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William Zhao, Collector, April 4, 2014


William Zhao, Collector, April 4, 2014
William Zhao, Art Collector. (Image courtesy of Hong Kong Tatler).


Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors.



Today the generation is so different. And the younger dynamic [artists] are growing up after the Cultural Revolution. But they grow up in a different kind of environment: The economy goes very fast, the country changes very fast, [and] the human relationship changes very fast.

Has the new generation of Chinese artists forgotten about their roots?
Maybe they don’t have Mao or any iconic image in their work. But still, they have so many things representing their quite unique [art language]. Even today [with] globalisation, the world becomes flat and everything becomes unique from our eyes. But for every country, behind the similar things, they still have difference deeply in their blood [and] in the culture. So I strongly believe that every art does not come from nowhere. It should come from their culture, their grow-up background, everything. So it’s true when you first look at an artwork, these artists’ abstract artwork may come from US, China or something. But behind that, if we understand more about one work or two artworks, understand more about the artist, [you will see that] they definitely have their own Chinese touch.

What stage do you think the Chinese art market is at?
Everything takes time to build up. Today is the time China market builds up. I believe [that] every collection can [be built] anytime, but the serious collection can never be [built by] the first fortune generation. It’s the second or third generation, who can really start building [something]. Today China has become really going to the second generation who has money, who is really interested in art, interested in life. I think collecting and [art] market in China have just started, now you can see at the auctions, art fairs and in the galleries, more and more young collectors coming.

How do you determine what to collect?

I follow the artist to see his innovation, different works, different period. Understanding his mind, and what he’s talking [about]. All of these, for me, is one kind of language. It is important for an artist to build up his own art language, his own difference, and also behind the language, something he wants to talk [about]. He cannot only be an artisan, he cannot  make something only beautiful. Behind his work, he [needs to] have his own mind, his own philosophy to talk. I don’t care about how good, how special, and how strong [his works are]. But it needs to have his own opinion, his opinion of the philosophy to the world, philosophy to the human being, or anything [else].

What makes a good artist?
Many things, many elements. The environment, the country you grow up [in], the background, cultural difference, and also the artist himself. Like a human being, you need to have a really strong self-motivation to create the language, [and] talk to the people. He [would] want to talk to different people. It’s really really important [to have] the self-motivation. Also the environment he grows up in gives him the material to talk about. In art, for me, everything is about language. How to talk, what to talk. I think that is very important. How to talk comes from the artist, whether he is talking about himself. And what to talk comes from the environment. You cannot talk when there is nothing around you. You need talk something about the environment around you, the society, the country, the city, everything. You need talk about it. That is very important too. So it’s something coming from the artist himself and other things coming from the environment. These two things make the artist good.

What is your advice for collectors?

Open-minded. Open your mind to catch something that really touches you. This is really important. And read loads. Study more. That’s very important and also a very interesting part of collecting.


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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