Edouard Malingue Gallery, with a newly opened space in Shanghai, explores the synergies of contemporary Eastern and Western art through their exhibitions.
Art Radar spoke to Lorraine Kiang Malingue about the expanding role of private galleries, creative hubs and the international perspective of the Edouard Malingue Gallery.
Lorraine Kiang Malingue is the Gallery Director and Co-Founder of Edouard Malingue Gallery in Hong Kong. The gallery held its first exhibition in 2010, and has since exhibited a range of artists from French Fabien Mérelle to Indonesian video artists Tromarama and 82 year-old Korean artist Cho Yong-Ik. The gallery represents 23 artists, with slightly more than half from Asia and the rest from other parts of the world.
The gallery is often looking for opportunities to introduce contemporary artists to the Hong Kong and wider Asian market. For example, Fabien Mérelle is already well-known, but his work is not well understood in Asia. Lorraine explains:
The way that his works should be understood or how to present him may be totally different when it comes to Asia because people don’t have the background and also they don’t get to travel maybe as much. So the way they see even the more established artists can be very different.
The gallery is able to introduce his work and interpret it for a different audience.
Lorraine has a strong background in contemporary art, with experience at the Met and the Guggenheim as well as Christie’s in New York and Hong Kong. When she met her husband Edouard in 2009, who was planning to open a gallery in Hong Kong, she was ready to move back into the contemporary art scene. A few years later in 2016 Lorraine was recognised by Apollo International Art Magazine in their 40 under 40 Asia-Pacific award.
Art Radar spoke to Lorraine about the gallery and the contemporary art context in Hong Kong.
Why was it necessary to open this type of gallery in Hong Kong at that time?
It was necessary to open a space because it was evident that there is a gap between contemporary Asian art and contemporary international Western art. You either had galleries presenting artists from the West in Hong Kong, or you had galleries who were only presenting local contemporary artists, focusing mainly on Chinese [artists]. So there was a huge gap in terms of how one should value and interpret contemporary Eastern versus contemporary Western art. Therefore, for us it was interesting to try to create a platform that could link the two together, that could create a space where you will have a Hong Kong artist showing beside a French artist, beside an American artist and beside a Turkish artist, and which is why the programme that we have is very international.
What was also interesting was to create more dialogue with collectors on how to look at contemporary art without purely judging on where the artist comes from, but to just look at the aesthetics, the concepts, the concerns of the artists […]. And because of doing that, we also thought that there was a lot of room that’s needed for educating the public, meaning doing curated shows, inviting curators, probably sometimes doing non-commercial shows… doing some public art in Hong Kong and also outreaching to the rest of Asia. Because of Hong Kong being such a compact city you get a lot of visitors, especially during Art Basel, but on a day-to-day basis, you’re only basically working with around 700,000 people. And so the outreach that we are doing is really targeting the entire Asia continent. The market, I would say, is very different from the States or from Europe.
What do you look for in artists you represent?
It’s a very personal taste I would say, because it’s my husband Edouard and I, it’s our eyes and I think it will always remain that way. I think that’s what creates the identity of any gallery, it’s the eyes of the owners. I would say these are all artists that we have a strong connection with and we build a strong relationship with. We connected with their work initially because we really loved their work. They usually have a strong aesthetic appeal to us and conceptually there’s something that’s very intriguing behind these works.
What we also really enjoy is that we have worked with artists that are in their mid-career, and some artists who are very young – the youngest artist that we work with is around 29. What is nice about working with younger artists is that you get to have a very strong communication and interaction with what is going to be developed in the future. I think that it is quite important for us (being a gallery of six and a half years old we’re still considered a baby gallery) to be able to grow with these artists. The idea is that the programme is constantly growing and evolving, as well as the artists we work with.
[In another example] it was interesting for us to begin working with [82 year-old Korean artist Cho Yong-Ik] because we thought his bodies of work were very strong and also not as discovered and so we thought that is also something that we can work on and help develop for him.
You have recently opened a space in Shanghai. What are some of the differences between these two creative hubs in Asia (Hong Kong and Shanghai)?
We feel like there’s a possibility that Hong Kong and Shanghai can both be the art hubs of Asia because there is that potential to have two venues in Asia – Hong Kong being more targeted for East Asia and then Shanghai serving the rest of China itself.
I find that in Shanghai, because there is a huge supply of land still, the government is very supportive of arts and culture in the next ten years […]. So there’s a lot of momentum and what’s interesting is that everyone is looking at it now and they’re curious to see how it will develop. So we thought it was a good time to enter the Shanghai scene, opening the space.
Our programme has obviously been very different from anybody else in China because most of them would be showing Chinese local artists or you will have; there is PACE who’s in Beijing, where they have brought in blockbuster artists to Beijing from time to time. But you really don’t have so much space where you have local Chinese artists working beside international artists, especially emerging and mid-career Western artists.
That’s something I think that has a lot of room and will take time in China, because obviously people are always interested to look into Western artists if they are famous but they don’t have the confidence yet to determine whether or not a younger, mid-career Western artist should be valued the same way. They definitely have more confidence looking at Chinese contemporary art.
What is the most enjoyable part of what you do?
I think working with the artists is probably the most enjoyable, as well as being able to see them grow. Obviously finding financial success for them is also a great sense of reward. A lot of artists start as being a starving artist, really, and being able to support them financially is very important. It’s not easy in Asia, because the market’s really much smaller than the in the States. But that’s something that we work hard on, which is why we do a lot of art fairs to outreach outside of our region. I think really because every artist becomes a friend of yours and becomes part of your family, so what’s very enjoyable are these relationships.
Who do you think are artists to watch?
In China there’s a lot of hype for conceptual art, for installation art, for video art. There seems to be this rush towards the tech and media side and we are doing just the opposite. We tend to focus on painters, traditional painters, because we feel like many Chinese artists have this finesse for painting.
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