If you had driven down Queen’s Road West during the better part of 2018 and reached the bend in the road delineating the neighbourhoods of Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun, you would most likely have been struck by a massive, minimalist mandala two storeys tall, composed of concentric blue rings and bounded by a humming purple field, standing in juxtaposition to the surrounding grey hodgepodge of ’60s-era tenement buildings.
Such was the artwork (titled La voltice spirituale) which 3812 Gallery used to announce its flagship exhibition of the year: leading post-war Taiwanese painter Hsiao Chin’s To An Infinite Ascendance. The interior of the gallery is no less colourful, with Hsiao’s brightly coloured, meditative compositions exuding an insistent vibrancy, feeding off the energy of the mustard yellow walls and brushed concrete of the exhibition space.
Upstairs, gallery co-founder Calvin Hui sits in stark contrast to the undeniably wild colour palette of the third floor collectors’ lounge – his dark wool jumper and subtly patterned dress shirt effectively forming a spot of calm amidst the room’s rich purple walls, patchwork sofa and jarring black-and-white offset floor tiling. “People always say that galleries are very intimidating spaces – very cold and white – but I think collecting art is part of a lifestyle, and as such, it should be very cultural and personal,” he explains. “The overarching vision here is to create a space that’s somewhat unconventional, that can deliver the art of living concept to our collectors.”
Founded in 2011 by Calvin and his partner in business and life, Mark Peaker, the gallery brands itself as aspiring to foster the discourse surrounding modern and contemporary Asian art, with a specific focus on ink art. While it began life in a 7,000sqft industrial loft in Wong Chuk Hang, Calvin had bigger plans for 3812 – namely, a street-facing location that could better promote their artists. They were realised in 2015 when, at a drinks gathering, his friend revealed that the Sai Ying Pun site that Calvin had so serendipitously been eyeing in fact belonged to his family. The rest is history.
True to his “art of living” concept, Calvin utilises the gallery’s various spaces to expand the scope of the buying experience. “When we have friends and guests coming over, we can come to the balcony to sit down and have a drink. And when we have an exhibition opening, we’ll use the ground floor to host a private dinner, to dine with the artist among his art.”
At the end of the day, Calvin describes 3812’s ethos as diametrically opposed to the characterless white-walled of the archetypal gallery. “I live with art, so I don’t want to make it too pretentious,” he says. “When you curate a space, it’s a chance to create conversations or to trigger the imagination, or to let the viewers to connect with and experience the art. That’s why I don’t necessarily follow what other people have been doing. I just want to do something different.”
3812 Gallery is located on 16/F, Wyndham Place, 40-44 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong.
Photography: Edgar Tapan