Located at Rua de S. Paulo, Flugent Art Gallery has opened for only a year, but has been proactively promoting local artworks externally. In July this year, the gallery brought Macao artworks to an exhibition in Osaka of Japan, and successfully sold a modern painting inspired by urban spaces like Travessa da Paixão.
But Flugent Art Gallery’s goal is not to sell merely one or two paintings. The crucial point is to “turn on” artists and collectors. “We hope to help artists and collectors build lasting relationships,” said Flugent Art Gallery Manager Hiskey Mok. She said that the gallery operates as an investment agent– it has deep understanding of the cooperating artists, and takes the initiative to match them with appropriate collectors. “We meet art lovers in different occasions like art exhibitions and frequently catch up with them to understand their tastes. Then we introduce suitable artists to them.”
Last May, Flugent Art Gallery came to Macao from Taipei with the hope to sow more artistic seeds in the small city, but first it has to adapt to the soil. In a city which vows to vigorously develop its culture and creative industry, investing in artworks seems like a good idea, but the actual operation is not easy at all. The first difficulty comes with the artists themselves. Mok said that there are plentiful of new artists, and the art and design graduates from the Polytechnic Institute have unique ideas and outstanding capabilities. But in order to make a living, there are not many artists who work full-time in art creation. Even full-time artists lack understanding of how the art market works. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, there is a formula for artists to set prices for their works. The referencing index includes the size of the painting, category and market conditions. But artists in Macao have no idea how to set prices for their works, so the prices of artworks are volatile. Another role of Flugent Art Gallery is to help artists find their positions in the market using its business mind.
The main way for the gallery to promote artworks externally is to participate in various exhibitions. There are a lot of exhibitions in Macao’s neighbouring regions, especially in China, where exhibitions can be found throughout the year. But local Macao galleries do not participate in these exhibitions frequently. On one hand, the scale of local galleries is small and can’t afford the manpower and expenditure of attending overseas shows. On the other hand, there is entrance threshold in large-scale exhibitions. Not only does the artwork have to pass the threshold, the gallery itself has to qualify in order to attend. For example, a large-scale exhibition in Shanghai this year rejected Flugent Art Gallery’s application to exhibit in the show because it has only been running for one year. Fortunately, the gallery is backed by its Taipei headquarters and has sufficient resources to go abroad. Even if they can’t exhibit, they send staff to attend shows in various places to gain understanding of the latest market trend. Mok hopes that Macao can have its own large-scale exhibition and allow local and foreign galleries to participate together.
Many of Mok’s clients have asked her about local Macao artworks, and she has done what she could to promote the pieces, but the promotion method of sitting back and waiting is insufficient after all. Artists in Taipei create in series; their style and concepts are strong. In addition, all sorts of galleries are often clustered so customers can visit one after another, and artworks are feasts for the eyes. But the style of Macao’s artworks is not versatile enough and land is limited and expensive, so the situation in Taipei cannot be replicated. Mok thought that the only way to overcome these disadvantages is to rely on information sharing and cooperation among fellow artists. The government can also play a role in promoting exchanges among local galleries.
This is something that cannot be rushed. As Mok pointed out, artwork investment is a slow way to earn money. It is a challenge for Macao people who are used to making quick money. Mok added: “I also graduated from arts studies. In the past, I only buried my head in drawing. It was not until I joined the gallery industry that I understood arts is far more than mixing colours. It takes more understanding of people to realise the communication between artists and audiences. I believe that Flugent Art Gallery and other local galleries need to put more effort to achieve this.”