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The Arts Intel Report

A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler
A Cultural Compass
For the World Traveler

Madame Song: Pioneering Art and Fashion in China

Song Huai-Kuei and her artwork Butterfly—Composition in Rose, mid-1980s.

West Kowloon Cultural District, 38 Museum Drive, Kowloon

When Song Huai-Kuei, also known as Madame Song, married the Bulgarian artist Maryn Varbanov in 1956, in Beijing, it was the first mixed marriage in the People’s Republic of China. Song was a scholar of classical literature and Varbanov specialized in tapestries. To escape a hot political climate they moved to his native Sofia, Bulgaria, where they worked as artists. In 1979, Song met Pierre Cardin when he bought all of Varbanov’s sculptures at the Galerie Hervé Odermatt, in Paris. The bond held fast. Song would return to Beijing to launch Cardin’s brand in China, and later worked on opening his restaurant there, Maxim’s. Varbanov died at 56, but Song went on to become a powerful influence for art and culture in Beijing. —Elena Clavarino

Photo: © Yonfan