Hong Kong’s art scene has changed almost beyond recognition since 1974. Back then, the Hong Kong Museum of Art had only recently opened, the Hong Kong Arts Centre was under construction and there was only a handful of commercial galleries open in the city—one of them being Galerie du Monde.
Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, Galerie du Monde is now the oldest gallery in the city. "I think we're stronger than ever," says Fred Scholle, Galerie du Monde's founder, who carved out a niche for the business by specialising in contemporary ink art from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China. Here, Scholle recounts stories of the first solo exhibition he ever hosted in Hong Kong and reveals how the gallery is branching into new areas, working with conceptual artists such as Michael Müller.
What was the first work of art that moved you?
My interest in art probably went back to the 1960s, just before I moved to Hong Kong. David Hockney was one of the artists I was interested in at the time, but I was more interested in his drawings than his paintings. His drawings really moved me and I thought he was just a fantastic draughtsman. The drawings that interested me the most were his portraits — portraits of friends or lovers or family members.
I was also very impressed with the artists Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline, who first sparked my interest in contemporary ink painting in Hong Kong and Mainland China. They were influenced by Chinese ink painting, and I believe their work has gone on to influence contemporary Chinese artists.
What was the first exhibition you ever hosted at Galerie du Monde?
The first solo show we hosted was in 1977 and was work by David Hockney. When we first opened in 1974, we were showing works by American and European artists but didn't do a solo show because what we were doing was very new to Hong Kong at the time—there weren't galleries showing Western art. So I spent that time learning about our collectors' interests.
We chose Hockney because I met Hockney in Los Angeles at an atelier owned by a friend of mine. Hockney was working with the atelier on a new series of etchings, so we worked something out and hosted a solo show in Hong Kong.
Hockney had already had major exhibitions and had a considerable following, but I was still nervous. But the exhibition went very well and we sold all the works.
See also: What Sold At Art Basel Hong Kong 2019