Selling exhibitions: new Head of Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery in Hong Kong Jonathan Wong – interview

Following the appointment, Wong will be responsible for selling exhibitions for Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery in Hong Kong, as well as continue to support Sotheby’s auctions of Contemporary Art in Asia.

Art Radar interviews Mr Jonathan Wong to find out more about his appointment as Gallery Director.

“YAYOI KUSAMA – Hong Kong Blooms in My Mind“, selling Exhibition in May 2013. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Yayoi Kusama, “Hong Kong Blooms in My Mind”, selling exhibition in May 2013. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Jonathan Wong has been working at Sotheby’s since 2007 when he joined the auction house as a Specialist in Contemporary Asian Art, coming from a background as an arts journalist and editor. An avid supporter of local artists, he has presented the dual exhibition Next Destination: Hong Kongat Sotheby’s in 2016, the first large-scale showcase of contemporary works by Hong Kong artists held by the company. Having led numerous auctions, such as the record-breaking sales of Zeng Fanzhi’s The Last Supper which in 2013 achieved HKD180 million (USD23 million), as well as The Ullens Collection in 2011, he is now appointed as the Gallery Director of Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery in Hong Kong.

Jonathan Wong. Image courtesy Sotheby’s. Photo: Waito Lee.

Jonathan Wong. Photo: Waito Lee. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

His new role involves planning and presenting selling exhibitions in the gallery arm of Sotheby’s Global Fine Art Division known as S|2, and continuing his support to Sotheby’s auctions of Contemporary Art in Asia. The aim of S|2 is to stage secondary market exhibitions emphasising artists celebrated in the history of art, yet are under-recognised by the market.

Wucius Wong, “Eternal Water”, selling exhibition in October 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Wucius Wong, “Eternal Water”, selling exhibition in October 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Speaking about his appointment, Mr Wong remarks:

I am thrilled to be taking up this new role. Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery is a unique fine art space in Hong Kong – a place of infinite possibilities. Since its launch in 2012, the Gallery has firmly established itself as an innovative platform, showcasing art of great breadth and introducing new collecting genres to a broader audience. I look forward to collaborations with my colleagues worldwide and with the wider art community in Asia, whether that be galleries, artists, or collectors, and to presenting exhibitions that both engage and inspire.

 Wucius Wong, “Eternal Water”, selling exhibition in October 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Wucius Wong, “Eternal Water”, selling exhibition in October 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

CEO of Sotheby’s Asia Kevin Ching also notes:

In his ten years with Sotheby’s, Jonathan has made considerable contributions to the success of our contemporary art auctions. We are delighted that he has taken on the position of Gallery Director where his expert knowledge will bring added strength to our selling exhibitions. With Jonathan’s extensive market insight, curatorial expertise and excellent client relationships, I am confident that Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery will continue to create new opportunities and exciting experiences for our buyers, sellers and the public alike through our robust exhibition programme.

Art Radar speaks to Jonathan Wong to find out more about his observations on the recent trends in the art market, and his vision for Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery in Hong Kong.

Reza Derakshani and Alfred Basbous, “Two Moderns from the Middle East“, selling exhibition in November 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Reza Derakshani and Alfred Basbous, “Two Moderns from the Middle East“, selling exhibition in November 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Trends in the art market

What are the buying trends of art collectors in selling exhibitions in the recent years?

Sotheby’s has been engaging and interacting with new and existing clients all year round through a series of thoughtfully curated selling exhibitions. In recent years, we saw that collectors have become increasingly sophisticated, constantly seeking works of unique artistic value. Their collecting taste is also getting more diversified. Cross-buying among different categories is now commonly seen (which inspires us to do the “Face-Off: Picasso / Condo” show, to exhibit works from Modernist and Cotemporary). Young collectors, in particular, are paying more attention to the up-and-coming artists.

A selling exhibition is an important platform for introducing new collecting genres to the Asian audience. It also provides the ideal occasion for these collectors to discover new artists, as well as artworks that would have never been seen at auctions.

“Two Moderns from the Middle East - Reza Derakshani and Alfred Basbous “, selling exhibition in November 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Reza Derakshani and Alfred Basbous, “Two Moderns from the Middle East“, selling exhibition in November 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Which medium, artist or region is gaining increasing attention nowadays?

It would be difficult to give a definite answer to this question, as global collectors show interests in different art categories from various regions. However, below are several trends that I have observed.

First of all, appetite for Western works in Asia has been increasing. In addition, interests for works by Hong Kong and mainland Chinese artists remain strong; previously we have done exhibitions for Chinese artists such as Chen Yiming, Wei Dong, Zheng Chongbin and recently with local artists William Lim, Ho Fan and Wucius Wong. Apart from working on popular categories, Sothebys has also been explorative in testing new markets to further showcase our role as the pioneer of the market. The Middle Eastern art show in Hong Kong last November, our first show in Asia on this new art field, serves as a good example.

“Visual Dialogues Hong Kong through the Lens of Fan Ho “, selling exhibition in June 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Fan Ho, “Visual Dialogues Hong Kong through the Lens of Fan Ho”, selling exhibition in June 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Art market: Hong Kong and Asia-Pacific

What is the curatorial strategy of Sotheby’s S|2 Gallery in Hong Kong concerning the art market in Asia, in terms of the showcasing of Asian artists, as well as creating great experiences for collectors in the region?

Sothebys established its gallery space in Hong Kong in 2012 to respond to the exponential growth of our Asia business and to better serve our clients in the region throughout the year. Since its establishment in 2012, our Gallery has successfully held more than 50 selling exhibitions. Our mission has always remained unchanged – that is to consolidate our position in the Asian art market, and to be on par with other major international galleries in Hong Kong. It is our goal to broaden the collecting scope of our Asian clients by introducing new categories and new artists, helping them to discover great art and new collecting trends.

In addition to continue to bring to the market a series of innovatively and thoughtfully curated selling exhibitions, we will place additional focus on the following areas in the coming year.

“Visual Dialogues Hong Kong through the Lens of Fan Ho “, selling exhibition in June 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Fan Ho, “Visual Dialogues Hong Kong through the Lens of Fan Ho”, selling exhibition in June 2017. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Firstly, to continue our ongoing mission of creating artistic dialogues between the East and the West, with the support of our extensive global network. Sothebys has been a pioneer in introducing Western Art to Asia, often through selling exhibitions, including Modern Art (“Modern Masters”, 2010), sculptures (“Alexander Calder: Imagining the Universe”, 2015), contemporary art (“From Warhol, with Love”, 2013) to 19th century decorative arts (“Age of Elegance” series, since 2012). In particular, we will work closely with Sotheby’s Sl2, which is the gallery and private arm of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art department, in presenting work of fine arts that are art historically important and influential.

Secondly, to work with the wider art community in Asia, whether that be galleries, artists, or collectors presenting exhibitions that both engage and inspire.

And thirdly, to explore organising events apart from art shows, but other cultural programmes our gallery is a space with infinite possibilities.

Zheng Chongbin, "Structures", selling exhibition in April 2016. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Zheng Chongbin, “Structures”, selling exhibition in April 2016. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

What makes Hong Kong one of the top destinations for selling exhibitions?

I believe the comparative advantages that turn Hong Kong into the Asian art hub also make it the top destination for selling exhibitions. Hong Kong, as the worlds top-class international city, boasts reliable and well-developed logistic and infrastructure systems that well support the trading of art. The citys sound and transparent legal system, low and simple tax rate, as well as its open and advanced financial market also facilitate art transactions. As the influence of Asia has been rising in the global art market in the past decade, Hong Kong, being strategically located at the heart of Asia and as a gateway to Mainland China, becomes the ideal place for collectors from the East and West to convene. Last but not least, international auction houses, art galleries and annual art fairs flourish in the city, attracting the locals and global art enthusiasts to participate, which further reinforces Hong Kongs position as an art hub.

“The World of Mortals · Dreamland - Chen Yiming “, selling exhibition in April 2015. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Chen Yiming, “The World of Mortals · Dreamland”, selling exhibition in April 2015. Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

What are some upcoming projects you are working on?

“Face-Off: Picasso / Condo” (16 – 31 March 2018 at Sothebys Sl2 Gallery Hong Kong). It is a curated selection of psychologically-charged portrait works by the artists. Cross-categories exhibitions Modernists and contemporary artists exhibiting together can only be curated in gallery shows, as they will always appear in two different sales in auctions. The show will examine the creative processes of the two artists while celebrating the dialogue between their works.

Valencia Tong

2037

Related Topics: Chinese artists, business of art, market watch, auctions, painting, events in Hong Kong

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