INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM LIM
"The history of contemporary art in Hong Kong is probably less than twenty years old. It is still a very young art scene, and there will be many new developments in the future. As collectors of Hong Kong art we are just at the beginning, and there is definitely a long way to go." Christoph Noe interviews William Lim.
Your collection mostly includes contemporary artists from Hong Kong. When did you start collecting, and did you start with contemporary art?
I started collecting Chinese contemporary art in 2005. In the middle of 2006 I was introduced to the Hong Kong contemporary art scene, and I started to shift towards Hong Kong artists. At the time their work was not commercial, and the works were very interesting to me. There was no art market in Hong Kong, and the works they produced were created for small exhibitions.
The situation changed quite quickly. Today Hong Kong artists are shown in a lot of galleries, and there are more opportunities for them. Also, the younger generation of artists is starting to change their artistic approach.
Did the shift of circumstances in the Hong Kong art scene also influence your collecting approach?
Initially I collected in an attempt to document a broad spectrum of activities within the Hong Kong art scene, and my collection included most of the Hong Kong artists. Today I focus on the important works and collect fewer artists than before.
What is your focus regarding the artists in your collection? Are you more interested in emerging or well-known artists?
Some of the artists that I collect were emerging artists when I started. Now they are shown in major international shows. In this regard, I can’t really say whether I am focusing on emerging or renowned artists, but I do think that discovering an unknown artist gives me a greater sense of satisfaction.
Do you keep track of the artists you have collected, or offer them help in developing their career, for example in the case of the emerging artists?
I cannot always keep track of all the artists, since Hong Kong artists now are very active internationally. I do lend out their works for exhibitions, which can help promote their careers.
You are an architect and an artist yourself. Collecting art is also a creative process. Do you see collecting as an art form unto itself?
In my opinion collecting is almost like going on a journey. It is always open-ended. The history of contemporary art in Hong Kong is probably less than twenty years old. It is still a very young art scene, and there will be many new developments in the future. As collectors of Hong Kong art we are just at the beginning, and there is definitely a long way to go.
The Chinese / Hong Kong art scene is very dynamic nowadays, also in terms of collectors. What are the reasons that inspire people to start collecting contemporary art? Why is there such growing interest?
At the moment there is a lot of international interest in the Hong Kong art market (for example Art Basel HK), and also a lot of international organizations are purchasing works by Hong Kong artists. Given this situation, a lot of young professionals find art interesting, and they also consider collecting Hong Kong art a good investment opportunity, since the art is also still very affordable.
Did you include your entire collection in the book? If not, how did you make your selection?
I included most of my collection of Hong Kong contemporary artists. I did not include the more traditional and established Hong Kong artists nor any artwork originating from outside of Hong Kong.
There are many private museums opening in China at the moment. Do you have plans to make your collection available to the public?
Compared to China, the situation of private museums in Hong Kong is different. The price of land is very high in Hong Kong, and therefore it is difficult to present collections to the public.
I own a small studio that I open for people to visit during art fairs. For me it is not important to own a private museum. I hope that at some point my collection will help document the situation of Hong Kong artist of today, and I also hope that in the future people will find my collection important and encouraging.
For now, I am happy offering insights into my collection by publishing a book, and I hope it will help generate more public attention for Hong Kong artists.
What was your reason for publishing a book?
As said, I hope to be able to open another window for viewing the dynamics of the local Hong Kong art scene. Doing this book was also a very interesting learning process for me, which helped me understand new things about my own collection and gain a different perspective. Part of the book is also dedicated to interviews with artists, curators, art critics, and people involved in the Hong Kong art scene and the art world at large. This process was very enriching and exciting.
You have chosen a rather unusual size for the publication?
Hong Kong art is often characterized by its rather small size. So the design reflects this tendency, and we feel it fits very well. Also, I intended this publication as a handy reference book and not a coffee table trophy book.