Shanghai Art Week Insights: an Interview with Laura Zhou, Director, Asia at White Cube

by Carla Ingrasciotta
November 4, 2019
Carla Ingrasciotta

Ahead of the opening of Shanghai art fairs, we interviewed Laura Zhou, Director of Asia at White Cube, Hong Kong. This year the gallery participates in both of the major art fairs happening in the city this week (7-10 November 2019): West Bund Art & Design and Art021.

Carla Ingrasciotta: Let’s start from your background. How did you come in the art market field? Can you tell us a bit about your work experience?

Laura Zhou: I have been with White Cube since its opening in Hong Kong in 2012. Prior to White Cube, I co-founded the ShanghART Gallery in Shanghai, China, in 1996, which was the first gallery in China to participate in major international art fairs, including Art Basel in 2000.
In a similar way to White Cube’s mission to best represent its artists, this has very much been the spirit and motivation in the way that I work and navigate through the contemporary art world. I have been very much fortunate and honoured to work and introduce some of China’s most respected artists onto the international art circuit, including Zeng Fanzhi, Zhang Enli, He Xiangyu and Liu Wei, as well curate a number of exhibitions at China’s leading art institutions, including the first solo exhibition of Zeng Fanzhi at the Shanghai Art Museum in 2003 and I also worked on ‘ASIAN FIELD’ by Antony Gormley, which toured around China in 2003-2004.

C.I:  You have been directing White Cube Hong Kong since its opening in 2012. Can you tell us about your experience at the gallery so far?

L.Z.: White Cube opened its doors in Hong Kong in March 2012 as the first outpost outside the United Kingdom with Gilbert & George as our inaugural exhibition. Globally, White Cube has been operating for 26 years (founded in 1993 in London) and our outpost in Hong Kong has very much allowed White Cube to further build cultural cross collaborations between West and East, and vice versa. Now in our seventh year in Hong Kong, we have been fortunate in presenting in our space some 35+ exhibitions of diverse range of works from the artists we work with as well as involved in collaborations with institutions across the region, such Antony Gormley at The Long Museum in Shanghai (September 2017) and Sarah Morris at UCCA in Beijing (March 2018).
The paramount goal of White Cube since its inception has always been to best represent its artists and this core value still remains true in the way the gallery programs and curates today. We see our Hong Kong space very much an extension of our global operations as we have a global client base.
As such in Hong Kong, we need to appeal to a diverse palette, and therefore we aim to present and expose clients and the general public to a range of mediums and artists that the gallery represents as well as introducing the works from other artists through our program ‘Inside the White Cube’, which we have extended to Hong Kong featuring artists such Wang Gongxin “Rotation” exhibition (6 September–11 November 2017), Chen Zhou “Blue Hole” (18 July – 25 August 2018) and Qin Yifeng “Negative Reading | Reading Negatives” (currently on show until 16 November).
We have also supported Asian artists in showcasing their works internationally both within our space in London including our second show with He Xiangyu at White Cube Bermondsey (7 February – 11 April 2018) and the recent “Inside the White Cube” show of new works by Zhou Li (17 April – 26 May 2019) also at White Cube Bermondsey as well as further collaborations with institutions including Liu Wei at Whitworth in Manchester (July-September 2015) and a current exhibition by He Xiangyu at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) in Manchester (17 May – 21 July 2019).

C.I.: This year White Cube participates both to West Bund and Art021. Which are the challenges you are dealing with?

L.Z.: White Cube is pleased to participate at both West Bund Art & Design and Art021 in Shanghai this November. We see this very much as an opportunity to show a diverse range of works to the audiences attending.
As the gallery is returning to Art021, we want to distinguish our presence at both fairs. With both fairs taking place concurrently, we have had to increase our manpower to cover both fairs and as such we have committed to bringing in staff from London and our expanded team in Asia.

C.I: Which are the artists you are showcasing at the fairs’ booths? What are the curatorial process and commercial strategy of their selection?

LZ: With both fairs taking place concurrently, we want to distinguish our presence at both fairs to match the audiences attending. The founders of Art021 have successfully positioned the fair in the market to resonate and attract a younger generation of art enthusiasts and collectors. As such, we felt that a solo presentation of Eddie Peake (b. 1981) would be a great match for this audience.
Peake is a London-based multidisciplinary artist whose work incorporates music, dance, and elements of popular culture, alongside themes as diverse as Renaissance sculpture and Modernist architecture. The selection of some 20 works at Art021 include many of the artist’s vibrant, acid-coloured, spray-painted canvasses such as “Romance and Cigarettes” (2017); “One Man Army” (2016) which features bold lettering on polished stainless steel; and “Triple Selfie” (2016) featuring the motif of a cartoon-like faun – an alter-ego that recurs throughout Peake’s work.
While at West Bund Art & Design, we are presenting a selection of works by David Altmejd, Chuck Close, Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Al Held (upcoming exhibition Modern Maverick at White Cube Hong from 22 November 2019 to 11 January 2020), Beatriz Milhazes and Cerith Wyn Evans. Further works by Chinese artists, including Wang Gongxin and Qin Yifeng, whose solo exhibition “Negative Reading | Reading Negatives” is shown at White Cube Hong Kong until 16 November 2019, are also featured.
Collectors attending the fair are very passionate and educated on art with a diverse palette. Therefore, when curating a collection for an art fair, we aim to present and expose clients to a range of mediums and artists that the gallery represents as well as introducing the works from other artists.

C.I.: A general impression on the Shanghai art market. And, which are your sales expectations for participation in the upcoming fairs?

L.Z.: Shanghai has a vibrant art scene and it has exploded over the past few years since the development of West Bund as the city newest art district which has brought new museums and galleries as well as the important presence of art fairs taking place in the city, namely West Bund Art & Design and Art021. All of these factors are further increasing the cultural appreciation in the city for both local residents and visitors.
We are pleased to have been selected to join and return to Art021this year, and to continue our participation at West Bund Art & Design. The appetite for contemporary art in the city is growing from strength to strength and we are excited to meet new collectors and introduce our artists’ work to them.

C.I: How would you compare the collector base in Shanghai and Hong Kong?

L.Z.: As mentioned before, collectors have such a diverse palette, and as such we aim to present and expose clients to a range of mediums and artists that the gallery represents as well as introducing the works from other artists.

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