The founder and director of Qing Gallery, one of the city’s latest cultural spaces, on how art makes life so much better.
Options: Congratulations on opening Qing Gallery in December last year. With your background in property development and interior design solutions, what prompted you to open an art gallery?
Patrick On: My interest in art led to my collecting initially. I’ve since learnt that art is the best teacher in life. It transforms and inspires and, ultimately, makes us want to share it with others. Opening a gallery made perfect sense. I had the contacts, the space for it and, honestly, nothing makes me happier than being able to share with others the joy art has given me. I had originally planned to open the gallery in Singapore but, once I found this location at Desa ParkCity, it proved to be the right place. It’s beautiful, surrounded by lakes and parks while the community here truly appreciates the finer things in life. Opening the art gallery is a nice complement to the area’s lifestyle.
Your inaugural show was quite the newsmaker, opening with Shanghai-born, London-based artist Jacky Tsai’s Forever is Now exhibition.
I was fortunate to have had Jacky fly in for the opening. It helped that he is a personal friend. Sotheby’s named him as one of the 10 contemporary Asian artists to watch and he is best known for fusing Western pop art elements with Chinese cultural references as well as for creating the floral skull for Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2008 menswear collection. It was not easy at first, as travel restrictions were still tough. In fact, Jacky had to first spend 14 days in Singapore before he could enter Malaysia. But he was the right choice, as so many people know him and his art is so visually arresting. It turned out to be a great show, with many collectors and fans thronging the gallery.
How did your own interest in art begin? Was there a definitive moment?
I’ve always liked art, but if there was a definitive moment, it would be when I purchased my first significant artwork. Not surprisingly, it was a 2018 Jacky Tsai work entitled Pleasures of Roaming. Buying the piece changed my point of view. It gave me direction and proved to be a real source of inspiration. And since then, I have made it my mission to share art’s power with others.
What’s next on the cards for Qing Gallery?
There are many artists I would like to work with, particularly Mandy El-Sayegh, but I am focused also on finding emerging young artists. We are also collaborating with Dr Jolly Koh for a special show in the third quarter of next year, which will include at least 10 new works. He is travelling in Italy right now but is raring to get back to his studio and begin creating. It is my intention to celebrate him as one of our country’s great talents.
What books would you recommend people read to hone their art knowledge?
Michael Findlay’s The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty and various books by Magnus Resch, including How to Become a Successful Artist and Management of Art Galleries.
Which destinations would you recommend the art lover visit, and why?
Switzerland and Miami for Art Basel. Hong Kong’s edition used to be so exciting but I think it will be a while before we can travel there. San Francisco for the FOG Design+Art fair and Los Angeles for Frieze week. Oh, and also Germany for Art Cologne, which is the oldest art fair in the world and a great gathering of collectors, galleries and art institutions alike.
What’s your 2022 travel list looking like?
I just got back from Penang last week. It is always nice to see the impact that art has had on George Town, particularly after Ernest Zacharevic’s street art murals. It shows the impact that art has on the community and tourism and we need to do more! The Penang International Container Art Festival is also a fun way to celebrate murals and I am in talks with them to see whether something similar could be done in KL. Next, I will head to New York City for the launch of Jacky Tsai’s show at the Richard Taittinger Gallery and, hopefully, to Shenzhen in July for another art show.
Describe a perfect weekend for you.
Spending time with people I like is a great way of relaxing. Having a glass of wine, listening to music. I love long walks and Desa ParkCity is the best place for it. I also have three pet poodles, so walking them is another form of relaxation — but only one dog at a time, of course. If I bring all three out at once, it is no longer relaxing!
This article first appeared on May 9, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.