Eclectic mix of work reflects a passion for contemporary art
Gallery is devoted to promoting emerging and established artists - especially those from Asia
Looking out of the small window at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, one sees the stone walls of Victoria Prison topped with barbed wire and the towering Two IFC. The inside of the gallery echoes that kind of exciting juxtaposition.
The reception area has a library corner and a small exhibition space. On the day we visited, Irene Lau Kwai-ying's Tea Cup was on display. The artwork comprised ceramic teacups hung from clothes hangers to suggest the shape of a woman's breasts.
Further in is the main exhibition hall, moderate-sized but with a high ceiling that allows large artworks to be showcased.
The gallery's eclectic selection of works can stir emotions, especially when there are pieces by talented artists such as Paris-based Chinese sculptor Wang Keping, Hong Kong-based painter and photographer Simon Birch, Beijing artist Huang Rui and performance artist and photographer Li Wei.
These are just some of the names the gallery, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary, has featured since it opened.
The gallery, just off bustling SoHo and less than a 10-minute walk from the busiest parts of Central, is self-contained and peaceful.
'It was a coincidence that I found this place. I was having dinner at a friend's place upstairs. When I saw that interesting window at the front, I had a feeling it would be a perfect space for a gallery,' owner Katie de Tilly said.
The gallery is dedicated to promoting emerging and established contemporary artists from around the world, especially Asia and the mainland.
Ms de Tilly considers herself lucky to have found the location because affordable spaces suitable for an art gallery are hard to come by.
Having achieved success with 10 Chancery Lane, Ms de Tilly is pursuing another dream - to establish a floor space that resembles Factory 798 in Beijing. That pursuit directed her to the Chai Wan Industrial City Phase I, where a budding local art community and many small art studios are flourishing.
From September 29 on, the neighbourhood will be home to 10 Chancery Lane Gallery Annex, a 2,000 sqft warehouse with a 15-ft high ceiling that has been renovated to resemble a New York-style exhibition space. The first exhibition to be held in the new space is titled 'Outside Context Problem', with artist Birch on board as the curator.
Ms de Tilly believes in giving artists the opportunity to take on the role of curator. 'I will give them guidelines when necessary, but they must make the decisions on how to balance an exhibition,' she said.
Other prominent artists the gallery has worked with include Vietnamese-American visual artist Dinh Q. Le, British photographers Robert Freeman and Gered Mankowitz, mainland photographers Muchen and Shao Yinong, Canadian photographer Serge Clement and local painter Carol Lee Mei-kuen.
Three or four new artists are recruited into the ranks every year. 'Mostly we co-operate with artists who have already had success in exhibitions or museums, locally and internationally,' Ms de Tilly said. 'We also help emerging artists by giving them opportunities to show their work.'
She said artists, despite their different personalities, were the easiest people to work with. However, some artists had special 'requirements', such as curtains for paintings and raw materials for performance art.
Ms de Tilly said she enjoyed building relationships with artists, which was part of the reason for her passion for contemporary art.
'Just because we focus on contemporary art doesn't mean that I don't like classic art. It's nice, though, to deal with living people,' said Ms de Tilly, who used to be an artist.
She moved to Hong Kong 12 years ago when there were not many art galleries in Hong Kong.
Her gallery is committed to 'giving a breath of fresh air to the local art scene'. She believes an international city such as Hong Kong should have plenty of art galleries.
The gallery has had eight to 10 exhibitions a year since it opened. Unlike other galleries that tend to focus on one medium, 10 Chancery Lane takes pride in showcasing a wide range of art, from painting, sculpture and photography to performance art.
She said one of the most memorable exhibitions was in 2001, and featured 'rock photographs' from the 1960s by British photographers Robert Freeman and Gered Mankowitz. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other '60s rock icons were the focus of the show.
'We sent invitation cards that said, 'in the presence of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Marianne Faithful and their photographers'. Some people thought they would actually see some of these artists so they came and [the gallery] was jam packed,' she said.
Coincidentally, and sadly, ex-Beatle George Harrison died on the day the exhibition opened, November 29.
Ms de Tilly said the city's art awareness has grown over the years, and the number of local collectors has increased.
'Hong Kong is a busy city and people don't have much time to appreciate art, but little by little, year by year, this can change,' she said.
'My tip for collectors is simple - just buy things you like, don't blindly ask questions [about the value], but do ask a lot of questions about the importance of the work and the artist.'
When the right piece has presented itself, Ms de Tilly said, something inside you would 'trigger' you to buy.