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Reporting from Shanghai: Adrian H.Wang from AIKE or the age of Chinese Contemporary Production

7 months ago

On the occasion of the art week in Shanghai in November 2018, Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva met with Adrian H. Wang who took over the direction of AIKE last summer. He shares his coming to the art world and what it means to him to be a gallerist.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: Please could you tell me more about your background, and how you came to the arts?

Adrian H. Wang: I come from a different field, very different form the art world. I studied biology in Shanghai. After graduating, although I liked research, I also had a very wide range of interests. I thought I better follow only one of them as a career. I didn’t chose to follow biology. I got an offer in 2009 from a local art book distributor and I worked with them three years distributing international art books, for publishers such as Thames & Hudson and Hatje Cantz, mainly about western art history, and breakthrough artists such as Caravaggio, Rothko, and other post-war artists.
Considering the very wide information and the content I was exposed to, and from talking with clients from libraries and art schools, some artists, some designers, it seemed to me the gallery was the best platform to follow my passion for the art world.
In the beginning of 2013, Roberto Ceresia, the founder of Aike gallery, approached me. He believed I was ready and a solid person to do the operations at the gallery. We had a chat and decided to work together. I was already familiar with a few artists. At that time, I had a few watercolour pieces but mainly I was a regular gallery visitor.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: The scene in China is very dynamic at the moment, and because of the specific political and economical rise of China, Chinese artists emerge with particularly interesting voices and subject matter. What do you think of that energy? How do you see current Chinese production? How do you think artists react? Do you think they speak to the market? Do they speak to their own stories?

Adrian H. Wang: For the artists I think it’s very challenging. The world is flat at the moment, you can get any information you want and gain deep knowledge about very narrow territories. For the creative sides it is challenging for each artist because the margins to move forward are very narrow. For example for painting that’s very clear, it is hard to be outstanding in their generation.
The offering is very diverse at the moment. For Chinese collectors, they read a lot, visit museum shows and art fairs worldwide, meet artists in their studio. They collect from a wide range, from Giorgio Morandi and Amedeo Clemente Modigliani to very contemporary artists.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: Since last summer you are more at the forefront of the gallery, moving from co-ownership to an even more active role at the gallery. What kind of gallerist did you become since 2013, now that it has been five years later?

Adrian H. Wang: It is kind of dramatic. In the beginning I wasn’t really prepared. After first working with Roberto, late in 2014 I got another offer, I talked to Roberto about it, and ended up accepting to move to White Cube in Hong Kong. I worked there two and half years. I gained a different experience. We remained good friends with Roberto and I would often visit the shows, I still loved Aike’s artists. Eventually, he invited me to be a partner of the gallery, it was important for him to have a local face to also representing the gallery locally. I knew the artists very well. In the beginning, I made very intuitive decisions.
I really enjoy working with artists, and I really like working with collectors, so it seemed like becoming a gallerist was a good career choice.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: Now in the gallery you choose artists from your generation?

Adrian H. Wang: In order to build something strong, I believe I need to work with artists from my generation (he’s 31). It is about building up a culture for their market, for their career.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: How do you see that environment?

Adrian H. Wang: I believe the gallerist input in building, and cultivating that culture is very important. Chinese contemporary is quite young, it only started since the 80s. There are a lot of things that need to be developed still. I want to be part of the discourse of the art scene.
China has a long history, Contemporary art can represent the nature, the identity of that. It has a unique DNA. It is a very diverse country, too diverse even, the politics, the economics, contribute to so many layers of content. So many are yet to be discovered.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: Do you feel like you are still peeling off the layers?

Adrian H. Wang: Yes, absolutely.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: In your day, let’s say in percentages, what is the part of your work that is about discovering, maintaining, working with artists, working with collectors, how can you describe your job?

Adrian H. Wang: Good question… I work with artists for the programme, going deeper, keeping in exploring their recent practice, that amounts to around 40%. It represents about 5 to 6 shows a year at the gallery, and 5 to 6 art fairs (Art Basel Hong Kong, and a few local fairs in Chengdu, Beijing, Shenzhen, and this year West Bund and Art 021 in Shanghai). Around 40% of the time I work with collectors. The rest is admin.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: How is it to sell in China, what affects you?

Adrian H. Wang: Economics affect us. For the kind of medium artists use, I don’t really care what it is, works can be powerful in every medium.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: What do you think is a good artist?

Adrian H. Wang: It is a very big question and it is very personal. I think good artists appear all the time in art history, and when you open up their profiles you can find very different personal stories and backgrounds. What contributes is a very outstanding technique for their generation, and also a deep knowledge that enable them to understand the human kind and the culture surrounding them. In general, but also from the point of view of literature, philosophy, science, within this blooming modernism. How artists explore it, how they dig deeper into how art can deal with it.
Great artists are brave, they are not afraid to do something people cannot understand. Maybe they are thinking beyond this generation and century, into the future. I strive to find true artists in our generation in Asia.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva:  Do you want to represent mainly Chinese artists?

Adrian H. Wang: We also have artists from Hong Kong and Japan. Maybe in the future we will represent artists from Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia. We look at Chinese in Asia, and Asian artists.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva: If you were to recommend a work of literature to understand Chinese culture better, what would it be?

Adrian H. Wang: The book I’d really like to recommend is “My Country and My People” by Lin Yutang, who wrote it in English in 1934. Lin really captures the essence of Chinese culture and character.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Adrian Wang. AIKE Gallery Adrian Wang. AIKE Gallery
  • Lui Chun Kwong: Forming Dusty Clues, Installation view, AIKE Gallery, Shanghai Lui Chun Kwong: Forming Dusty Clues, Installation view, AIKE Gallery, Shanghai
  • Lui Chun Kwong: Forming Dusty Clues, Installation view, AIKE Gallery, Shanghai Lui Chun Kwong: Forming Dusty Clues, Installation view, AIKE Gallery, Shanghai
  • Lui Chun Kwong: Forming Dusty Clues, Installation View Work:Landscape No.ML01, 2015, AIKE Gallery, Shanghai Lui Chun Kwong: Forming Dusty Clues, Installation View Work:Landscape No.ML01, 2015, AIKE Gallery, Shanghai
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