Foreign-owned Beijing 798 gallery expands into creative entrepreneur incubator – WSJ Scene Asia

NEW MEDIA CONTEMPORARY ART BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY

An article published in WSJ Scene Asia on 9 April 2012 draws attention to a gallery in Beijing’s 798 art district that has grown from a new media art space into a creative business incubator. We take a look at what was said in the article, and profile the space and its owner.

Inside Yuanfen Flow, located in Beijing's 798 art district.

Inside Yuanfen Flow, located in Beijing's 798 art district.

Click here to read the original article, titled “Fostering China’s Creative Entrepreneurs”, on the WSJ Scene Asia website.

Consistent thread of creativity

One glance at the resume of David Ben Kay, who has been a Beijing resident for over twenty years, reveals an eclectic work history: lawyer, gallerist, curator and, most recently, manager of a business incubator. In a video interview with iChinaForum, Kay explains that his career choices have been defined by a quest for creativity. Even the house that he chose to live in was unconventional. In 2003, he bought the Bauhaus-style building that now holds his current enterprise, Yuanfen Flow, and changed it into a congenial loft consisting of a “second-floor lap pool and circular bedroom windows that swung open“.

David Ben Kay, founder of the Beijing-based creative incubator, Yuanfen Flow.

David Ben Kay, founder of the Beijing-based creative incubator, Yuanfen Flow.

When Kay left Microsoft in 2008, where he had been working as a general counsel on intellectual property rights (IPR), he was looking to move into a business that would allow him to continue to work creatively. He candidly admits to knowing very little about traditional art forms like oil painting or sculpture. What he does know more than a bit about is technology and, having worked in the Microsoft research labs, he is aware of the “strong and exciting creative urge” that the engineers possess.

Opening a gallery was the next logical step, particularly as his home was located in the rapidly developing Beijing 798 art district, and a new media art gallery seemed the most natural choice; he dubbed this new space Yuanfen. As he explains in the iChinaForum interview, “All the art I display at Yuanfen has a very strong technology component to it. I look for artists who are doing things that are interesting, challenging, cutting edge and a little bit dangerous.”

New opportunities for creative entrepreneurs

However, realising that a gallery is, for him, “not really enough to get things done“, Kay decided, in September 2011, to transform the art space into Yuanfen Flow, “a business incubator aimed at nurturing start-ups that combine art, business and sustainability with technology“.

Yuanfen Flow has grown into a platform that “aims to incubate businesses in China within a community of entrepreneurs, technologists, artists and designers.” Though it does not provide monetary funding to businesses, the creative hub instead offers advice on matters such as financing, accounting and human capital. Start-ups can leverage this one-of-a-kind, collaborative environment to share ideas and work side by side.

Inside Yuanfen Flow, located in Beijing's 798 art district.

Inside Yuanfen Flow, located in Beijing's 798 art district.

To date, Yuanfen Flow’s portfolio consists of four finished or ongoing projects, including Muuyu, an online platform for Yoga lessons supported by two-way live streaming technology, and Customaid, a for-profit social enterprise which enables users in a social network to interact and create custom-made clothing.

SZ/KN/HH

Related Topics: art spaces, business of art, art in Beijing, new media art, gallerist profiles

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Foreign-owned Beijing 798 gallery expands into creative entrepreneur incubator – WSJ Scene Asia — 1 Comment

  1. To drive this point home, artist Hiram To, who represented Hong Kong in the Venice Biennale in 2007, is quoted in the article as saying: “Generally it’s the public institutions that drive the art scene and commercial opportunities are an add-on. But in Hong Kong, it’s the reverse.

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