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What I Buy and Why: Beijing Collector Amber Yifei Wang on Why She Loves '90s Artists and the Tang Dynasty Scroll She Covets Most

What I Buy and Why: Beijing Collector Amber Yifei Wang on Why She Loves ’90s Artists and the Tang Dynasty Scroll She Covets Most

What was your most recent purchase?

I recently purchased  by artist Zhang Hui from his solo exhibition “Chinese Eastern Railway: Zhang Hui” at Long March Space in Beijing at the end of 2020. Zhang Hui is an idealist and an artist with rich intellectual integrity. The piece is an incomplete portrait of Li Hsiang-Ian (also known as Yoshiko Yamaguchi), a Japanese actress and singer born in the northeast of China and whose divided identity and vagrant life experiences stand for the epitome of an era in the northeast land. She is a significant symbol across the Eastern Railway and was a repeated visual image within Zhang’s solo exhibition. The split face of Li, intercepted and isolated, demonstrates Zhang’s unique interpretation of colonialism and colonization, as well his personal emotion and understanding towards the Eastern Railway and the overall northeast region.

I have been following Zhang ever since his solo exhibition “Groundless” at Long March Space in 2012, and I understand the self-struggle and the discomfort inherent in his artistic practice. It would be easy for viewers to doubt Zhang’s aesthetic for its relative simplicity, yet his work is a fascinating entry point for people to discover painting. This stems from Zhang’s impressive self-discipline and conscientiousness, never attempting to cater to the audience’s general taste. Thus, it is oftentimes his works that have been labelled as too obscure that have fascinated me the most.

Tang Yongxiang 唐永祥,四个花盆和一些线 <i>Four Flowerpots and a Few Lines</i> (2011-2012). Courtesy Amber Yifei Wang.” width=”768″ height=”1024″ srcset=” 768w,×300.jpeg 225w,×50.jpeg 38w, 1080w” sizes=”(max-width: 768px) 100vw, 768px”/></p>
<p class=Tang Yongxiang 唐永祥,四个花盆和一些线 Four Flowerpots and a Few Lines (2011-2012). Courtesy Amber Yifei Wang.

Which works or artists are you hoping to add to your collection this year?

Working as the director of Gallery Weekend Beijing for the past five years, I have had a chance to discover some of the most up-and-coming and exciting young artists. Work created by emerging artists from the 1990s has really come to surprise me. Artists of this generation are daring, critical, and approach media and technology in new and interesting ways. For this reason, it really has been a mission of mine to provide a platform for these younger generations of artists and showcase the strength of Beijing’s emerging art scene on a global stage.

Where do you buy art most frequently?

With more than 30 participants in Gallery Weekend Beijing, including several leading commercial galleries and non-profit institutions, I am never at a loss for sourcing excellent art. These organizations bring leading artists and present the best exhibitions at our event each year. I usually follow the trends of these galleries and support them by making regular purchases. For those artists who are not represented by galleries, I also sometimes make purchases directly from their studios.

Installation shot of Zang Kunkun's latest artwork over the sofa. Courtesy Amber Yifei Wang.

Installation shot of Zang Kunkun’s latest artwork over the sofa. Courtesy Amber Yifei Wang.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

I only regret hesitating and not purchasing certain works!

What work do you have hanging above your sofa? What about in your bathroom?

I reserve the spot above my sofa to the latest work of my husband, Zang Kunkun, who is also an artist. The famous black-and-white photograph by Japanese artist Daidō Moriyama is hanging in my bathroom.

Stray Dog by Daido Moriyama. Courtesy Amber Yifei Wang.

Stray Dog by Daido Moriyama. Courtesy Amber Yifei Wang.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

I don’t usually consider “impracticability” as a feature when evaluating artworks, thus I don’t think I own any works that are impractical.

What work do you wish you had bought when you had the chance?

Work by the contemporary Chinese painter Shang Yang who has been seriously underestimated in the art world in my opinion. I respect him very much for both his artistic creation and virtuous character.

If you could steal one work of art without getting caught, what would it be?

[八十七神仙卷] by Wu Daozi [吴道子] from the Tang Dynasty.


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