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Anson Chan: More Than A Magician

Johnny 2018-04-09 14:23

He is the executive director of Bund 18 and the founder of Blackstone Magic Bar… the first belongs to one of the most prominent buildings on the Bund, and the second is a mysterious magic bar hidden in Jing’an District, Shanghai. Anson Chan is in charge of both places. Although they look quite different in function, they are connected within to create their combined successes.

Interest Leads to Transformation

Bund 18 was initially constructed in 1923 and used to be the China headquarters of Standard & Chartered. 15 years ago, Ailing Zhang obtained the franchise of the building and renovated it. In 2004, Bund 18 reopened to the public. Combined with strong sense of history, eastern and western culture, Bund 18 instantly became the hotspot for the fashionable to see and be seen at on the Bund.


In the past decades, Bund 18 has gone through development, and prosperity, slump and rebirth. In 2013, Anson Chan took over Bund 18 and has been redefining the old building ever since. After transformation, Bund 18 is scientifically sectioned with business divisions. On the basis of covering all sorts of goods in modern lifestyle, a strong sense of art has taken place of commercialism throughout.

Through the transformation, Bund 18 shines with a distinct personality. She exceeds beyond a mere commercial structure, but with concrete concepts of art and life. Talking about the transformation, Anson says, “It’s a successful approach to introduce artistic elements to Bund 18 and it gets credits from visitors and customers. However, the initial purpose of the approach is not to meet commercial standards, for instance attracting more customers. What I want to create is firstly matching with the taste of Bund 18 and secondly what I personally like.”

Enthusiasm Creates a Magic Space

Maybe the remark on transforming Bund 18 explains how the Blackstone Magic Bar was born. The newly-opened bar resides in a sunken plaza in Jing’an District. The façade is decorated with metal and concrete. It looks almost somber in the daytime, yet when the night falls and the spotlight casts the façade, the metal door shines proudly, as if the curtains of magic are about to be drawn up…

The sign on the door of the magic bar indicates “the lightbulb in the birdcage”, which originated from the classic performances “The Floating Bulb” and “The Vanishing Birdcage” by the famous American magician master Harry Blackstone Sr. (September 1885 – November 1965). Push the door and look around, you would see the walls are covered with modern art posters. Opposite the bar at the side of the wall is the velvet curtain and it looks rather mysterious under the spotlight, as if it’s ready to open a magical world. Behind the curtain is a small theatre. Seats are available on the semi-circular three-story stairs, which facilitates close appreciation of the magics for the audience.


“The magic bar is also created out of my own interest. In my mind, it on one hand offers a suitable platform for the magicians to perform what they like and on the other hand I always want to create immersive magical experiences, which is different from traditional stage magic.”

Sensitivity Molds Anson’s World

Anson started studying magic at the age of 12 and since then he has left his footprints in U.S., U. K., Italy, Spain, etc. In all those years he always dreamed that one day he would open a magic bar. In fact, opening the magic bar is a destined matter, and the bar’s orientation gives us an opportunity to understand Anson’s persistence. Indeed, the owner of Bund 18 and Blackstone Magic Bar has his own sensitivity towards life, “When you are really doing something you like, the audience would feel your dedication by heart. I only do what I really like.”


Actually, whether it’s the magnanimous Bund 18, or the low-profile, mysterious magic bar, to infuse fine art into an indifferent commercial conglomerate and to create a brand-new magical space both witness the persistent pursuit of sensitivity in Anson’s heart. It is needless to repeat his adherence to personal interest when transforming Bund 18, yet the creation of the magician bar also abides by the same rule, and both of which are originated from his passion toward magic.

And he lastly says that, “Don’t be just a magician, be magic.”

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