The celebrated London-based multimedia Chinese artist who first burst onto the global scene after designing the famous floral skull for the late Alexander McQueen talks about his second
and latest collaboration with Shanghai Tang.
Options: Congratulations on your latest collaboration with Shanghai Tang, which coincides with the brand’s 30th anniversary as well as the Lunar New Year. Tell us more about it.
Jacky Tsai: It is definitely interesting. Besides being Shanghai Tang’s major anniversary, it is also the Year of the Dragon, which is the most powerful and popular animal in the Chinese horoscope. Naturally, the dragon is the key inspiration for the collection. But there will be four major collections, with the first launching now in honour of the upcoming Lunar New Year. Three more will be released throughout 2024.
This is also the second time you are collaborating with Shanghai Tang, the last a decade ago.
I have always liked Shanghai Tang as a brand. Its East-meets-West philosophy resonates a lot with me and what I do, besides the fact that I am a good Shanghainese boy myself. It is also probably the first luxury label to show the West what modern Chinese fashion is about. But there is another facet to the story. I was a young graphic designer in London and Alexander McQueen had passed away already. Shanghai Tang was on the lookout for a young artist to decorate part of the wall of their Knightsbridge boutique for the launch of a new collection. Luckily for me, I was the one selected. Shortly after, I quit my job to become a full-time artist. So I would say Shanghai Tang is the reason I am an artist today! I will always feel very close to and connected with the brand. In fact, you will see me wearing Shanghai Tang in all of my media pictures.
What’s your Chinese zodiac sign?
I was born in the Year of the Rat. I am hoping the Dragon will be a good year for me as the Rabbit was not. I experienced a lot of setbacks and it was simply an exhausting past 12 months.
How do you normally celebrate Chinese New Year?
I’ve been living in London for about 18 years now, so usually I would be hard at work as it’s not a public holiday here whenever the Chinese New Year rolls around. I would usually pop open a bottle of champagne, enjoy part of the day with my wife and take the kids to Chinatown in London’s West End to experience a bit of the festive spirit. We would decorate the house a little and, of course, give the children money in red envelopes for good luck.
Are there any festive must-have dishes?
Ba bao fan! Also known as Eight Treasure rice pudding, it is a traditional festive dish for me. Shanghainese new year foods tend to be heavy.
What are you reading right now?
Blossoms by Jin Yucheng. It’s super popular now as the famous film director Wong Kar-wai has adapted it for a television series — his first, as a matter of fact. I would like to watch it but have not had the time. So it is best that I read the book now.
What are you listening to right now?
Very quiet, tranquil piano music as 2023 was simply too hectic and exhausting. No shrill noise or loud music as I really need to calm myself down, having done an unprecedented four major solo shows almost back to back last year, from the Fosun Foundation in Chengdu to the MOCA Bangkok, the Museum Wave Seoul and the Museum of Contemporary Art & Planning Exhibition in Shenzhen. Oh, I am also listening to a lot of Ryuichi Sakamoto. It brings back fond memories as I created the skull graphic featured on the vinyl cover for Tong Poo for Junya Watanabe, in which Sakamato composed the soundtrack for Watanabe’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection.
Describe your idea of a perfect weekend.
Enjoying home cooking, spending time with the children and hopefully watching some football. I am proud to tell you that I am an Arsenal season ticket-holder.
The Shanghai Tang x Jacky Tsai “Auspicious Dragon” collection is available at the Shanghai Tang boutique at LaLaport BBCC, Kuala Lumpur.
This article first appeared on Jan 29, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.