Introducing our inaugural art column by Candice Lee, Head of Programme at the Hong Kong Arts Centre Bee – the nonprofit-making activity group nested within – where she will be chatting with various art insiders in Hong Kong in this monthly series.
To kick things off, check out this video produced by the final year students at the City University of Hong Kong (class of 2021) featuring art collector and HKAC corporate board member, Evan Chow. Click play to learn more about his insights as a seasoned art collector and read on for an exclusive convo between him and Candice:
Candice: Hey Evan, you and I have something in common!
Evan: We do?
Candice: Yes! Apart from me being a slight coffee addict and you being an avid coffee drinker as well, we both volunteer for an art institution.
Evan: I do love a good cup of coffee. And yes, of course… the Hong Kong Arts Centre!
Candice: Yes, you’re a Corporate Board member and I’m the Head of Programme for Hong Kong Arts Centre Bee (HKAC BEE). Your corporate and financial insights will be so conducive for aligning all our efforts in supporting HK’s oldest art institution, which turns 42 years old this year. As we prepare for our 45th annivesary, we’re proud to look back on all the Hong Kong artists that have grown to become internationally renowned. With support from collectors like you who have an institutional collector’s taste, this outlook is so important for the ecology of Hong Kong’s art scene. So, let’s move onto the questions, shall we?
C: Tell us about the first piece of art that touched you?
E: My first art class in high school was to replicate an important still-life piece by Paul Cezanne titled “Still Life with Commode”, c. 1887-1888.
C: Why do you think people begin to collect art? What made you collect?
E: It can either be a serious investment or personal hobby. Both are great reasons, in addition to contributing to the increasingly important cultural landscape of today’s world!
C: On average, how much time do you spend on art every day?
E: Even with my tight working schedule, I’m still able to spend some time connecting with the art world every day. I am grateful to have an art team that helps me source interesting art findings to share with me. I also try to attend at least one or two art trips to museums and fairs around my work travels.
C: How has Covid-19 and its myriad effects changed the way you collect?
E: I used to travel at least once a month for work reasons and always managed to squeeze exhibition visits and gallery meetings into my tight schedule. Being in Hong Kong and not being able to travel has changed everything for me. Even though the digital revolution took place in art, I still prefer the traditional way of seeing artworks in the flesh and communicating in-person with the art community. Except for several artists that I have been watching closely already, I’ve barely purchased anything while surfing on the myriad online viewing rooms that have become increasingly sophisticated. The good thing is that information and visuals become more available and transparent, and this has changed the way I get informed about artists and artwork offers.
C: What are some of the trends that you see in the art industry today?
E: The rising trend of NFTs that we should not confuse with art collecting, virtuality and digitalisation of art, increasingly speculative curve on sought after emerging artists, the rise of collector-influencers, horizontal galleries exchange and collaboration, competitive collecting, market players’ increasing influence politics in art institutions, the cleavage between the rapid of cycle of hot trending artists and diversified global art production, the rise of Hong Kong as the auction powerhouse.
C: What is your art-world pet peeve?
E: From time to time, we come across gallerists, dealers and art advisors in the art world who are too commercially focused and lack professional etiquette. It is difficult for collectors to develop a trusted relationship with them.
C: Let’s talk about the walk-about. I love going to the fairgrounds with my friends on the second day or on the last day to see art through their eyes, which is always so refreshing. Do you have a route mapped out when walking the fair? What does your walk-about look like?
E: Nowadays, walking through a fair takes superb military strategies since much of your time is taken by socialising and bumping into friends! This is why I tend to methodically go through previews and readings on artists before mapping out my itinerary. I prefer it to be meticulous and timed, but I am also open to surprises along the way.
C: Have you ever regretted passing on a piece? Or made a bad purchase?
E: I never regret buying an art piece retrospectively but I did regret buying impulsively by ears or having been persuaded by unprofessional opinions of some dealers on several occasions. Every purchase of artwork is associated with unique experiences and memories as they gradually become testimonies of episodes in my life.
C: How do you deal with FOMO?
E: This is why I always have two more pairs of eyes on my team to make sure I miss out on the least things possible.
C: Name five Hong Kong artists we shouldn’t miss out on:
E: Chris Huen, Cheng TingTing, Firenze Lai, Wong Ping, and Leelee Chan.
C: Oh, I love Leelee Chan – I’ve had her on my radar for so many years. This is going to be her year… and my next person to talk to!
Well, Evan, you have been nothing but amazing with our young students, and this video is a great final graduation project. Thank you for letting us crash your peaceful home several times with our group. It did result in a great video interview though!