Welcome to Humans of Hong Kong, a story series on Localiiz that takes a deeper look at the many colourful characters and unique personalities that call our beloved city home. We immersed ourselves in the distinctive energy of Hong Kong’s ever-evolving arts scene with Uli Zhiheng Zhang, a director at a prestigious international art gallery in Hong Kong. Join us as he shares his insight on the growth of Hong Kong as an arts hub, how his perspective on art has changed with age, and what creative developments he’s looking forward to in the near future.
“My sense of achievement comes from introducing more art to the audience, as well as paving the artist’s career and satisfying clients’ needs. It’s basically what a director in an international gallery does. It’s growing people and growing the gallery.”
“When I first moved here, I remember Hong Kong as an extremely vibrant city. Its traffic was twenty-four-seven. I lived very far away in a very tiny apartment, but the city was full of exuberance and life. It’s also very motivating. I remember the general feeling of going to work every day and I felt great. Hong Kong is a city where, if you seek out work to do, there are always opportunities.
“If I were to equate Hong Kong to a piece of contemporary art, I think Hong Kong is definitely very edgy and very experimental. I think it will most likely be something of an installation that requires time and experience to read into it. And I think it will be very contemporary, just given the young age of Hong Kong as an art hub. It’s definitely very, very vibrant.”
“I think everything started around 2008 and 2009—things started to happen when Asian buyers demonstrated more power on the international platform. And when the dominators of the industry started to realise, ‘Oh, there’s huge potential in this area of the world.’
“Some great art has emerged from the gallery shows in Hong Kong. And given that I have seen a few pavilion shows from M+, I think they were well-curated. There are strong suits from M+ regarding Asian heritage. M+ could very easily be an icon. It could very easily be a go-to place. It would strengthen the position of Hong Kong as an art hub. I think it couldn’t come sooner, as a matter of fact. I would expect Hong Kong as a cosmopolitan to have a museum of this calibre, or a district like West Kowloon Cultural District to begin with. I’m very excited that it’s on the cusp of finishing and opening. It will definitely promote awareness towards the arts, and it’s a great destination, a great public hangout space for its people. And in the meantime, it’s educating the audiences.”
“I love spending money, so I have been buying art since I had my first job. And I realised throughout all these years, the trajectory of what I buy has changed. Back then, I used to bet on things that I think have great potential, and appreciation in terms of value. I lacked a genuine fondness for the pieces that I bought. I understood them. However, I was never, never attached to them.”
“In my very, very early days, I bought, like, small pieces from Duchamp. I have bought pieces from Sugimoto, but later in life, I realised that these works were only reflecting what I understood about art—I did not take into consideration what I understood about myself. So those works didn’t last long before I decided to sell them. Now, as I grow older, I start to understand the weight of social responsibilities. I start to understand that, being in my position, there’s a certain influence as well. Nowadays, the priority of me buying a piece has shifted from whether it will make money in the future to how much do I like it, and if I can live with it, do I see it hanging in my house?”
Created in partnership with the Hong Kong Tourism Board