From our Hot Seat series.
Stephanie Kelly is the fair director of the Hong Kong edition of the Affordable Art Fair, an annual art event where thousands of paintings, sculptures, prints, and photos are put on show at affordable prices.
Originally from New Zealand, Kelly lived in London and Singapore before landing in Hong Kong. An avid buyer of art herself, she joined Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong as its marketing manager in 2012 before making the jump to fair director from 2014 onwards.
Art buying is really a journey. You buy your first artwork, then you might buy a piece one or two times per year. Then you’re an experienced buyer — you know your eye, you know what you like and what you don’t like. You may have made a few mistakes along the way, but you’ve found your taste. The next level is being a collector and creating a theme — focusing on contemporary ink, new media works, portraiture, LGBT artwork, sculpture, or abstract work.
If you talk to any collector, whether they’ve gone on to create a museum to showcase their art or have multi-million-dollar collections, they will never have sold their first piece because that was the beginning of their collecting journey. It might not be their style of piece anymore, but it will be a piece that they treasure.
We always encourage gallerists to let the artwork talk. Don’t try and overcrowd the artwork. Hang it properly and make sure that people can appreciate it. In a gallery or art fair setting, it’s very minimalist and clutter-free. There might be a small table or chair, but nothing much else.
[When displaying art at home,] there are a lot of considerations you need to think about. Where you can put the piece, aligning the piece, what the space is like, what the lighting is like. If there’s lots of natural light, is that going to effect the painting or print? Is there lots of humidity? Humidity is a big issue in Hong Kong. We used to hang an artwork outside of our bathroom, and we made sure it was museum-quality framed so steam from the shower wouldn’t get in. Any water could potentially cause warping to a paper print.
Art collecting is still very new in Hong Kong for many people. Just under half our audience has never owned art. People might not have a lot of confidence after buying their first or second piece. They’re still within that stage of defining their taste.
People are evolving in their collecting culture. I think they’re being a bit more experimental. They’re coming in saying, okay, I’m going to buy what I love, and then I’m going to find out more about the artist and their background and technique. Tastes are more diverse and less focused on a trend. We’ve been witnessing increasing sales in sculpture. Photography is building in Asia, and even multimedia, new media, and digital artwork. Those are mediums a more experienced buyer would be looking at.