A new Hong Kong gallery is a space for ‘conversation and new perspectives’

A new Hong Kong gallery is a space for ‘conversation and new perspectives’

Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin and his son inaugurate their new gallery with work by late Chinese-French artist Zao Wou-Ki

A new gallery in Hong Kong marks a welcome shift in the contemporary display aesthetic and style from the usual minimalist white box and austere industrial loft to an elegant, intimate, French maison with dark timber floors, classic moulded wall panels and a sleek central staircase linking 2,000 sq ft over three floors. 

The founders, Dominique de Villepin – the art collector, writer and diplomat who served as French Prime Minister from 2005 to 2007 – and his son Arthur, who has lived in Hong Kong for over a decade, collaborated with local interior designer Louis Chon to create a bright, clean, and modern yet unpretentious space, intended to provide a personal experience for fellow collectors. ‘It was important to us that we did something that feels true and authentic to our family,’ says Arthur.

Arthur and Dominique de Villepin, 2020. Photography by Sophie Palmier, courtesy of Villepin

The inaugural exhibition is equally personal, presenting a collection by the late Chinese-French artist Zao Wou-Ki’s of paintings, Chinese inks, lithographs and dramatic, colourful watercolours. The painter, who was born in Beijing, moved to Paris in 1965 and the exhibition shows works produced from the late 1940s to the early 2000s arranged to highlight his wide range of influences from early figurative works to later abstract pieces. There are several rare paintings and drawings, among them Zao Wou-Ki’s only self-portrait that Dominique serendipitously discovered on the back of another work while reframing it.

Installation view, ‘Friendship and Reconciliation: Zao Wou-Ki’. Photography: Winnie Yeung @ Visual Voices. Courtesy of Villepin. Artworks (from left to right): Zao Wou-Ki, Sans Titre, 1950, Sans Titre, 1950, Sans Titre, 2006, Sans Titre, 2002, Sans Titre, 1986 

There is also a collection of personal photographs of the de Villepin family with Zao Wou-Ki, who was a close family friend, some intriguing African masks bought by Dominique, and vintage furnishings, including a striking sideboard cabinet by Charlotte Perriand and a sinuous 1950’s Italian sofa.

Zao Wou-Ki, ST aqua (2007-11) Gaudigny, 2007. Watercolour on paper, 66 x 102 cm Copyright Zao Wou-Ki Courtesy of Villepin

The title of the exhibition – ‘Friendship & Reconciliation’ – reflects the artist’s two lives and cultures as well as his signature blend of Western and Eastern techniques. Now is undoubtedly a challenging time to be opening a gallery, but both father and son agree that the message of friendship and reconciliation has never been more relevant. ‘We want the gallery to be a place for conversation and new perspectives.’ §

Installation view, ‘Friendship and Reconciliation: Zao Wou-Ki’. Photography: Winnie Yeung @ Visual Voices Courtesy of Villepin. Artworks (from left to right): Zao Wou-Ki, 07.05.2002, 2002, Hommage à Renè Char – 10.01.73-05.04.73, 1973, 10.05.62, 1962

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