The culture curator

Taking business east to west—and back again—is Chao Xian Yang’s specialty.

Magazine layout

Photograph by Hannah Richards

Taking business east to west—and back again—is Chao Xian Yang’s specialty. But throw in a good cause, contemporary artists and an investment opportunity, and you have a stellar combination.

Chao Xian started his communication and branding company, IWP, six years ago when he was just 19. He helps Kiwi companies break into Asian markets and vice versa. Business was going well, leading Chao Xian to wonder whether his business model would work for philanthropy too.

“I translate culture,” says the Chinese-born Chao Xian. “I find when I’m working with my clients in New Zealand or China, they say: ‘Because I don’t speak English, or I don’t speak Chinese, it’s very difficult.’ But it’s often not the language that’s key barrier to doing good work in a different market. Understanding the cultural background and what they’re trying to achieve is more important.”

Enter Art for Love, Chao Xian’s international not-for-profit that brings Asian culture west. “In my dream world, I’d like to give money to every charity around the world,” says Chao Xian. “Unfortunately I don’t have that much cash to give away. So I wanted to think of an innovative way to help raise money.”

The concept comprises a series of exhibitions held in major cities around the world, showcasing Chinese contemporary art to garner funds for local charities. The Auckland exhibition, Canvas, featuring the donated work of renowned artist Chen Lao Tie, raised thousands for Medicine Mondiale, the charity set up by Ray Avery (‘Poor fortune’, Idealog #12, page 38).

“To me, Ray’s charity is very sustainable,” says Chao Xian. “Through technology, he’s creating a charity that can support itself. Coming from a business family, that’s very inspiring to me.”

Investment value and financial sustainability is key to the exhibition’s success, says Chao Xian. “Art creates a great cycle: people are supporting the charity, but they get something back. They’re not only going to get great monetary return, but also an emotional return.

“I’ve always been fascinated by Oriental and western cultures and what happens when they collaborate together. I think Art for Love is an opportunity for East and West to get together through art.”

So will he be taking Enzed artists to the Orient? It’s “definitely a possibility,” says Chao Xian. “And other forms of art, too, like music.”

Chao Xian is currently planning further exhibitions launching later this year and early 2010 in New York, Monaco and Malaysia.