2017 December
Treasure Hunting in the Ocean of Art

Art collection is an elegant hobby – it does not only cultivate the mind, but is also packed with investment potentials – art pieces are therefore marketable at good prices. Similar to other investments, there is much to learn about art acquisition, and the body of relevant knowledge must be mastered before one could identify something that they truly cherish.


Alisan Fine Arts was established in Hong Kong in the 1980s. At the time, it was the first gallery that focused on Chinese contemporary art and new ink art. Director of Allisan Fine Arts Daphne King Yao explained, “Hong Kong was still a cultural desert and galleries were a rarity. Hong Kong people have gradually developed their taste in art. Riding on the advantages of a free port, Hong Kong has become a major art center.” The gallery has been committed to promoting Chinese diaspora artists. Zao Wouki, Chu Tehchun, Walasse Ting and Chao Chunghsiang, for example, were the first batch of overseas artists of the 1940s. Yang Jiechang and Gao Xingjian were representatives of the 1980s.


Art flourishes in Hong Kong

Yao is passionate about art development, an outcome from the nurturing of her family. Her maternal grandfather, shipping magnate Tung Chao-yung, was enthusiastic about all forms of art, and he always made time from his busy schedule to watch shows or visit exhibitions. He also took the initiative to get to know the artists. Her parents love to collect artworks and antiques; their collection ranges from traditional Chinese ceramics to contemporary art. Yao could not help but smiled, “We have passed down a DNA that makes us passionate about art.”


There are currently more than 100 galleries in Hong Kong, including internationally renowned ones. Some famous auction houses have also landed on Hong Kong. Quite a few world-class exhibitions, such as Art Basel Hong Kong, are also organized here. Yao thinks that all these show the prosperous development of the art sector in Hong Kong. “Following the economic growth in China, people are more discerning in their artistic pursuit. They are also interested in contemporary art, so I am very optimistic about the future of Chinese art.”


Information research is key to success

Collecting art does not only cultivate the mind, but is also packed with investment potentials. “Take our gallery as an example. We held the first Hong Kong commercial exhibition for contemporary abstract master Zao Wouki all the way back in 1993. Zao was not known by many people at the time, and his works were sold at less than HKD1 million. In a recent auction, however, his works were sold at over HKD200 million.” But Yao stressed that art should not just be seen as an investment tool. “Even if the art piece does not appreciate in value, buyers could still enjoy the satisfaction brought by the artwork. Any value appreciation is only an added bonus.”


Speaking on the key to investing in art, Yao believes that information collection is the most important – a good investment can only be made with the necessary art knowledge. “There is a diverse array of galleries, art exhibitions, auctions and auction houses in Hong Kong. If you intend to analyze the investment value of a piece of art, you should scrutinize the artists and collections held under its gallery, as well as the academic background of and awards won by the artist. Simply put, pay attention to the artist’s resume.” She also suggested that investors could take part in the previews and art exhibitions organized by auction houses, and communicate more with gallery directors to consult their recommendations and views.


A fusion of Chinese and Western cultures

In recent years, numerous Chinese artists have been widely appreciated by collectors. Yang Qi, a Chinese diaspora artist living in Germany, is one of them. Alisan Fine Arts hosted the exhibition “Yang Qi: A Profound Life” in December, the first solo exhibition of the artist in Hong Kong. About 30 pieces were showcased at the exhibition, ranging from works on paper to canvas to ceramic. Yang has developed a unique artistic concept of “Zen with German Expressionism” and applied it to his works. “Yang Qi naturally marries these two ideas. As indicated by the title of this exhibition, ‘A Profound Life’, his works manifest the artist's feeling and awe of life and its profundity.”