Art Talk: Pushing Boundaries With Greg McNamara
“I want to show art you won’t see in galleries like those in Pedder Building. Cutting-edge. Daring. That’s the idea I’m going for.” Greg McNamara doesn’t waste time on pleasantries when we meet in Wong Chuk Hang on a sunny autumn afternoon. The Hong Kong-born, UK-educated art collector and entrepreneur is eager to get straight to the point. His directness is captivating, and it’s easy to see why he has developed a reputation as one of the most dynamic forces in the city’s new generation of young art professionals.
We’re walking around a light-filled space on the second floor of a gritty warehouse building. Large paintings, miniatures and sculptures of varied sizes—the works of contemporary artists such as Japan’s Nobuyoshi Araki & Hiroshi Sugimoto, and South Korea’s Jisan Ahn—accent the different rooms.
For the past two years, this has been the office from which Greg runs his independent consultancy and curatorial platform, McNamara Art Projects. Working with property developer Hongkong Land, the 28-year-old has brought large-scale, immersive exhibitions by artists such as British sculptor Lynn Chadwick and France’s Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne to the city’s public spaces, from Landmark Atrium to the Rotunda at Exchange Square and Jardine House, to engage the art world with wider audiences.
From this month, McNamara Art Projects is taking that engagement further, transforming their Wong Chuk Hang location into an exhibition focused project space—“a destination,” Greg says, “for anyone interested in contemporary creative practices that truly push boundaries.”
From the ambitious immersive art shows he has developed to the beguiling, at times unsettling artworks on the walls when I visit, it’s evident this is not just talk. His aim with McNamara Art Projects has always been to challenge the status quo. It’s only fitting that the project space will continue to do so.
“I’ve always been drawn to art that propels viewers a bit further in the way they think or see the world,” he says, “art that’s not easy to find in Hong Kong. And I have built close, solid relationships with many international galleries that might not get the exposure they deserve here. Opening an art space felt like a natural step.”
Over the next 12 months, McNamara Art Projects will bring shows from four independent galleries to Hong Kong, starting this month with works by US artist Dean Sameshima via Berlin-based Peres Projects. “Dean is a compelling artist whose paintings touch on repression, sexual freedom, death, and historical aspects surrounding the LGBTQ community,” he says. “They are haunting, defiant. I thought they would be perfect to set the tone of what I’d like to do.”
Galleria Lorcan O’Neill, one of the most renowned art names in Rome, will follow in March, during Art Basel, showcasing the works of Roman artist Gianni Politi, whose abstract paintings explore his widely varying capacities for emotional expression and the confrontation with his Italian heritage.
The shows are all different in content and media, with the only shared traits, according to the entrepreneur, being the unexpected and the avant-garde.
“I’m not interested in a white-walls gallery—you know, the typical sparse space with a sprinkling of art installed on expansive white walls, where you feel like you have to tiptoe around and whisper, and just end up standing still” he says. “I want to create a space where people can come and really be in the presence of the artworks for as long as they want, and have real conversations about it.”
Besides the exhibitions, McNamara Art Projects plans to host talks, lectures and events. Also in the pipeline is a residency programme for local and international artists. “I believe things will grow organically,” Greg says. “What most matters to me is to keep the purpose of the project space simple, but meaningful: giving Hong Kong art it actually wants and needs. It’s been a long time coming.”
Dean Sameshima’s work is at McNamara Art Project from November 3 until December 22. mcnartprojects.com