Where's the frame
November 11, 2021 3:39 PM
In this iteration, where’s the frame? is talking to London- and Hong Kong-based curator and art advisor Claudia Cheng about her journey in the art world, her process and the philosophies behind them, along with insights for collectors and art professionals alike. Claudia also picked her favourite pieces from each ‘Like nothing else in the universe’ artists, and what her keen eye for details caught in each piece.
Claudia, you’ve been curating great shows for the past couple of years, especially those that support female artists. Where did your journey into the art world start?
Art has always been a big part of my upbringing. My mother is a painter, and when we were kids, she often took me and my sister to museums, where we would look at paintings together and play a game of guessing who painted them. This helped me develop a discerning eye for art at a young age. My passion for art continued to blossom as I took art history courses and painting classes while I was doing my undergraduate degree at Stanford University. After graduating, I pursued a Master’s degree in Art, Law and Business at Christie’s Education. I then worked at Christie’s New York before moving to London to become an independent curator and art advisor. Museum exhibitions, especially those focused on women artists, continue to play a big part in my career in art: the retrospectives of Georgia O’Keeffe at Tate Modern, Hilma Af Klint at The Guggenheim, and Mary Corse at The Whitney Museum were especially inspiring shows that helped shape my vision as a curator. I was lucky enough to have interviewed Mary Corse for her solo show at Lisson Gallery last year!
How important is it for you to support emerging art and artists? Why?
It’s both essential and exciting to support emerging artists because they are at the forefront of shaping the future of the industry. It’s extremely fulfilling to witness the growth of artists’ careers, and to become a part of their journeys. I like to discover artists who are still doing their MFA’s—there is so much talent at schools like The Slade or Royal College of Art, and providing support to artists at the beginning of their careers can make all the difference for them.
It’s especially important to support women artists as well. Even though we have seen an increasing number of female artists in exhibitions, their artworks still only account for less than five percent of major museums’ permanent collections across the USA and Europe, and according to Artnet, they comprise less than four percent of global art auction sales. There is still so much work that needs to be done to continue to support and celebrate the work of female artists.
Can you tell us a bit about how you build relationships with artists? And your curatorial process?
I love to visit artists’ studios and have conversations with them about their practices. I learn so much about artists through interviewing or visiting them. It’s always so special when an artist welcomes you to the sacred space of their studio to experience their work in their most raw state. My curatorial process is similarly an open dialogue between artists and myself. I love to listen to what artists have to say about their work, and as a curator, I try to find the common theme that threads through their work. I am currently reading Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Ways of Curating, in which he explains that ‘exhibitions are best generated through conversations and collaborations with artists, whose input should steer the process from the beginning.’ Curating an exhibition is a process full of change and transformation; the curator’s initial idea is like a cocoon from which the final form of a butterfly will ultimately spread its kaleidoscopic wings into the world.
Do you have any insights for the younger generation who are trying to collect art for the first time?
Collect art that you feel your soul connects to; art that brings you joy to live with. Stay informed about the contemporary art market by going to museum and gallery exhibitions, reading, and learning about established and emerging artists alike. Always do your due diligence before purchasing a piece, and it could be very helpful to hire an art advisor who can help you through your research process and source works which are difficult to access.
I would also encourage you to make a wish list of artists you would like in your dream collection, so you can build your collection towards that direction—even if you start off with a small work or a print. One of the first pieces that I bought was actually a signed limited edition print by one of my favourite contemporary artists, France-Lise McGurn. It’s a beautiful piece and I’m so happy to live with it every day. You just have to start somewhere!
What would you advise other young professionals that aspire to become a curator like yourself?
Have a unique vision, be open to opportunities to learn and to grow, and always support others—emerging artists, fellow professionals, and especially the women around you. It’s so important to collaborate and lift each other up! Even though the industry was slow to move online, technology has also become an extremely useful tool for connecting curators with artists, galleries, and collectors.
Aside from keeping up to date with art market news, I would also recommend keeping a pulse on global issues and how artists are reacting to them. Art and sociopolitical discourse have always been intrinsically linked. Personally, I always aspire to curate shows that create a space in which people from different backgrounds can converse, celebrate, and contemplate the works in relation to their own experiences. After all, the very idea of an exhibition is to present a constellation of connections and juxtapositions between the past and the present, the individual and the collective, in an aesthetically unified space.
What are your future plans, do you have any shows coming up?
I look forward to continuing to expand my art advisory services, and helping my clients find works that they’ll love. I’m also working on a couple of really exciting curatorial projects for next year. I will be able to share more information about the projects I’m working on soon, so stay tuned for some exciting times ahead!
Can you pick a favourite work from each “Like Nothing Else in the Universe” artist and tell us why the pieces are your favourite?
1. Alice Quaresma, Emphasize The Presence Of The Figure, 2021
This is a beautiful piece that combines photography with painting. I love the gestural stroke cascading from the sky to the flowers. It adds the intimacy of the artist’s hand to the composition and introduces layers to the work. Mixing digital media with traditional paint marks creates a unique conversation between the new and the old, the real and the imaginary.
2. Gala Knörr, Ecstatic, 2021
This work is a great example of an artist who is making work that contemplates on sociopolitical issues. We belong to a generation strongly marked by socio-political awareness due to the ease of sharing a tweet, an image, or a video. Imitating the format of a contemporary meme, this work strikes a chord of universal relevance while addressing the ramifications of social media on our lives.
3. Myro Wulff, How am I not Myself, Ruxi, 2020
I like that this work oscillates between abstraction and figuration. The colours are luminous, and the way the work is rendered is almost reminiscent of a Richter.
4. IRSKIY, 1981 Model 1, 2018
This large-scale painting is interesting as it speaks to the art and pop culture of the 1960s, my favourite time period. It alludes to the lines on TV screens born of that era, and it seemingly pays homage to Rothko’s colour fields that were also created during that time.
5. Li Hei Di, Rubia Cordifolia Summer (茜红夏日), 2021
I like how Li Hei Di conveys a sense of seduction and romance in this painting. Her swaths of vibrant, pastel colours reveal her hand’s gestural dance across the canvas. Figures and flowers seem to playfully oscillate between the layers of the painting, at once revealing and concealing themselves to the viewer.
6. Sara Rainoldi, Louis Vuitton_SS13_Womenswear (Campaign), 2021
This is an arresting work that explores the ephemerality of fashion images in advertisements or on social media. Similar to Knörr’s work, it addresses the ramifications of digital media and magnifies the dizzying effect of being overdosed by imagery in our daily lives.
To follow the projects Claudia is working on, you can visit her Instagram and website.
All photos courtesy of the artist and Claudia Cheng.