Seoul-born, Hong Kong-based gallery owner, Rachel Lee, has always been passionate about art. She begins, “I was once an artist, but I gradually developed a passion for education and became a fine art educator.” Formal training in fine arts at the Hongkit University in South Korea opened doors for Rachel to learn from some of Korea’s greatest painters: Park Seo-bo and Choi Myoung. This would later lead to founding of her very own contemporary art gallery, SOLUNA FINE ART. The curator and visionary shares, “Our vision is to create a bridge between Asian contemporary art and global audiences.”
The opening of SOLUNA’s in 2018 was a milestone in realizing this vision. “Being based in an international city like Hong Kong has provided us with valuable relationships with our global audience.” It also inspired her to explore new ways to integrate holistic living through art. Rachel expounds, “As I continue to work and have a family of my own, I’ve become more interested in holistic living and knowledge. I love that working in a contemporary art gallery allows me to educate the public about holistic traditional values.”
- What keeps you busy these days?
As a working mom and wife who values family time, it can be a challenge to maintain relationships with artists, clients, institutions. Having a good work life balance is important. At the same time, I am focused on learning new things and personal growth.
- How did you come to find your current career or life’s work?
I was once an artist before, but I gradually developed a passion for education and became a fine art educator. As I continued to work and have a family of my own, I became more interested in holistic living and knowledge. Currently, I love that working in a contemporary art gallery allows me to continue to educate the public about holistic traditional values.
In 2004, my husband relocated for work in Hong Kong. This is one of the reasons why our gallery is based here. We admired the cultural diversity in Hong Kong and saw the potential for SOLUNA to grow here. We’ve travelled to many places but would always be drawn back to this city.
- What was your vision for opening a contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong?
As the founder and director of SOLUNA, the vision has always been to create a bridge between Asian contemporary art with a global audience.
- What aspects of Korean contemporary art do you wish to showcase in your space?
Koreans have a deep appreciation for art. During the modernization of the country in the 20th century, there have been many enthusiastic young artists who have integrated art with socio-political progress. Their agenda was to find their own voice. Many well trained Korean artists have been able to combine our rich historical and cultural background with Asian techniques. Their unique pieces appeal to both Asian and Western collectors.
- Kindly tell us a little about your current exhibition at SOLUNA.
The Attitude that Sustains our Worlds by Park Yoon-Kyung utilizes translucent surfaces to deviate from the convention of painting. This distinctive approach pays homage to Eastern traditional painting that utilizes lighter fabrics instead of the usual canvas.
Adaptation of Moon-ja-do, or traditional Korean painting, compels the viewer to read between the boundaries of image and text. It also showcases the visual transformation of Korean and Chinese language into new images that stimulate cultural ideas and aesthetic pleasures.
- What is it about your work or career that you enjoy most?
Working in the art gallery world provides us a great platform to exchange ideas with our artists, colleagues, friends and any art enthusiast. Like people, artworks also harness different kinds of energy and inspirations. It is fascinating to watch our viewers, artworks, and artists dialoguing and educating each other through their own contemporary and traditional ideas.
- What do you consider to be “hazards of the job?”
Just like any business, talent acquisition is the biggest challenge, and I believe that people are the real key to success. It took us a long time – and some luck – to form the team we have now. Because we’re a small team, it is important that everyone feels comfortable and has good chemistry so that they can communicate in an open and prompt manner.
- For women who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?
You need a lot of experience with people. Be a champion for your own gallery, artworks, and artists that you are representing. Clear communication is also important because the general public is not always too familiar with fine art.
- What are the career milestones that inspire you to break the glass or mould?
The biggest challenge, in Hong Kong particularly, was finding a suitable and sustainable space for SOLUNA. Our first [non-permanent] Hong Kong location was at Wong Chuk Hang. The search for our current space in Sheung Wan took about a year.
Although our gallery has deep roots in South Korea, being based in an international city like Hong Kong has provided us valuable relationships with our international audience who appreciate our traditional cultural values. We feel more connected to each other’s cultures.
Visit SOLUNA Fine Art from July 16 - August 28, 2021 at G/F, 52 Sai St, Sheung Wan.