Having controversially split from their Japanese founding partners, the Chinese management of SNH48, BEJ48, GNZ48, SHY48 – and soon CKG48 – seem set on creating a lucrative idol universe of epic proportions
A key election took place in Shanghai last weekend – at least as far as Mandopop fans are concerned.
SNH48, mainland China’s first “idol group”, and its three sister units held their fourth annual election to decide the top-ranking idols. The process saw nearly 300 girls from across the country perform for baying fans at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena as part of a marathon six-hour event on July 29.
In the end, the top three positions in the massive popularity contest went to the same three girls who finished top of the pile last year. But there was still plenty of melodrama along the way, while the concert confirms the growing confidence of the Star48 Group, which manages all four idol units, since a controversial split from its Japanese founders.
For someone who produces large-scale statement art pieces, Xiamen-born artist Huang Yong Ping is surprisingly reticent. During our time with him at the opening of his Bâton Serpent III: Spur Track to the Left exhibition at the Power Station of Art (PSA), he is quietly reserved, and when he does offer comment it’s in a rapid, hushed manner as if he wants his sentences to be over as soon as possible (at least in the presence of the press, which may be somewhat understandable).
Dressed in all black with circular specs perched on his nose just below a greying comb-over, the wiry 62-year-old is content to let his huge – and hugely impressive – art do most of the talking. Bâton Serpent III, a continuation of sorts from exhibitions shown in Rome (2014’s Bâton Serpent) and Beijing (last year’s Bâton Serpent II), presents two dozen of Huang’s works dating back to 1995, including some that have been modified specifically for the PSA’s colossal space.
‘This exhibition was in Beijing for three months and coming here means it’s kind of the same audience – of course people from Shanghai go to exhibitions in Beijing, it’s like showing to the same people,’ says Huang. ‘So this exhibition had to be expanded, this was very important for me.’
Huang’s expansionism applies directly to his works too. Whereas one of the city’s other major art exhibitions of the moment – the Yuz Museum’s Alberto Giacometti retrospective – features sculptures whose monumentalism defies their often miniature scale, Bâton Serpent III showcases a number of simply enormous pieces of art.
Meng Fanyu may have only been crowned Mr Gay China a few days before we meet, but he seems to have settled quickly into the role of champion. Before sitting down to chat on the plush sofas of So Café & Lounge (a lower key venue from the same people behind the adjacent ICON nightclub, the scene of Meng’s triumph), we ask if we can first take a few photos. With no further prompting from us, he immediately works his way through a repertoire of pouts and Blue Steel-like looks as the camera clicks away.
He laughs it off when we suggest he’s already well used to having his photo taken, but having appeared in his underpants on stage at ICON throughout the Mr Gay China competition in front of hordes of cameraphone-wielding young men, it’s safe to say that we’re not the only ones in the city to possess images of Meng.
Organisers of the competition – the first of its kind to be held in Mainland China after a 2010 contest was nixed by the authorities before it even got off the ground – have been keen to emphasise that it was about more than just pretty faces, with a focus on sexual health. But there’s no denying that 27 year-old Meng is strikingly handsome.
Signing Didier Drogba has given Shanghai Shenhua fans hope that the side’s so far disastrous 2012 season can be turned round, writes Jake Newby. But we’ve been here before, of course – a mere three months ago in fact.
Nicolas Anelka’s much trumpeted arrival led many to predict that Shenhua might win the league even though they had endured their worst season in nearly a decade in 2011, finishing 11th in the 16-team Chinese Super League (CSL).
It took Anelka just 40 seconds to score his first goal for Shenhua on Chinese soil (a pre-season friendly against Hunan Xiangtao), an apparent sign of intent before he made his competitive debut against hated northern rivals Beijing Guoan, in the Chinese capital’s Workers Stadium. He scored against them too, celebrating by vaulting the advertising hoardings and running towards the small group of away fans who had travelled more than 1,000km to see Shenhua play on a Friday night.
The supporters, who had been made to wait in the ground for four hours before kick-off with no food or water, were enraptured.