You discovered some of China’s most important artists. What do you think made them such iconic figures?
I think the important artists made the reputation because they have managed to articulate the spirit of the time, to provide us with the form, with the shapes, with the sensible forms of the time. The artists who last are artists who created these forms which continue to inspire.
Is there a new wave of Chinese contemporary artists emerging today?
Definitely. I think there are artists coming from all directions. There are older artists who were good before and continue to reinvent themselves, there are artists who have now start to mature and create great works, there is now also [a] new generation of artists. They have very different art practices, they have very different attitudes towards art, they also have different ways of making art. So even though people complain that the art market is rounding up everything and determining the next masters. But in fact, the interesting artists being produced are finding their own audience. They are finding alternative spaces to show, and they are saying things which people have not thought of as part of the art language before.
What is the position of Hong Kong artist today?
As Artshare was just telling me you are doing an exhibition about resistance in Hong Kong art and I think that is actually a very core issue. There is always a sense of resistance and a sense of quiet rebellion among Hong Kong artists. There are also a type of artists who can afford to rebel because there is very little to gain for a long time. The old art market was small, there was little platform for them. So art was always used as a tool to push issues: social issues, personal issues, and it continues to be like this. I think it is a very strong character of Hong Kong art.
How can Hong Kong artists get more support?
I think it is important for Hong Kong to get some support from the government, from the public. Perhaps another crash in the market like ten years ago, when suddenly everybody decided that it is not bad thing to become an artist at least, then you create a job for yourself, you can find a place to make art, because the real estate has crashed.
How do traditional galleries adapt to the changing art market?
I think galleries would have to adapt to the changing art market just like artists need to adapt to the changes in the art market. First of all, I think we must not forget that we are in here for the art and not just for the market. Art is also a very protean thing, it changes, it tries to do something different all the time. Although the problem is that it does not always dance in step with the market, but that is precisely why artists are so seductive. Galleries would just have to learn to rethink, to retrude their apparatus of dealing with art and the art world.
How did it all begin 30 years ago with Hanart TZ Gallery?
It began because I needed a job, I needed to find a place where I could present artworks I like and really to have a platform. In those days apart from the Hong Kong Arts Center, which was just established in the late seventies, there was really nowhere to go. You could hire the exhibition hall at the City Hall, that was really about it. These were the only two legitimate art spaces, so having a gallery was really a way to have a platform to show things I like. At the moment, we are working on the 30th anniversary of the Hanart Gallery. We are holding a big exhibition, mid-January, 16th January to be precise, at the Hong Kong Arts Center. Hong Kong Arts Center being our old partner in many exhibitions. I am going to select 100 works from our collection, and it is not for the market. It is called Hanart 100, which gives a very personal view of what I consider art to be and it also illustrates friendships and associations over the last 30 years.
What advice would you give to budding collectors?
Since art is about touching people, stirring up emotion, stimulating sensibility, so the most important thing is to start to feel the art. Once you always start to collect things that make you feel things, from there then you can decide what you want to add to your first step, your second step, your third step. But it is always important to remember that one is in there for the art.
If you could own any art works in the world, which could it be?
There is one project very close to my heart, which is about reviving Confucius. So if I could own one artwork in the world, I would love a piece of calligraphy by Confucius. Even if it was some sort of reproduction.