Architect, artist and collector shares his views about collecting Hong Kong art.
In a recent video interview produced by Artshare, Hong Kong architect, artist and collector William Lim talks about his passion for collecting art from his home city, Hong Kong’s place in the global art scene and his recent book The No Colors.
Artshare‘s short video interview with one of the most important figures in the Hong Kong art scene comes at a time when the art world is shifting its focus to Hong Kong. March 2015 will feature Art Basel in Hong Kong and the launch of a new art fair, Art Central. International art professionals, collectors and artists will flock to the metropolis to mingle, lecture, promote, sell and collect art. That is when the city will come alive for a week of intense art happenings and events across various locations, from Kowloon to Central and Wong Chuk Hang.
William Lim is an architect, art collector and artist from Hong Kong. As an architect, he heads CL3, his own architecture and design firm in Hong Kong. Lim has also participated in the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2006 and 2010, as well as in the Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture in 2007 and 2009.
As an art collector, Lim is one of the most significant figures in Hong Kong contemporary art. Lim was Co-chairman of the non-profit space Para Site, and is still on the Gallery Advisory Committee of the Asia Society, a Board member of Asia Art Archive and serves on the Asia Pacific Acquisition Committee for the Tate in London.
Finding a focus: Hong Kong art
Finding that his collection somewhat lacked a certain focus, Lim decided to concentrate on art from a particular area. About a decade ago, in 2005, he started focusing on and collecting Hong Kong art:
[A] few years ago, I started to think that maybe my collection needs to have a certain focus. At the time I found that Hong Kong art – there was really no market, and there was really no focus, nobody [was] focusing on their work.
Apart from the affinity that Lim felt with artists from his own city, Lim finds that
[…] their work is very personal, very affordable, and that’s when I really decided that maybe that should be what I focus on.
The architect as collector
As an architect, Lim’s collection is visibly inspired by his professional interests and tendencies. He tells Artshare:
I work as an architect, […] even from my education, we learn how to think about things conceptually, so for me it’s very easy to appreciate contemporary art that is very concept driven. I would say that has really been the springboard for the way I look at artwork and the way I collect.
Lim likes art that “doesn’t need much explanation”, but rather “you can look at it” and get an idea of what the artist is trying to express. Architecture also influences themes that are of interest for his own collection:
[…] my collection also tend[s] to be very much about space, or about time, which I also deal with very much within my profession.
The process of collecting
Lim started collecting emerging artists when he decided to focus on Hong Kong:
I like to collect very young artists’ work, so a lot of time it is really based on intuition.
Visiting graduation shows, he would select artists that he found interesting and collect their works. For Lim, it is important to follow an artist throughout his or her career:
[…] it’s very interesting to see then the artist start to develop, and then you see more and more of their work at shows and working with galleries and all that. I also find that it is very important to really not collect a piece here and a piece there, but to really follow the career of an artist.
The shadow of Chinese art
Lim agrees that Hong Kong artists are overshadowed by mainland China’s art market, but he says “that it is not necessarily a bad thing.” He explains:
I have seen a boom and bust situation for mainland Chinese artists. There are some artists that got too commercial, and in a way they have pretty much disappeared from the art scene. So in a way I think it’s a good lesson to learn for the Hong Kong artists.
For Lim, an artist doesn’t need to attain success overnight: a career is better developed slowly, over the course of years of creative work. In Hong Kong, the contemporary art scene didn’t really start until about ten years ago, so most artists are still quite young:
a lot of them are still in their early or mid-thirties, so they still have a long career to go.
Hong Kong’s art, therefore, has a bright future, with a growing number of young and mid-career artists who are recognised internationally and have innovative, cutting-edge practices. This includes artists in Lim’s collection such as Nadim Abbas, Lee Kit and Kwan Sheung-Chi, among others.
Promoting Hong Kong art
In 2014, Lim published The No Colors, a comprehensive book showcasing his entire private collection of Hong Kong art, including artists such as Nadim Abbas, Tang Kwok Hin, Tsang Kin-Wah, Lee Kit, Tozer Pak, Kwan Sheung-Chi, Ho Sin Tung, Lam Tung-Pang, Wong Wai-Yin, Kacey Wong, Morgan Wong, and more.
Publishing a book on his private collection was not a casual move: Lim wanted to promote Hong Kong artists at a pivotal time of transition from private to public collections. According to him, museums and other institutions are starting to collect more and more Hong Kong artists, placing them on the international radar.
Moving forward, I think some of the major work probably will start to go to museums, and maybe this was a very good time for me to introduce some Hong Kong artists to the world. And then, based on that, I think more and more people are starting to have an interest in Hong Kong art.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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