What I Buy and Why: Art Fair Founder Kylie Ying Mingles Works by Chinese Stars and Emerging Artists at Home in Shanghai


Art collector and patron Kylie Ying is a tireless champion of Chinese art. With her husband, David Chau, in 2013 she co-founded ART021, a slick contemporary art fair that has grown into a must-see art event, bringing top galleries, artists, and institutions from around the world to Shanghai each year. She also co-founded the JINGART fair, held in Beijing each May, and DnA SHENZHEN.

Ying further consults with Chinese curators, institutions, and brands to generate corporate sponsorships and media coverage to support emerging artists, such as her Young Artist of the Year campaign, which began in 2017.

Simultaneously, Ying is building a sizable personal collection that she describes as “rich in diversity.” While it includes numerous works by breakout Chinese stars like Zhang Enli and Huang Yuxing, she’s just as focused on rising talents. Works by Cui JieDing Yi, and Cong Cong dot her Shanghai home, rounding out an impressive array of international names that includes Carol Bove and Jordan Wolfson.

Select pieces from her collection have been loaned to major international art institutions, like the New Museum in New York and the Venice Biennale. In 2015, Ying donated an installation piece by Chinese artist Xu Zhen to the Centre Pompidou.

Having previously curated a Contemporary Asian art sale for Artnet, here Ying gives us a tour of her personal collection.

Zhang Enli, <em>The History</em> (2012). Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

Zhang Enli, (2012). Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

What was your first purchase?

My first purchase was a painting titled by Zhang Enli. I think I paid about a million yuan for it. I was at his studio in Shanghai that day and saw quite a lot of his works, but I was particularly intrigued by at first sight.

What was your most recent purchase?

An installation work by Jordan Wolfson. His unique ability to tackle significant social, political, and cultural issues in daring and innovative ways makes him stand out as one of the most remarkable artists of the new generation. My memory of Wolfson’s debut at David Zwirner New York in 2016 is still incredibly fresh. The installation completely immersed viewers in an enchanting experience featuring a playful and boyish sculpture.

Firenze Lai, <em>Security System</em> (2013). Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

Firenze Lai, (2013). Oil on canvas. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

Tell us about a favorite work in your collection.

It’s really hard to say. Each work in my collection has a story of its own. Most of my collection is by female artists. Firenze Lai, who was born in the 1980s, is one of them. I saw at an art fair and fell for it at first sight. Carol Bove’s (2019) and Issy Wood’s are also my favorites.

Carol Bove, <em>La Luce</em> (2019). Stainless steel and urethane paint. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

Carol Bove, (2019). Stainless steel and urethane paint. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

lssy Wood, <em>Untitled (What I Want)</em> (2020). Oil on linen. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

lssy Wood, (2020). Oil on linen. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

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

Rachel Rose is an artist I’ve been following closely lately. Her work is brimming with a sense of fantasy and shows multifaceted possibilities of artistic exploration. Cecily Brown and Gerhard Richter are also on my wishlist.

What is the most valuable work of art that you own?

To be honest, I don’t know for sure, as prices of artworks change all the time!

Where do you buy art most frequently?

Before 2020 I often visited artists’ studios and art fairs all around the world. Sometimes I went to galleries to choose and acquire works. I prefer face-to-face communication. But during the past three years I began to seek good art online.

Is there a work you regret purchasing?

I have no regrets about the works I’ve acquired. Each collection decision is made out of determination and is meaningful.

Cui Jie, <em>Glass Curtain Wall Building</em> (2014). Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

Cui Jie, (2014). Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

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

I usually change the display of works according to mood and season. For instance, previously I hung above my sofa an oil painting by Cui Jie, (2014). The streetscape full of buildings and towering glass curtains in the painting seemed to form an intriguing dialogue with the former French concession where I live.

Mehdi Ghadyanloo’s utopian playground work and Kylie’s cat. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

Mehdi Ghadyanloo’s utopian playground work and Kylie’s cat. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

I also hung a work by artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo. I love his “Slides” series very much. He presented a “utopian playground” on canvas. In a sense, the artist managed to imbue new verve into the subject.

For the bathroom, I put Javier Calleja’s cat there. Everyday is full of childish fun!

Javier Calleja's cat with Kylie Ying's cats. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

Javier Calleja’s small-scale cat sculpture with Kylie Ying’s cats. Courtesy of Kylie Ying.

What is the most impractical work of art you own?

I don’t think art could be defined by being impractical or practical.

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

If I could go back to the past, I would have bought works by Yoshitomo Nara. About 10 years ago, I came across a large installation piece by Nara in Los Angeles. However, I didn’t collect it because of its oversized dimensions, which was regrettable. Later, I heard that the artwork had been acquired by a museum. I’m happy to see that this piece finally found where it belongs.

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

The Mona Lisa.


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