Chinese entrepreneur Midi is a youtuber and owner of Artoallect. In order to enlarge his store’s awareness, Midi promotes his business through individual-run social media platforms. In the videos he makes, he and his team use a simple, understandable way to communicate to their audience. The videos talk about Chinese contemporary artists, the situation of the art market, auctions, and fashion brand artists. Through our interview with him, we gain a better understanding of contemporary market-oriented art dealers, how they aim to obtain a higher profit, while maintaining an artistic value.
Breakthrough + "Re-" team: Hello Midi, and thank you so much for taking part in this interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Midi: I was born in an artistic family, and have myself been collecting for over ten years. Six years ago, I opened my first shop, and we now have two physical stores in Shanghai called Artoallect.
B + R: You make short videos on the Chinese website Bilibi, talking about the contemporary Chinese art world. What gave you the idea to make these kinds of videos?
Midi: My team and I started to make videos in 2016, but stopped for a while. At first, we thought about making them as advertisements for the store, but the result wasn’t good; the viewers of art videos are mostly students, who have no income, and therefore cannot become our customers. After this, we precised our direction to making videos about art. Two years ago, we noticed the explosive trend of short format videos, and started again to see if the market had changed. (But in reality nothing changed!)
B + R: What kind of logic and mentality do you have when you make the videos? Do you have a specific purpose?
Midi: Our mentality is pretty simple; we use an understandable way to talk to every normal person about art from the last fifty years, art that the general public could react to. At first we thought it was realistic because there are not so many people making these kinds of videos, then we found that the reason is probably because it has the lowest return on investment. In China, when talking about Van Gogh, Picasso, you would go the traditional education route. When talking about contemporary Chinese art however, most audiences, including students studying art, have never learned about it. Most of them didn’t understand, and the audience didn’t necessarily turn into customers. For now, we are trying to maintain our audience numbers, or at least not see any big decrease. Many similar individual-run accounts who started at similar times have pivoted their focus, or just simply given up.
B + R: As someone who is not completely an insider or outsider, when I was watching your videos I found that the contents are really easy understandable but not shallow, and are also easy to remember. So how do you decide what to say in a video?
Midi: This is an illusion, actually many people don’t understand it! We made an experiment, we invited 10 students from high level Chinese universities. Some graduates are from Xiamen University, as tourism majors, others are from Sichuan University. But all the feedback we got was “I don’t understand”, and they had never heard of most of the artists we mentioned. So these types of videos have a really narrow audience. As for the text within the videos, we hold exhibitions in our physical stores so we use this kind of way to talk to our customers. In the video, we think that amateurs who have some amount of knowledge could understand, so it’s fine.
B + R: On the Chinese video platform Bilibili, which has a wide audience, your videos aim to reach outsiders, amateurs, not only the art lovers, as well as new collectors. How do you decide the theme of each video?
Midi: We basically go with the flow. We don’t have very high video views, so we don’t have that much pressure, we do whatever we want to.
B + R: Your audiences have a Wechat group (Chinese social media), could you talk to us about why and what kind of audience will be added in this group? Are they art lovers? Insiders? What kind of activities or contents will you upload?
Midi: We made this group because the audiences wanted us to. There is a small rate of these people who will actually buy things. For now we are mostly chatting, we don’t have a high conversion rate yet.
B + R: When you talk to the outsider audiences, what is the most important thing for you?
Midi: The most important thing is that we need to know whether our followers want to chat or to buy. If they come to us just to talk in circles, we typically won’t answer. Followers like this usually won’t buy or talk about us, so it’s not strategic to continue a relationship with them.
This interview was conducted in Chinese by Yanan He.
Translation to English by Yanan He.