THIS WEEK ON ORA-ORA LIVE WE SPEAK TO ART PATRON AND COLLECTOR ALAN LO ON HIS ART COLLECTING JOURNEY.
Dr. Henrietta Tsui-Leung as Henri
Alan Lo as Alan
Henri: I’m delighted to be able to be here at Duddell’s and to be interviewing Mr. Alan Lo. Welcome, Alan.
Alan: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Henri: We’re here at Duddell’s today. This is such a special place to host this interview. Not long ago, just a few years ago, I remember coming here for the first time being really curious about what an “art salon” means — this is the first art salon, art club in Hong Kong. I was very encouraged because we’d never seen something like this before. So Alan, to begin with, can you tell us something about this idea of yours?
Alan: We came up with the idea of creating this space in Hong Kong where people who are professionally involved in art and people who have an interest in art could come together to eat, drink, socialize and also learn a little bit about art. Which is why we made a point to create a very robust art and exhibition programme that is very much curator-led. It’s not just a few pretty things on the wall. It’s a conversation; it’s an ongoing dialogue, a discussion.
We do film screenings and salon chats, so there’s a lot of that going on here throughout the last seven years. This is not your traditional White Cube kind of space. It’s almost a bit like curating a show in a collector’s house. Yes, there are challenges in terms of how we do these projects in the context of a restaurant environment where a lot of people come in and out of the space. Obviously, our staff are trained to take good care of the art. We’re also fortunate enough to have great customers who are collectors, people involved in the auction world and galleries, and patrons who have a certain understanding of art. Of course we also get a great deal of other types of people who previously have not been exposed to the art world. But even if we can get two out of a hundred of those to pick up on the subject and become interested, I think we’re already doing the community a service.
Henri: So do you have any ink work in your collection that is not from your dad?
Alan: I don’t. I don’t have ink work, but from time to time I would loan works from our family collection to display in our home and office. If we have to talk about domestic curation, we do try to mix in 10 to 20 percent of ink into some of the more contemporary works.
Henri: I’m very curious. You mentioned your dad’s influence and you grew up, by default, surrounded by lots and lots of works, and had lots and lots of opportunities to meet these amazing ink artists. I guess you’re still not inspired to continue working with ink. But I want to explore whether this upbringing would build up a taste in your aesthetic or concept that influenced you as a collector?
Alan: I’m not opposed to ink as a medium, but what I’m interested to see is for contemporary ink artists to look at the macro, the practice, the thinking, the philosophy — how one can get out of its constraints. I think a lot of artists get boxed in to what is traditionally considered ‘ink’. Sometimes I look at contemporary ink, and think to myself, “This is not very contemporary.” I’d think, “This is ink done in contemporary days, but it’s still not contemporary.”
Henri: It’s still modern ink.
Alan: I think it’s okay to have a certain art history basis, but I guess the main difference between modern and contemporary is the way you look at and value aesthetics. It’s very different in the context of contemporary. I suppose a lot of ink artists are still — I don’t want to say “stuck” — quite immersed in the aesthetic.
Henri: That’s right. I agree. That’s one thing I really wanted to talk to you about from your background.
Alan: Sorry! I don’t mean to offend anyone.
Henri: No, no. It’s a serious topic. You are somebody with a profile who is serious in collecting and spending time and effort in helping the arts in general. But then given your background, you haven’t actively continued to collect ink. That’s not your problem, that’s a situation. It is something that somebody like me, who is focusing on this, has to think about. Like how to, not indirectly influence our artists, but to enlighten them and to guide them to think about these things.
ABOUT ORA-ORA LIVE
Each week, Ora-Ora will speak with various members of the art community — including artists, curators, academics and other professionals working in the cultural sector — to address topics of interest related but not limited to Hong Kong’s art and cultural scene. The series aims to be an outlet for creativity and a means to connect with peers who share similar interests. The episodes will also available live on Ora-Ora’s Instagram (@galerieoraora), Facebook (Galerie Ora-Ora) and later on Ora-Ora’s YouTube channel.