Mee-Seen Loong has joined the Beijing-based contemporary art gallery INK studio as Director focused on major client sales, institutional partnerships, and artist relations. Having passionately supported the development of the Chinese contemporary ink art field for more than three decades, most recently as a Vice Chairman at Sotheby’s, Ms. Loong is perhaps the single person most closely identified with the genesis and development of this market. She brings her uniquely rich relationships and experience to INK studio, widely regarded as the most influential gallery specializing in Chinese contemporary ink art. She joins the three co-founders: Craig Yee, Chris Reynolds and Artistic Director Britta Erickson as the fourth member of INK studio’s executive team.
Contemporary Ink Is Booming in China and Gaining Traction Abroad
Ms. Loong’s move comes amidst a long-term structural shift in interest towards contemporary Chinese ink art. Ink art—including calligraphy, brush painting, and printing in its various forms—has been for the past two millennia the primary medium and language of literary-artistic refinement, moral self-cultivation, and aesthetic-cultural discourse within China and East Asia. The contemporary ink field explores how this essential cultural practice can be transformed for today’s global world.
Within China, contemporary Chinese ink art auctions have expanded by almost six times in the past ten years. Chinese museums have in the past year programmed three times as many group and solo exhibitions dedicated to the field than five years ago. Art fairs also are increasingly including ink art as part of their contemporary art offerings, and entire new art fairs are devoted to the field, most recently Art West Lake that debuted in Hangzhou in May 2018 with 80 galleries.
Outside of China, the field has also gained momentum among museums and galleries. It falls squarely within two major current trends: the curatorial focus on “alternate,” “non-Western” modernities, and the recent exploration of regionally-focused contemporary art programming by encyclopedic institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Some international galleries and museums have begun developing programs dedicated to contemporary ink. LACMA in March 2018 announced the donation of more than 400 works of art – primarily contemporary Chinese ink – from the collection of Gérard and Dora Cognié. They now form the core of the museum’s contemporary Chinese art holdings.LACMA Director Michael Govansaid at the time, “This promised gift is a game-changer for LACMA... LACMA is now a leader in the field.” In the past several years, contemporary Chinese ink has been the subject of major survey exhibitions by institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum, Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center, Harvard University Art Museum, M+Hong Kong, University of NSW Galleries (Sydney), the Queensland Art Museum (Brisbane) and Asia Society (New York). Leading global contemporary galleries including Gagosian, Marlborough, Paul Kasmin, and Sean Kelly have also recognized the importance of the field by adding contemporary Chinese ink artists to their programs. Furthermore, internationally-recognized contemporary Chinese artists such as Xu Bing and Zeng Fanzhi are now integrating ink into their artistic practices.
Ms. Loong joins INK studio from Sotheby’s, where she worked for over 40 years both in Hong Kong where she was a Managing Director in the 1990’s and in New York, where she has been based since 2001. More recently as Vice Chairman she founded the Contemporary Chinese Ink department, initiating successful selling exhibitions and regular dedicated auctions. David Pong, an influential collector based in Hong Kong, observed,
“Mee-Seen has devoted years to developing contemporary ink art with great success. INK studio is the ideal platform for Mee-Seen in her continuous pursuit of this passion.”
As a specialist in Chinese works of art, Ms. Loong has worked on some of the most significant collections of Chinese art to come up for auction, including those of the J.T. Tai Foundation, T.Y. Chao I and II, Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, the Estate of Mr. Laurance S. Rockefeller, the Arthur Sackler Collections and the Meiyintang Collection. Ms. Loong will continue to consult at Sotheby’s in the areas of Chinese works of art and paintings.
In the field of contemporary art, Ms. Loong has curated exhibitions and auctions for leading Chinese ink artists including Liu Dan, Li Huayi, Li Jin, Xu Bing, Zheng Chongbin, Xu Lei, Zhu Wei, Liu Guosong, Wucius Wong, Zeng Xiaojun, Hao Liang, Wang Tiande, Peng Kanglong—and for leading Chinese contemporary artists including Cai Guoqiang, Zeng Fangzhi, Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaodong. Artist Liu Dan commented,
“Her loyalty to friends and her devotion to artists have been a source of inspiration and tremendous support over the years. I feel very fortunate to be in her company.”
She has helped organize institutional projects for Chinese ink artists at museums including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, British Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, Minneapolis Art Institute, Musée Guimet, NationalMuseum of China, and the Suzhou Museum. Philip Tinari, Director of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, observed,
“Mee-Seen Loong is a pioneering, legendary figure in the world of Chinese art. She has generously mentored generations of newcomers to the field, both professionals and amateurs, sharing her knowledge and passion in ways that have changed lives and built careers. Over the past decade, her engagement with the emerging field of contemporary ink has done much to bring it to the center of the global art conversation.”
New Executive Team
Over the past thirty years, Britta Erickson, as scholar and curator, and Mee-Seen Loong, as promoter and market maker, have been two of the most influential and positive forces in the development of the contemporary ink field. Along with co-founders Craig Yee and Chris Reynolds, co-founders of the first international art fund management company focused on Chinese ink art, INK studio has assembled an unparalleled executive team to support the development of contemporary ink art both within China and abroad. Ms. Loong said,
“INK studio now sits at the forefront of the new ink field, just as the movement is becoming recognized globally. Due to their intense focus on scholarship, INK studio has considerable influence over both the critical and commercial development of the field. In joining their platform I am following my interest in working with living artists. I am exhilarated to be part of this innovative and thoughtful team.”
Ms. Loong’s marriage of deal-making and business acumen with deep academic grounding is a natural fit with the other three Directors. Ms. Loong earned her Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Wellesley College and her Master’s degree in Far Eastern Art from Columbia University. Dr. Erickson received her Bachelor’s and Ph.D. in Art History, and Master’s in East Asia Studies all from Stanford University. Craig Yee also graduated from Stanford University, earning Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Symbolic Systems, and was Ford Scholar (valedictorian) of his subsequent M.B.A. program. Chris Reynolds was an Economics major and Parker Huang Fellow at Yale University and received an M.B.A. from Stanford University.
INK studio Directors (from left to right): Craig Yee, Britta Erickson, Chris Reynolds, Mee-Seen Loong
Chris Reynoldsunderscored that Ms. Loong dramatically expands INK studio’s capabilities,
“Up until now, INK studio has been a curation-driven, primary-market gallery. With Mee-Seen’s decades of experience heading up Sotheby’s dedicated contemporary ink art auction sales, she immediately expands what we can accomplish for our artists, working with international collectors and institutions not only in the primary market but now in the secondary market.”
Mee-Seen’s addition expands and complements the roster of artists that INK studio can now support. Britta Erickson, whose curatorial vision has guided INK studio since its founding, has focused on what some observers call “experimental” ink art including such artists as Li Huasheng, Wang Dongling, Yang Jiechang, Li Jin, Zheng Chongbin, Bingyi and, most recently, the international conceptual and language artist Xu Bing. Ms. Loong, in contrast, has focused on what some call “new literati” ink artists such as Hao Liang, Li Huayi, Liu Dan, Master of the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat, Peng Wei, Xu Lei, Zeng Xiaojun, Yu Peng. Furthermore, given its strengths in art-historically-grounded research and scholarship, INK studio’s program has focused primarily on mid-and late-career artists. Over the past thirty years, in contrast, Ms. Loong has developed an enviable track record selecting and cultivating young talent. INK studio Artist DirectorBritta Ericksonobserved,
“Mee-Seen’s vision for contemporary Chinese art programming resonates with and complements my own: we focus on the very best art that sits at the dynamic intersection of tradition-informed ink, and global contemporary art creation.”
INK studio Program DirectorCraig Yeeadded,
“Both Britta’s and Mee-Seen’s programs have focused on partnering with artists long-term. Bringing the two programs together enables INK studio to become a comprehensive platform for contemporary ink as a field: a long-term, curatorially-centered collaborator for the established artist as well as a conceptually-open space to support the most brilliant and promising young artists.”