what each of us was doing now, and in the distant and not so distant past. It was a great exercise of reminding me of what friendship used to be like, before the introduction and time vacuum of Facebook and the like.
I liked it and I really feel joy from meeting up with friends of all stages and phases of my life, and find an extra specialty with those who are not following me daily on social media, which seems to take the face-to-face interaction out of the meaning of social all together. Who have you connected with recently and was it through social media?