Bright and sparky we come and meet Colby our interpreter. She is a post graduate student at a local university and is training to become an interpreter. Her spoken english is good but i get the feel that she has not done this many times . Colby turns out to be one of the stars of this show quiet, shy but very capable and hard working.
The first few people start arriving and It seems to be like the local college has turned out. Where are these expensive dudes in their designer togs. What I learn that morning is that regarding Chinese public “you dont know”
When you go to an english exhibition you can feed emotionally off the comments. “Lovely Work”, “Oh i do like that table” “ When i win the lottery” Now i know that fine words put no butter on my parsnips but it is something to feed your ego with. Here nada, zilch, nothing. You do not know who you have pleased and who you have offended. They just take pictures and walk on. THOUSANDS OF THEM.
They stop maybe chat to Colby mostly not take a picture of just about everything then move on. Not just the furniture but everything . We have framed catalogue entries from the auction on each of the plinths, those are photographed. We have a short explanation about the story of Perseus and Andromeda, that is photographed.
It doesn’t take my assistant long to get the hang of this . She has two Chinese phrases “Nee Ha” and “Shay Shay”, Basically hello and goodbye, but nothing else . Within minutes she was Nee Haa ing to anyone who looked like they had money. She can spot a Rolex at fifty paces and tell you if its real or not at twenty. I can handle it but only with difficulty, I have learnt to stand in front of my work and talk about it but I am not a natural sales person.
What I do know is that people do not buy the item they buy you. Its your emotional connection to the work this is valuable to them. Most people that I have worked with have a gutteral need to ground themselves in what really matters, Jags and Jewels don’t really matter, thats only stuff. What we had on show was different, the question was….. were the Chinese ready for it or not. .
We had a passing crowd of thousands, the halls were heaving, I was told don’t be put of by appearance some very wealthy Chinese just wear sneakers and running gear. SOOO you don’t know who you have gone Nee Haa to and who you have offended by ignoring.
Tis a mystery . But end of day one we go back with a small handful of business cards of people with and interest in what we have shown them .