Cover Shivang Jhunjhnuwala is disrupting the art scene in Hong Kong (Photo: Affa Chan)

Founder Shivang Jhunjhnuwala tells us more

Amid a sea of big-name art institutions in Hong Kong, one small, grassroots gallery is punching above its weight and doing things differently. Since late 2020, Young Soy Gallery, whose name loosely translates from Cantonese as “Ugly Gallery”, has disrupted the local scene with its inclusive exhibition formats and unpretentious founding principles. In its founders’ minds, art should be accessible to everybody, regardless of their social standing.

After noticing talented artists weren’t getting the exposure that he felt they deserved, founder Shivang Jhunjhnuwala, 27, teamed up with business partner Alexander Glavatsky-Yeadon, 26, to promote underrepresented local talent to the public, especially those who might feel alienated by traditional galleries due to a lack of exposure to the art world.

 

The pair grew up down the street from each other in Pok Fu Lam, yet only met through mutual friends in California in 2017 while Jhnujhnuwala was studying at the University of Southern California and Glavatsky-Yeadon, a freestyle skier, was training for the following year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea, where he competed for Great Britain.

They clicked instantly over their shared interest in art, music and culture, and a desire to shake things up. “Our frustration [with the industry] does not stem from what already exists in the art world, but rather what is missing in it. Our intention is to fill that void,” Jhunjhnuwala says.

“Our mission is simple: we want to cultivate and celebrate a range of cultural influences. We envision Young Soy to be a gallery that can facilitate the growth of radical artists, while making sure we do it in an amusing way where everyone feels welcome.”

In March 2020, the team gained attention by promoting [art show] FArt Basil, a playful take on Art Basel, as a way to promote art after the annual symposium’s cancellation due to Covid-19. Ironically, the pandemic thwarted Young Soy’s plans, too, and its alternative show was cancelled. Nevertheless, the concept cemented the pair’s brand identity, gave them a reputation as exciting art outliers, and got people talking.

As well as online exhibitions and videos released through their production company, Young Soy Production House, which helped the company keep growing during the pandemic, Jhunjhnuwala and Glavatsky-Yeadon curated Young Soy’s first in-person show, The Bridge To Triumph, in collaboration with lifestyle brand Goods of Desire (GOD) in December 2020 at PMQ. Since then, the gallery has worked with 20 artists, including mixed-media artist Tyler Jackson Pritchard, oil painter Ling Muki and street artist Obsrvr, and last year took part in the Moon Art Fair in Hamburg, the LA Art Fair in Los Angeles, and the Affordable Art Fair in Hong Kong.

In that spirit, its Hong Kong events are run like parties, with DJs and free-flow drinks, and are the place to be seen for the city’s cool kids. With locations ranging from speakeasies like The Wilshire in Kennedy Town to tattoo parlours in Wan Chai, Young Soy shows are designed to be relaxed and unintimidating, and the venue is matched with the art on show.

“We try to find locations that bring the artwork to life,” Jhunjhnuwala says. “We also like finding venues where the venue owner is excited by what we are doing and is willing to help us push the envelope in some way.”

As well as moving their office from Ap Lei Chau to a new location in Central, this spring will also see the pair revamp their podcast, Insincerity, which will continue to feature some of Hong Kong’s most interesting characters in arts and culture; so far they’ve included GOD founder Douglas Young, drag queen Bauhinia and up-and-coming artist Riya Chandiramani.

In May, Young Soy will showcase artist and filmmaker Patrik Wallner, a photographer who skates across the world, at Kong Art Space in Central, with 30 per cent of sales donated to NGOs that build skateparks and provide skateboarding lessons to disadvantaged communities. The gallery aims to showcase at the Affordable Art Fair in May as well, another step on the road to its founders’ goal of bringing Hong Kong art to a wider range of buyers.

“Hong Kong is one of the most dynamic and creative cities in the world, but we’ve yet to be recognised for it on a global scale,” Jhunjhnuwala says. “We can’t wait to see what role Young Soy will play in making that happen.”

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