Interview with Brian Wallace
24 jun 2014 by Kirsi Hyotyla
In continuation with her "Notes on China", art:i:curate contributor Kirsi Hyotyla interviews Brian Wallace, the director of the Red Gate Gallery and Residency in Beijing, China.
Red Gate Gallery was first established as a private gallery of contemporary Chinese art in China in 1991. Red Gate Residency program started accepting international artists in 2001. One of the most valuable projects of the most recent years has been Two Generations of Contemporary Chinese Art: Red Gate’s 20th Anniversary exhibition in 2011 which also toured from Beijing to Shanghai and to five venues in Australia.
KH: The first exhibitions when you first started took place in different locations. Collaborations and experimentation between expats and local artists are taking place in China nowadays as well - how do you see the emergence of artist run spaces and home galleries affect the role of the more established art spaces and galleries such as Red Gate?
BW: Before Red Gate opened in 1991 I was holding exhibitions in different locations in Beijing back in the late 80’s. Over the years, we have collaborated with other spaces nationally and internationally, and also opened and closed other spaces. The whole art scene has developed over the years in many ways including other platforms, whether bricks-and-mortar galleries right through to website galleries. There is room for all of this – but the key to it is presenting good work in a professional manner.
KH: How do you make the selection about artists to join Red Gate?
BW: Generally I get to know them, and their work over a period of time. This may involve visiting studios, seeing exhibitions at other places, etc.
Sometimes an artist will walk in with a great portfolio, which we have on the spot. I am generally looking for new artists, as I like to work with them over a long period of time. Many of our artists have been with us for over 15 years if not the whole 23, so I have seen their whole careers develop. And recently we had a very famous painter referred to us by one of his contemporaries (a longstanding Red Gat artist) who has this amazing portfolio of prints, which he wants Red Gate to handle!
KH: Red Gate Gallery focuses on Chinese contemporary art but the residencies are open for international artists. How have you seen the international residents being influenced by Chinese contemporary art during or after their stay with Red Gate Residency?
BW: In many different ways. Some residents come here specifically to connect and gain exposure to the Chinese contemporary art scene--the people who are a part of it, the galleries that show it - and so they focus their time here on that. They take their experience and use it to become working artists in China. Others come to China because they are curious about the place and imagine that it will influence their work in significant ways. They are deeply influenced by daily life here.
A lot of Chinese contemporary art is about life in China - what that means in all its different capacities - and therefore there is an inherent and constant dialogue between contemporary Chinese art and the artists from abroad who come here to work. It is fascinating to see the wide variety of ways that our residents are influenced by art here.
KH: Is Red Gate Residency program open to all nationalities?
BW: Our residency is open to artists from all over the world. In 2013, we hosted 66 residents from 19 different countries, 35% of those residents call Australia home. Because of the history of our program, we continually host more Australians than any other nationality. However, we are always looking for ways to expand, and we do that through using international residency networks to promote our program and seeking out interesting new partnerships such as Asia New Zealand Foundation, Goethe Institut, Res Artis, Austria Cultural Forum, China Residencies, and Davidoff Art Initiative.
In May, we hosted 10 artists from seven different countries: Mexico, Canada, Netherlands, Dominican Republic, Austria, Australia, America and Serbia. It was a great month!
Red Gate Residency Studios in Beijing
KH: What are the key events of Red Gate Gallery this year?
BW: The introduction of new artists to the gallery: Chen Jiaye and Zhang Zheyi; Sculpture and Installation with Li Hongbo; Wang Lei, Ye Sen and Wei Ming this month (June); Ye Sen at The Opposite House in July, 2014.
KH: Who curates the exhibitions at Red Gate Gallery?
BW: I am responsible for overall curating, but from time to time we invite curators, or let trained staff curate their own shows.
KH: For someone who is not very familiar about Chinese contemporary art but would still like to invest in it, how would you advice them to find good Chinese art?
BW: Certainly to read background material, visit many galleries and websites, talk to the gallery owners and dealers getting to know them and their artists. Some of my best collectors went through this very process establishing small and larger collections sourced from a number of good galleries, not just Red Gate.
KH: As a gallery of many years of experience in the field of Chinese contemporary art, and with a lot of insights in the art scenes of Beijing and Shanghai, can you name a few Chinese artists for the international public to follow closely this year?
BW: Chen Jiayi, Ye Sen, Xu Bacheng, and Guo Lizhong.
Installation view of Materialism - New Sculpture by Young Artists, Red Gate Gallery
Installation view of Two Generations - 20 Years of Chinese Contemporary Art, Red Gate Gallery
Traces of Individuals - Ink Paintings of Sun Baijun, He Canbo and Wu Shaoying, August 2013 - September 2013, Red Gate Gallery