New model of selling and exhibiting art gives Hong Kong artists more control
- Set up earlier this year, the Hong Kong Arts Collective exhibits wherever will give them space and sells work at whatever price artists want
- The platform addresses issues in Hong Kong like the high rents that see most commercial galleries reluctant to sell art priced lower than US$4,000
A new artists collective plans to exhibit wherever will give them free space and sell work at whatever price the artists want as Hong Kong’s art market becomes increasingly high-end and pushes out those just starting out.
Hong Kong-born Pete Ross and Marc Allante, who both left professional jobs to pursue full-time careers as artists, decided to set up the Hong Kong Arts Collective earlier this year as a platform to give artists more control. The collective is open to all local artists regardless of whether they have gallery representation.
To stay nimble and keep costs down, the collective appeals to property developers to provide discounted, temporary space for pop-up exhibitions.
Its inaugural group exhibition is currently being held at The Nate, a new serviced apartment block in Kowloon’s Jordan area with retail space that has yet to be let.
District15, the boutique developer behind The Nate, gave one floor of the retail block to the collective for July and another three floors to performances and installations, as well as a short-term artist residency programme organised by HKwalls, a non-profit that promotes street art.
A total of 19 artists are featured in the collective’s exhibition, called “Home Grown”, including Ross and Allante themselves. Artists are charged a 20 per cent consignment fee to cover basic costs and all profits will be spent on the next show, Ross says. That leaves a much bigger cut for artists than what they get from galleries, which can be as low as 10 per cent for photographic multi-edition works.
The collective addresses a number of issues in Hong Kong, particularly the high-rent environment that sees most commercial galleries reluctant to sell art priced lower than HK$30,000 (US$3,800).
“Galleries here have to take a lot of risks, so they go for names that are established and artists who work within certain market parameters,” says Allante, who used to work in finance. “New artists get turned away because they don’t meet the price requirement or because they have never exhibited before.”
The Hong Kong art scene may seem to have expanded rapidly in the past decade but Ross, a former architect, says local galleries and artists are “suffocating” because of these restrictions.
Prices at “Home Grown”, which runs until August 2, range from HK$800 for a limited-edition print to HK$54,000 for an original. Many of the 19 artists have already built up a steady following despite not just relying on galleries to sell their work, such as landscape artist Rainbow Tse.
“A lot of artists are reluctant to market themselves but I tell my students they have to create their own opportunity,” Lee says.
Allante says he has had good working relationships with galleries but became aware of how much he could promote himself on social media when his posts of ink and watercolour paintings of endangered animals went viral.
“We are not looking to upend the art ecosystem and cut out all middlemen. We don’t want to represent artists exclusively,” he says. “We just want to give local artists another option and to keep this grass roots and open.”
Home Grown, an exhibition by the Hong Kong Arts Collective, 4/F, The Nate, 176 Nathan Road, Jordan, Sun-Mon, 12pm-7pm, until August 2.