How do we view art? Why do some work have universal appeal? Which local talents to look out for? Where to even start? In celebration of International Women’s Day this month, we speak to five fabulous females about their favourite artists, pieces and the key to building a collection with personality.
Conversation with Edith Pong
Tell us a bit about your background and profession.
I have been a creative director in a graphic design and printing company for over two decades. I was fortunate to be exposed to art from a very young age, as my parents took me to numerous art exhibitions at the City Hall and the Hong Kong Arts Centre in Wan Chai growing up.
My passion for the discipline was furthered when my father opened a popular print shop in Lan Kwai Fong during the 1980s. While this provided me with a foundational knowledge of the space, it also provided me with opportunities to meet a number of pre-eminent artists, including the Frog King (Kwok Mang Ho) and the late Yu Sai Kin (both disciples of Lui Shou-Kwan, pioneer of the New Ink Movement).
I carried this passion with me through my later degree studies at Carnegie Mellon, where I seized the chance to undertake both art and advertising classes. Inevitably, I spent weekends and study breaks visiting local museums, such as the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory. Bringing the artistic legacy full circle, as a mom, I now bring my own children to museums and galleries at every opportunity.
When did the art bug bite? When did you first purchase your first piece?
The first art piece on which I spent my hard-earned money was by the Frog King. Created in the mid-1980s, the work differs significantly from the collages to which he has dedicated the last few years of his career. Work similar to this appeared as the cover for Art Asia Pacific Magazine a couple years back (the Art Basel edition)
It was not, however, until the last five or six years that I began collecting art seriously. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years, the pandemic has inhibited travel and largely restricted me to browsing the internet and purchasing via websites such as Artsy.
Are there particular themes or styles that you are drawn to? Why?
While I don’t consider myself to have a specific style, I love to collect paintings that make me feel happy and cheer me up. Having been born in the year of the rabbit, I do find myself especially drawn to art pieces that contain rabbits. In a very practical sense, I typically favour works that contain vivid colours, simply because they will brighten up my living space.
Which is your favourite piece in your collection? Tell us about it.
My favorite pieces were created by Dublin-based Japanese artist Atsushi Kaga. Kaga’s work is inspired by, and seamlessly blends Western art history, philosophy, Celtic culture and traditional Japanese painting. One notable piece I have in my possession is titled 6 Different kinds of lilies and hydrangeas. The flowers and cloud patterns contained within the painting are reminiscent of the prints of kimono that were prevalent during the Edo era. The painting also includes a rabbit named Usacchi, who appears to be ruminating over something important. I am especially drawn to Kaga’s dark sense of humour and attention to detail — both of which are prominent in the piece.
In terms of my wider artistic tastes, I do enjoy the works of Kang Jun Seok, Auto Moai, S. Mildo and Keigo Nakamura.
What is a piece of advice you’d give to aspiring collectors?
Make sure you are aware of upcoming auctions and shows, including Art Central and Art Basel (amongst others). Invest time browsing Instagram to develop your knowledge of artists and galleries. Trust your instincts, and only collect pieces that you truly love. I would strongly advise against purchasing art because you think you will be able to flip it. If you don’t have the budget to acquire originals or larger works, you can always start with editions (prints and sculptures) and works on paper.
Local galleries that I highly recommend are: Gallery Ascend, Gallery Exit, Woaw Gallery, Contemporary by Angela Li, Alisan Fine Arts and Karin Weber Gallery.
Who are some Hong Kong artists you’ve kept your eye on in recent years?
Stephen Wong Chun Hei, definitely. I currently own two of his commission works (Lion Rock and Tai Ping Shan). He integrated my husband’s Saab into Lion Rock and our family’s minivan into Tai Ping Shan. His landscape painting is absolutely really breathtaking.
I also like Wilson Shieh. I acquired his work Helping you, helping you last year, which was a collaboration with local artist Tse Yim On. Kate Pong — my cousin! — is another aspiring artist, her works are full of wonderful details.
Hero image courtesy of Kang Jun Seok