Nicole Schoeni was arguably born into the Hong Kong art scene, as she shadowed her late father Mandred Schoeni as he established a name for himself in the art world in the early 80s, creating a dialogue between contemporary Chinese artists and the international art world. Later this partnership solidified, leading to the creation of Schoeni Art Gallery, which served as a platform for Chinese artists to screen their art to a wider community. Many of these artists, including Yue Minjin, Zhong Biao, Yang Shaobin, became household names, thanks to their exposure by the gallery.
The young Nicole learnt the tricks of the trade from her father who devoted his life to embracing Chinese art. Today, the enthusiastic and slightly quirky Nicole is at the helm of the business, following in her father's footsteps, continuing his devotion to Chinese art. She continues to carefully expand the gallery, now also extending the scope into English urban art, which reflects her personal interest and influences from her own art education.
To learn more about the gallery, we ask Nicole to join us in our gallerist series.
Asia Tatler: Art is…
Nicole Schoeni: Art is nourishment for the soul.
AT: When and why did you decide to open a gallery in Hong Kong?
NS: Our gallery was opened in 1992 by my late father Manfred Schoeni. As an art lover, self-taught artist and keen entrepreneur, it was always his dream to one day open up an art gallery. After travelling into China in the late 1980s through his antique business, he began to meet many artists who he felt had so much talent, but back then they neither had the infrastructure to support them nor any platforms to show their work. My father knew at that point his opportunity to fulfill his dream had finally arrived.
AT: What kind of art does your gallery specialise in and what do you add to the existing art scene?
NS: We specialise primarily in established and emerging Chinese contemporary artists. We are recognised globally as an established platform from which contemporary artists emerge onto the art scene. We were one of the few in the 1990s who steadily nurtured an artistic environment to establish an international interest in the Chinese contemporary artistic scene, that has today grown in unparalleled heights. Today we represent some of the highest-quality, cutting-edge and talented established and emerging artists.
Continuing our gallery’s mission to broaden the experience of its audience to expand on their own perception of “what is art”, we were also the first to bring the public’s attention to the urban art movement with a collaboration with UK’s Adapta, with whom we established a satellite project that facilitates awareness of urban art in Asia once a year.
AT: How do you select the artists that exhibit in your gallery?
NS: I go mostly on intuition. It is important that the artists have talent, but ultimately it is about the dialogue that the artwork creates between itself and the viewer. Another major consideration is the artist himself; his frame of mind and if he has the right mentality to become a serious artist that will constantly evolve and whether he has the mindset to succeed.
AT: How did you come into this profession?
NS: I was born into it.
AT: What was your first art purchase?
NS: My own first major purchase (i.e. not one from the family collection) was from a UK artist called Adam Neate.
AT: Could you give our readers tips on art collecting?
NS: The number one rule is to buy a piece of artwork not for investment, but because you are inexplicably drawn to it.
Compulsive purchasing isn’t a must either, take your time and do your research about an artist; see what exhibitions he has done, what he has coming up; which galleries represent him, etc. Don’t be shy to ask the gallery/ artist questions. If you don’t have a big budget, consider starting with limited edition prints or edition artworks.
AT: What's your favourite book, and why?
NS: The Alchemist is one of my favourite books. I read it quite a few years ago now, but at the time when I read it, it moved me deeply and shed some wisdom on life.
AT: If you could choose three artists whose work you enjoy, whether past or present, who would it be, and why?
NS: I would like to meet Francis Bacon, a personal obsession from when I was little girl. He was a self-taught artist whose works are so compelling and dark. Another would be Yang Yong Liang, a young and upcoming Chinese artist who I truly believe has immeasurable potential. Lastly, Adam Neate would be my final selection, he is a UK artist who is always pushing the envelope in “what is art”. Every single work of art he has ever created, I’ve wanted!
Schoeni Art Gallery: 21-31 Old Bailey Street, Central. Tel: (852) 2869 8802