Entrepreneur unafraid to display his talents

When 13-year-old Wang Keqiang was cycling 5km every evening to study painting, he never gave much thought to commerce, let alone he would become the "godfather of window dressing."
Entrepreneur unafraid to display his talents

Entrepreneur Wang Keqiang

When 13-year-old Wang Keqiang was cycling 5 kilometers every evening to study painting, he never gave much thought to commerce, let alone that he would one day become the “godfather of window dressing.”

The terminal display industry is big business today and involves a lot more than just windows. But when Wang graduated from Shanghai Art and Design Academy in 1995 and founded a company, which eight years later became the Shanghai Hooyi Displays & Fixtures Industries Co, almost no one in China had even heard the term.

“It was purely by accident that I came to be aware of the industry at that time,” said Wang. “In my eyes, display includes everything — advertising, installation, lighting — everything that is inside a shop or boutique, except the product itself and the sales staff.”

Now a cluster of big brands are on Hooyi’s client list, such as Prada, LV, Ferrari and Lincoln. In 2018, Hooyi turned over 434 million yuan.

Unlike many Chinese entrepreneurs, Wang prefers to keep a low profile, gives few interviews and has very little social media presence.

Entrepreneur unafraid to display his talents
Ti Gong

An LV display room designed and created by Shanghai Hooyi Displays & Fixtures Industries Co. 

Entrepreneur unafraid to display his talents

One of Cheng Shifa’s paintings on display at the newly opened Cheng Shifa Memorial Hall in Songjiang District.

Shanghai Daily talked with him shortly after the opening of an exhibition of the works of Cheng Shifa (1921-2007) at the Cheng Shifa Memorial Hall in Songjiang District. A total of 120 paintings on show are on loan from Wang’s private collection.

Cheng Shifa excelled in flower and bird paintings on rice paper, but became best known for his paintings focused on the unity and connections between the many ethnic minorities of southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

It is quite striking that Wang collects such traditional Orientalia, quite a contrast to his own work that, by its very nature, is modern, trendy and highly sophisticated.

Born in Zhucheng, Shandong Province, Wang loved painting when he was a kid. Coincidentally, Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145), a Song Dynasty painter whose scroll painting “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” is perhaps China’s most famous masterpiece, was also born in Zhucheng.

“Deep in my blood, I guess I have inherited the art gene in my hometown,” chuckled the 40-something designer.

At the age of 13, one of his paintings was selected for a children’s art competition and won third prize.

“Actually, I hadn’t received any formal art training before that. Although it was just a third prize, it ignited my passion for art,” he said.

It is easy to imagine how difficult it must have been for a boy from the countryside to get seriously involved in art during that period. He did part-time jobs to pay for his art classes and every evening rode his bicycle to the art school and back.

“Believe it or not, looking back, I remember that time as a joyful one, a very precious experience,” Wang said.

Everything comes to those who wait and Wang was eventually admitted to the Shanghai Art and Design Academy, where he continued to pay for his tuition through part-time jobs.

“I majored in design, and there were many opportunities,” he added. “I remember that I did several sand-table models for some commercial complex in town. Actually I liked the process of hand labor, and I found it very interesting.”

His knowledge in art and emerging business acumen gradually enabled him to develop a small company into a commercial empire.

Today Wang expertly walks a fine line between art and commerce.

Q: Why are you fascinated by the paintings of Cheng Shifa?

A: The style of Cheng Shifa’s painting is diverse and changeable, and his calligraphy style is nimble.

Q: Do you remember the first Cheng Shifa painting that you bought? How much did it cost?

A: It was in 2003 that I bought the first painting, and it was from a gallery in Ningbo. I spent about 32,000 yuan (US$4,766) on it. I lent it to one of my friends, but his apartment was broken into and the painting was taken!

Q: So far you have collected more than 200 pieces of Cheng’s paintings. Do you have any plans for your collection?

A: I would like to sort out the context of his paintings from his fifties to his later years, which will require me to study and learn more.

To this day, I don’t think my collection is yet systematic. When some themes and paintings of different ages appear on the market, I will still purchase what I consider to be his representative works. I may exchange some of Cheng’s earlier paintings for his better works.

Q: It is a rather striking contrast that your career is so closely linked with Western luxury brands, but what you collect is rather traditional and oriental.

A: What I am engaged in is the terminal display industry related to brands and luxuries, which seems to have nothing to do with my collection of traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. But in fact, that is not the case. My business, calligraphy and painting are all aesthetic concerns. Any layout or display needs to be designed and planned, with beautiful objects juxtaposed, interlinked and related.

I have a small collection of Western paintings. It’s not that I don’t like Western painting, but my focus is different in each period. Recently, I have been paying attention to and collecting European paintings.

Q: What was your first design for a shop and your understanding of the display industry at that time?

A: It was the first serviced store for Daphne, which opened in November 1995 at the conjunction of Shimen Road and Nanjing Road.

At the same time, the industry itself was relatively diffuse. I wanted to build an industry association to unite people and make us bigger and stronger.

Q: In your eyes, what’s the differences between the display industry in China and the West?

A: Today with globalization, there is very little gap between China, North America and Europe. Some luxury brands even take China as their absolute focus, so that the store image of some brands in China is at the forefront. But the industry in China still has a long way to go. If we continue to work hard, we will become better and better.

Q: Since you and your team now rank top in the field, what are the advantages of taking the leading role?

A: I have been deeply involved in the industry for many years. I have rich project management experience and a strong research and development team. My construction team covers the whole country and provides services for LV, CK, Nike, Ferrari, l’OREAL, Lincoln and many other international brands. In the current unfocused industrial environment, my team provides a series of full-cycle services from design and development, manufacturing, engineering construction, after-sales maintenance, recycling and utilization.

My mission is to popularize the concept of commercial display to every consumer, so that everyone knows the value and significance of commercial display as an integral component within our business solutions.

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