Held in Macao not long ago, the New Art Wave Expo was widely acclaimed. With her wide-reaching network and expertise in public relations, Hong Kong curator Mianco Wong collaborated with local arts groups to promote the event, and broke the attendance records in arts exhibitions in Macao. It was no small feat, Wong described. What she ultimately wants to achieve is to provide a platform for artists to meet the needs of the market, as she believes that artists can survive and thrive without solely relying on public money.
New Art Wave provides a venue for students and graduates from art academies in Asia to showcase their best art pieces, after selection by a judging panel. It also enables artists to meet overseas art collectors, curators and commentators.
Studied arts administration in Hong Kong, Wong befriended with her classmates from Macao, and thus got tremendous help from local arts groups when orgranising the exhibition. She said with a smile that a local friend had sent 2,000 messages to invite people to join. Having expertise in public relations, the whole team was from Hong Kong and it had to be in charge with everything from venue booking, subsidy application to promotion. Wong admitted that there were a lot of challenges. “We were told that people in Macao do not really go to art fairs and we worried that the attendance would not be satisfactory. Moreover, there is no visible cluster of collectors in Macao, so we had spent a lot of time to find them out. We also had to provide an incentive for Hong Kong collectors to come to the fair in Macao.”
Overseas organisations can apply for funding from the authorities if they hold exhibitions in Macao. But Wong believes that if the government sees arts and culture as a core part in the policy of economic development, it has to be more proactive to collaborate with curating organisations. For instances, an overseas delegation was arranged to visit artists’ studios or arts groups in Macao as one of the activities in the event. The purpose was to facilitate business opportunities. However, it was Wong’s team, all hands on deck, looking for organisations or artists that are worth a visit, without any support from the authorities. “Overseas groups can’t cultivate an art-loving ambience locally. Local arts groups will only be willing to collaborate unless the government shoulders responsibility by providing support. We had made a great effort to invite overseas speakers to the event. If we were able to host the event in a local institutes or governmental venues, it would attract more people to join the fair.”
Wong said that they received positive comments about the exhibition, and although with so many difficulties when organising it, she is expecting more editions of the event. The high cost of venue rental, however, makes it impossible for her team to bear solely. Financial support is one of the keys to determine whether the event will be continued. She is still discussing with relevant departments to explore opportunities for collaboration.
Sou Leng Fong, one of the Macao artists who participated in New Art Wave, got one set of her sculptures lifted from the pedestal in the exhibition. Sou met both local and the mainland’s art agents in the event and said: “An artist may have to wait for a year to hold an exhibition in a local venue, and the cost is high. Most art fairs in Macao only allow members of certain arts groups to participate, and I think that the merits of New Art Wave are it has included artists from different parts of the world, and allowed independent or emerging artists to burnish their presence in the art market. It has also helped bring local artists to audiences outside Macao.”
Galleries and art fairs are important channels for local artists to showcase their works. Sou also participates in art fairs in neighbouring regions. She discovered that selling art is pretty common in art fairs overseas, and some graduate art shows in the mainland have attracted buyers to attend. Macao, in contrast, is only holding fairs that are purely for art appreciation and cultural exchange. Sou said that local artists have to join certain groups so as to get more advantages to book a venue, promote and manage the exhibition. This practice proved to be effective in some prominent galleries, but it can’t nurture a more mature art market and unite local art talents. She hopes that there will be more fairs like New Art Wave held in Macao in the future.