14.10.10 Lucy Newman Cleeve, Man&Eve Director, interviewed by WestEast Magazine

7 international galleries reflect on art and the market, in the post-Art HK 10 afterglow.
writes Jing Zhang

Man&Eve (London)
Lucy Newman Cleeve/Founder&Director

I am interested in producing, encountering and promoting visual-tactile images and objects that have charisma: that have the power to communicate something which words can not convey: that delight, or challenge, or surprise me.
I believe the art is the “first order” language – by which I mean that it should be able to speak for itself. I am less interested in work that has a prerequisite for its audience to know lots of art theory or read background text in order to understand it. Art theory has its place, but great art does not need to be “read’.
I am much more interested in creating new markets for an artist work than in “double-guessing” the market and showing work which is simply fashionable or in vogue – and this is where aesthetic considerations provide the balance for commercial considerations. I find that the two hold each other in a useful tension.
An artist must be entirely committed to the work they produce in order to exhibit it and stake their reputation on it. In the same way, a scrupulous dealer or curator must believe in the work in order to exhibit or promote it, and a committed collector must believe in its value in order to subscribe to it. In making these aesthetic (and often financial) decisions – all of us are making some sort of statement about our beliefs.
We have exhibited in Asia before but this was our first time in Art HK, and the experience exceeded my expectations. I was able to introduce work by Michael Whittle and Sarah Bridgland to a new audience, and the feedback and responses received where overwhelmingly positive. Sales at the fair were extremely strong, and the level of interest in and engagement with the work was far greater than I had expected. The calibre of galleries and collectors represented at the fair was also very high.
I predict that Asia will become one of the most important markets for Man&Eve over the next few years, and Hong Kong, as a cultural and financial centre, will continue to grow over the next few years, during which time Art HK looks likely to establish itself as one of the top 5 international art fairs.

Amelia Johnson Gallery (Hong Kong)
Amelia Johnson / Gallery Owner

The very fact that Art is a tangible formation of an artist’s thoughts and ideas for me is enough to qualify and to justify its existence.
I think the best and true works of art leave you breathless, awestruck and with a sense that you are in presence of something profoundly great.
I feel very strongly that works of art that are locked up away in vaults miss out on engagement and interaction with an audience. Having worked at the Musee du Louve I had access to the galleries out of hours and wandering the halls filled with exquisite works of art one is very aware that without an audience the works of art may as well not exist. The galleries themselves felt like mausoleums and it is the audience’s reaction to the works which, in my mind, quantities and existence and the reputation of those works of art.
Third time [at Art HK] and definitely the best so far! The most significant change for me was the number of international curators, galerists and collectors visiting the fair and the gallery. The exhibition at the gallery showing the work of rising Hong Kong artist Tang Kwok Hin sold out and we placed several pieces from our booth in important international collections. 90% of sales at the fair were to overseas clients.

Gagosian Gallery (London/Hong Kong)
Nick Simunovic/Director

Art never needs to justify its existence. Art simply is.
Art is a timeless human phenomenon. Picture were being drawn well before societies began organizing according to economic principles and cultural values. Art is as democratic and populist as language itself, and in the absence of capitalism, artists would still create. But if you mean the art market, then of course only a tiny fraction of people will ever successfully collect art which suggests a kind of elitism. I would further suggest most artworks never come anywhere close to the sublime, but this does not make those works which do reach the sublime elitist in any way. It just makes them extraordinary objects.
Like last year, the Art HK fair was extremely well managed. The number and quality of participating galleries was very high. Attendance was up dramatically, and it was obvious that serious collectors were taking serious interest in the top quality, primary market work on display. We were also very his suggest by the depth and breath of our sales at Art HK. We expected works by Alberto Giacometti, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince to sell, which they did, but we were very pleasantly surprised to see any work of Franz West, for exemple, placed in a mainland Chinese collection. This suggest that the taste of Chinese collectors is globalizing faster we might have originally thought.

Osage Gallery (Hong Kong)
Eugene Tan/Exhibition Director
The aesthetic function of art is its most important functions for society. Good art compels its viewers to re-evaluate aesthetic experience and hence the perception of the world in which we live.
Elitism in art largely derives from the way the formal qualities of art has changed, with video, installation, conceptual art, etc., which is a really a development in the epistemology of art, of the language of representation. While there are many different levels to appreciate art, to understand the art historical significance of art requires a certain background, in the same way you cannot expect a lay person to understand the latest developments in quantum physics.
Art HK, as with all art fairs are primarily about art market. And while the market is an important aspect of art and its development, it should not be mistaken as the crux of what is about.

Houser&Wirth (Zurich)
Gregor Muir/Director

We’ve met some great new clients and really feel that we’ve reached out into Asian having met not just local buyers but collectors from an incredible cross section of Asian countries. It’s clearly the perfect moment to us to be here, the moment when collectors are turning their attention to international contemporary art. We have made some very positive sales, especially in terms of new people. It has been extremely rewarding to discuss works on your v=booth with Asian collectors and curators – these are conversations that you simply can’t have without being here and it’s been a very enjoyable process.

The Cat Street Gallery (Hong Kong)
Kate Bryan/Depury Director

It strikes us that are very few artists working today who would describe their work based solely on aesthetics. In a post modern climate it becomes increasingly difficult to detach entirely from conceptualism and philosophy.. An artist, by virtue of their distinct practice and visual language, uses their trade as a form of communication and it is true to say that a lot of art and much great art, has confessional quality. Further, when we look at movements and trends in art history social insights are revealed, acting as a cultural barometer and confessing some of the demands, passions, needs and realities of any given moment in time.
I think art will always be enigmatic and the art world will naturally share a similar quality, however when it is translated into people and cities. It is often described as elitism. The notion has resulted in massive ramifications for both the art world and the artistic practice in the last century or so. It is an interesting time, as consciousness of elitism in the arts is as great as ever, and yet initiatives to open the discipline up to a wider audience are at top of many cultural agendas.
ART HK 10 was truly exhilarating fair. The quality of works across the fair was greater than ever, the events were of an international standard and the whole energy of the week was outstanding. In our opinion ART HK 10 was the moment when HK really solidified its place as the centre of the contemporary Asian Art Market. We had record numbers of people stand our stand and also so far exceeded our sales targets.

10 Chancery Lane (Hong Kong)
Katie De Tilly/Gallery Owner

Art does have a function. It is not because one defines its function that a function exists. Art brings visual communication and a depth of understanding of the world around us. It should touch something deeply within us as does music.
Art can be a personal response from an individual journey within context of life that a certain artist is living or it can be a common feeling that is shared and expressed. I suppose both are confessions of some sort.
Attributing names such as “elitism” is not important. What is important is the message the art can communicate in the time of that communication. It is a communication of souls and it should speak volumes without one word being uttered or read.
Hong Kong is often defined as a cultural desert. This is so sad as it is not by choice of its public. It is the choice of a society that is governed in a way that has not put enough emphasis on the importance of the intellectual depth that an artful world can give to its population. Culture is not learning the piano in a rote manner, it is not having an art fair that people see as much as they can in as little time as possible. Culture is an intellectual understanding of being on meaningful plateau. The art fair is commercial. It cannot fulfil the needs of the 46,000 attendants that should be seeing artworks and reflecting upon them regularly. However, it is a step and I hope it has opened some eyes.