Director, Alisan Fine Arts
I’ve been working here since 1997. I was promoted to a director in 2005, and in 2011 I formally took over all operations. I am responsible for everything in the gallery, from deciding what exhibitions to run to which artists to promote to the installation of how the artwork looks. I curate the majority of the exhibitions in our gallery, which focuses on Chinese contemporary art.
When people think of a gallery, they only see the front, where it’s super glamorous. It looks like you’re just attending cocktail parties and having fun. But there’s a lot of toughing it out.
Pre-COVID, I traveled a lot more to meet with artists, which is my favorite part of the job—talking to artists about what they do and understanding their artwork. The majority of my artists are in mainland China, so I would be going to Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou to meet with them or with museum curators or directors or clients.
But there’s also a lot of back-office stuff on a daily basis, and I think people don’t realize that. When people think of a gallery, they only see the front, where it’s super glamorous. It looks like you’re just attending cocktail parties and having fun. But there’s a lot of toughing it out. Sometimes we have to suddenly change an installation, and my staff and I have to actually install the artwork, to get on our hands and knees and work. I also do a lot of research, reading about artists and movements or periods of art.
It’s a strange job because to do it well, on one hand, you need to be a bit introverted and scholarly to be able to curate or come up with good ideas and exhibitions. But on the other hand, you need to be outward-looking and comfortable meeting with people and talking about the art, and selling the artwork to clients.
The gallery celebrated our 35th anniversary six years ago, and I published a big book with every single exhibition we’ve done. I highlighted the works of 35 artists who were significant to our history. It all culminated in this 10-day exhibition at the central public library in Hong Kong. The artists came, and to have everybody regroup and celebrate this big occasion was really gratifying.
The gallery was founded by my mother, who is also a Penn alumna. So I always had that … I don’t want to call it a chip on the shoulder, but something to prove. But through that experience, I felt like, “OK, I’ve made it,” and I felt like people respected me and I didn’t have to keep proving myself anymore.– June 27, 2022 • Photo by Brooke Sietinsons