Wang Jun began to collect contemporary art in 2006. When asked about his motivation and reasons for starting it, Wang was very candid: "It’s very simple, I just like it. Because I like it, I become obsessed with it; because I’m obsessed with it, I love studying and thinking about it." In April 2017, as a photography enthusiast, in his solo exhibition Those Things on the Road: Photography of Wang Jun at the UCCA, Wang Jun shared a detailed visual record of the trips that he and his friends took. At the end of that year, with the idea of creating a place for fellow shutterbugs to meet and mingle, he founded the Light Society, a photography institution that houses photo exhibitions, education, collection and research activities under one roof. In just one year of its establishment, the Light Society not only has produced solo exhibitions of big name artists such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, Antoine Dagatta, and Marina Abramović from Wang’s own collection, but also pooled resources around the world to engage in the study of and discussion around the development of photography and its future from various aspects such as art and aesthetics, photo techniques and presentation, photography collection and market. For Wang Jun, the best thing is to see more and more people walk into Light Society out of their love for photography, to share and learn together more about this medium.
To have a long-term hobby in life is a bless.
You have always stressed that you are not a collector, but an art consumer. What is the difference between the two identities？
We always like to call someone a master of something he/she does out of a kind of politeness or kindness. In my opinion, only those who are professional enough to write about or theorize their fields of work are worthy of such title. He/she has to contribute unique perspective and theory to his or her profession, and be accepted by others. That is why I am at most an art consumer or someone who collects art.
In addition to art collection, you have taken many photos and even held a solo exhibition. So, which part of photography attracts you the most?
Compared with painting, sculpture and installation, photography is more intimate and draws people closer to art. When I pick up my camera, I am presented with a chance to make a creation and to express myself. This is the biggest charm of photography to me.
In your opinion, what is the relationship between making and collecting photographic works?
For me, collecting a single piece is to obtain someone else's expression of the world whereas long-term collection forms one’s own expression of the world. Taking photos is obviously a more direct means of expression.
© WANG JUN, Dallas, 2017, Courtesy of WANG JUN.
What is the first photo that you collected?
It was around 1999. I went to the United States and visited Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago where I toured many bookstores and second-hand shops. It was in a very small gallery that I saw an old silver salt print, a reprint from a repaired negative film. It was taken by an unknown author in 1905 and its theme was a girl playing poker. The girl is lying half naked in bed, holding a puppy in her arms and playing cards as if to foretell her faith. At the time, I felt that this photo spurred a reminiscent feeling of youth in me. This girl seems lonely, but I don't think she feels the loneliness.
What are the principles or standards you adopt when collecting artworks?
It is a very personal thing. The Chinese, in particular, have a concept of collecting things that they can “appreciate and play within their hands” which means the pleasure of collecting is private and unspeakable, so the most important principle or standard for me when I collect art is to make myself happy.
The First Photo Collection of WANG JUN, © Courtesy of WANG JUN.
You are not only a collector, but also the founder of the Light Society. You once said that the Light Society is more like a piece of your collection. What does it mean?
I established Light Society out of love for photography. I hope to gather together people who also like photography and to explore, learn and share in this space. Therefore, the spirit we uphold is “for oneself, for passion, for art”, which is also the DNA inherited from “Beijing Light Society”, the first photography association in China. If Light Society is a piece of collection of mine, then I collect it for the DNA, the spirit and its philosophy.
What is the relationship between the collection of the Light Society and your personal collection?
At present, the collection of the Light Society and my own overlap with each other.
Does your personal collection influences what to exhibit in the Light Society?
So far, the artists who have held exhibitions at Light Society are ones that I personally like and admire. My personal collection has also been part of the exhibitions.
© ANTOINE D'AGATA, Courtesy of Light Society.
© NOBUYOSHI ARAKI, Hana Kinbaku, Courtesy of Light Society.
Can you talk about the recent Marina Abramović solo exhibition at the Light Society?
I have seen Abramović's works a long time ago. Performance art cannot be collected in general. It is an art form of anti-capitalism. It is true that photography, as a record of the performance art scene, cannot completely convey the energy of such "presence". It, however, embeds this feeling of "presence" and becomes visually invasive, letting people form connections with it. In this sense, photography gains new possibilities because of performance art and forms a unique interpretation of the latter’s charm. Therefore, I introduced this part of her works into the Light Society in the hope that everyone can re-experience Abramović's performance art through silver salt print, digital or Polaroid photos.
What is the next step of the Light Society?
We will organize more exhibitions and make over 7,000 photography related books in our library available to the public. Photography class has been part of Light Society since day one and we will continue to offer this public education program. This year, we plan to hold 3 to 4 Magnum Master Classes and give lessons about the history of photography and its market in collaboration with the Central Academy of Fine Arts. In addition, we will also invite research experts in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology and School of the Art Institute of Chicago to give lectures during summer vacation.
© Marina Abramović Exhibition, Courtesy of Light Society.