Claudia Cheng is full of (he)art and soul. The art advisor based between London and Hong Kong chats to Tatler about the importance of advocating for female artists

Growing up, Claudia Cheng was surrounded by creative people. As the daughter of Louisa Cheng, an oil painter and the recipient of Tatler’s 2002 Most Stylish award, it was almost inevitable that Cheng would also develop a love for fashion and the arts. “[It] started at a very young age. As children, my mother would bring me and my sister to museums. We would play a game of guessing who painted each work, and we’d get a point for every artist we guessed right. We could then exchange the points for gifts we wanted, such as CDs and DVDs.” There’s little surprise, then, that today she has such a discerning eye for art.

After studying at Stanford University, Cheng moved to New York to develop her knowledge of the art market and pursue a master’s degree in art, law and business from Christie’s Education. “I was exposed to the ecosystem of the art world from auction houses to art fairs. Learning about art every day was the most exhilarating feeling, and that’s when I was sure that I had to work in art,” she says. After graduating, she bagged an internship in the strategic partnerships department of Christie’s New York where she oversaw collaborations with brands like Chanel, Jimmy Choo and Bottega Veneta, a role she describes as “the perfect crossroads between art and fashion”.

Cheng’s Instagram is a treasure trove of international gallery, museum and art fair visits, all of which helped her build relationships with artists over the years. Her favourite moments include retrospectives of Georgia O’Keeffe at the Centre Pompidou and Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim Museum, as well as interviews with US artists Mary Corse and Maja Ruznic and Polish painter Paulina Olowska—not to mention her many hours spent in the private Parisian studio of painter Cecilia Granara. “We shared delicious Moroccan food, exchanged our thoughts on colour theories, metamorphoses and feminist readings, and we ended the day with a visit to Hans Hartung and Mark Rothko’s breathtaking exhibition at Galerie Perrotin,” Cheng recalls.

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Claudia ChengClaudia_2: Off White dress, pictured with painting by Bridget Riley
Above Claudia Cheng pictured with a painting by artist Bridget Riley (Photo: Supplied)

Cheng currently serves as a member of the Serpentine Galleries’ Future Contemporaries group, an association for young contemporary art lovers which supports artists through funding, but her passion lies in curating exhibitions focused on women, through which she hopes to bring female artists’ narratives to the forefront of the art scene. 

In June 2020, she curated Female Gaze for Badr El Jundi Gallery in Marbella, Spain. The group show, featuring Granara, Paola Angelini, Aileen Murphy and Lulama Wolf, encapsulated the multifaceted experience of being a woman.

“So much of art history has depended on the male gaze. I wanted to portray women through the female gaze in order to shift the archetype of femininity and deconstruct social expectations of women. One valuable lesson I learnt from my former boss [Lydia Fenet at Christie’s] is that every woman should own her voice and her power, and the more we support the women around us, the stronger we all become,” says Cheng.

The art world has a long history of prioritising men’s art above women’s. Citing figures from Artnet, Cheng acknowledges the lack of gender parity—work by female artists comprises less than four per cent of global art auction sales, and their artworks account for less than five per cent of major museums’ permanent collections—but she hopes to be a force for change.

Last year, Cheng moved to London to continue her art advisory and show curation. She is looking forward to launching a group show showcasing art from female artists from diverse backgrounds for Gillian Jason Gallery in London this May, which she says will be the first of many that put marginalised creators in the spotlight.

“The show will celebrate the identities and mixed heritages of an incredible group of artists that I feel honoured to work with,” Cheng says. “It would be a privilege to curate many more shows that highlight women, and I hope that, step by step, we can work towards creating a more balanced and equitable art market.”

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