For the first of our IN FOCUS series on the inspiring individuals behind PHOTOFAIRS' world-class galleries, we speak to gallery director Meg Maggio about her work, her experience of exhibiting at this year's PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai, and her goals for the coming year.
Pékin Fine Arts is a Beijing and Hong Kong-based contemporary art gallery and arts consultancy, focusing primarily on artists from China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Established in 2005 by gallery director and 30-year China resident Meg Maggio, the Beijing gallery has over 600 square meters of exhibition space which was designed by local artist architect, Ai Weiwei. In 2012, the gallery opened its Hong Kong gallery branch, with Ms. Tiffany Yu as Hong Kong gallery manager. Pékin Fine Arts hosts a wide range of gallery exhibits in the Beijing gallery, and plays an important role in promoting Asian artists internationally, also providing art advisory and consulting services. Artists represented by Pékin Fine Arts have exhibited and entered the collections of a wide range of international arts institutions and museums.
Meg Maggio is a former corporate lawyer and a fluent Chinese speaker. Alongside her gallery work she also advises clients on international exhibitions into and out of China, and on building their art collections. She is a frequent speaker on China - especially regarding the growth of its cultural arts education sector, its luxury sector and on non-profit and charitable organizations. She sits on the Board of the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association and other organizations.
Read our full interview below:
© Meg Maggio
In brief, how would you describe your arts background?
I started as an art lover and art collector. From collecting, to investing in one of the first private art galleries in China.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration as an art dealer?
A few well respected and professional female art gallerists, female art curators, female collectors, female artists, and female museum directors. These women have helped me many times along the way. They prefer to remain anonymous. It remains extremely difficult for all women to succeed in today’s art world “boy’s club”.
What kind of works are you on the look-out for right now?
I am interested in thoughtful, meaningful and sincere artistic approaches to China. For example, using “The Silk Road” not as a historical or economic reference, but instead, as a mental construct, a “road” where ideas and cultures were exchanged. This is of great interest.
The Silk Road as metaphor can be used to show how foreign artists approach and interpret China. While many artists visit China and do residencies and exhibit their works here nowadays, very few artists succeed in producing artworks that rise above “art tourism” and are able to express meaningful work in and about China. Every artist wants to visit China and to exhibit his/her work in China. However, few will resonate beyond “trendy spectacle” with local audiences. Our job as a gallery headquartered in Beijing is to bridge that gap of understanding and reduce what we affectionately refer to as “cultural misunderstanding”!
One successful example would be South African artist Pieter Hugo’s portrait project in Beijing. His “Beijing Flat Noodle Soup Talk” (2015-2016) is the result of a residency in Beijing that produced wonderful portraits of young people from Beijing. We hope to exhibit this project in our Hong Kong gallery in 2019.
In addition, I’ve always been drawn to Chinese artists who have strong characters and independent personalities, and are impervious to artworld trends and art market forces.
What was your highlight of this year’s PHOTOFAIRS | Shanghai?
We had a great time showing not only new works but also older works from the 1990’s. It was great to see artist Wang Qingsong standing side-by-side next to his self-portrait “The Prisoner” (1998) (see image below), while the photo loving crowd snapped his picture. Lovely to have Wang Qingsong visit our booth!
© Wang Qingsong, “The Prisoner” (1998)
We are always excited to introduce the latest work of Liu Di (b. 1985) to new audiences. This was Liu Di’s first appearance in Shanghai, and as a result, we made great connections. One great result was to the loan of two of his “Animal Regulation” photo artworks to be blown up billboard size , and hang outside a historic building in the city center as part of a Franco-Sino conference in Lyon, happening late this year. Liu Di will attend and give a talk on his work.
What do you hope to exhibit in coming year?
In addition to Pieter Hugo’s 'Beijing' project which we would like to exhibit in our Hong Kong gallery space, we are also talking with one Chinese photo collector with an amazing collection of vintage photography. We would like to exhibit these in Beijing. In addition, we are closely connected to the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Art’s Photo Department. We also expect to do a solo exhibition, our 3rd, with Wang Chuan, the former director of the Photo Department and co-founder of CAFA’s Master’s degree program in Photography.