By Martina Conte

Shanyan was born in Hong Kong where she spent her youth and later moved to the Uk where she studied Law at the University of Cambridge. Her passion for art stemmed from her family of collectors, where she learnt and discovered day by day the art market and its different facets. Today Shanyan is a successful collector and art advisor and in parallel she pursues various projects within the art world. Crash had the pleasure of meeting her and exchanging an intimate conversation about art and her art life.

1)Your passion for art comes from your family who are art collectors themselves, but how did this career path of yours start? How did you learn about art, what kind of studies did you do l? 

My upbringing had everything to do with my love for fine art. My family fostered it, instilled my passion in fine art. I grew up breathing art. Our life revolved around a combination of fine art, ballet, opera and classical music. Whilst my father is predominantly known as a successful global entrepreneur and businessman, he studied Music as an undergraduate and is also a professional concert pianist by training. So we have always shared a passion in the arts together.  Even today, we speak almost daily about something that has struck us as interesting in the arts, be it fine art, or the performing arts, theatre, opera, dance, or music. I suppose it was only natural that I found my career in the art world.
Having grown up in a family of collectors, I suppose it was only natural for me to want to pursue a career in the art world. I took a few stepping stones along the way before finally arriving into the business of art. I graduated with a law degree from Cambridge University, and had the pleasure of working at both Goldman Sachs and Sotheby’s, spending time across New York, London and Hong Kong. Whilst completely different, both of these institutions provided fascinating and invaluable experiences for me. I learnt much about the finance and business worlds at Goldman Sachs, it was fast paced, intense and exciting. After several years, as I took a more prominent role in representing my family’s art collection, I decided to pursue my passion in fine art. I joined Sotheby’s on New Bond Street in Mayfair, London and stepped into the art world. Sotheby’s was an incredible experience as it allowed me to fully immerse in the exclusive world of auction houses. At the time, apart from my boss, Patti Wong, the Chairwoman of Asia, I was the only Chinese speaking employee in the company. So I had the pleasure of bidding for every telephone bidder from Asia who required translation, be it for a Mouton-Rothschild wine collection, to a Ron Arad design table, to paintings by Monet, Miro, Picasso, Warhol or Lichtenstein. I have very fond memories of all these experiences, all of which helped lay the foundation for my career in the business of art. Ultimately I set up my own private art advisory business, Shanyan Koder Fine Art. These experiences were also instrumental in the setup of my Chinese contemporary art business HUA, a platform celebrating a combination of my Chinese heritage and my passion for contemporary art.

2) Where are you based ? And where did you spend your childhood? 

I spent my childhood in Hong Kong, and I have very fond memories of this special city, and so much nostalgia when I think about my hometown. 

3) You are part of several recognized art associations and realities around the world, among which you are also the founder and director of HUA, a digital reality for Chinese Contemporary Art involved in special projects with museums, institutions, galleries and the trade. Could you explain more about what this unique project is about?

With pleasure. I founded HUA back in 2010, over a decade ago. As I mentioned I wanted a platform that celebrated both my passion in contemporary art and my Chinese heritage. HUA has since become a digital platform for Chinese Contemporary Art involved in special projects with museums, institutions, galleries and the trade. We have had some beautiful collaborative projects across some major museums in London and Europe, as well as galleries in Mayfair, London. We are in the process of adding a crypto – element to the platform as we speak, so watch this space. 

4) How do you see the evolution of the art market right now but especially in the years to come?

I am very fortunate to have witnessed the evolution of how people buy art in the art world over the years. The art world has certainly moved on and kept up with the development of technology and the digital age. It’s very exciting to see. When I first started as an art advisor, collectors were still very much relying on me requiring to see art work in the physical form to determine their interest. Over the years, I gradually started to sell art work to collectors on email. That was probably the first move away from them seeing art work in its physical form, to seeing artwork in digital form. Now I can sell artworks on WhatsApp, WeChat, and other social media platforms. Collectors are happy and comfortable to rely on viewing images on their devices a lot more now than ever before. I suppose it is only natural for artists and collectors to now move on to the Metaverse and the NFT world, as artists continue to create new forms of art with evolution of the Digital Age.
I’m delighted to have been asked to be the First Brand Ambassador for Artemis Market. It’s a very exciting new NFT social platform, in fact, it is the world’s first decentralised NFT mobile social platform. As the world continues to move towards crypto currency trading, NFTs is fast becoming an integral part of a new asset class for collectors. Moreover, NFT art is fresh, innovative, creative. I am excited to see what else is to come.
NFTs have been around for a while, but it will be interesting to see if someone like me, with decades of experience in collecting and in dealing in classical, modern & contemporary art, can add some value to the new NFT world.  I created the NFTs and agreed to partner with Artemis Market as their Brand Ambassador partly to satisfy my creative desire to create something for the Metaverse ( because how exciting is that ! ) and partly to see if I can also help influence more people in the established art world to further open their minds and enter the Metaverse as well. 

5) Favourite art galleries ?

Well since I am on the board of Unit London I have to give it a mention. And I am so proud that the gallery will be celebrating its 10th anniversary later this month (September).  From day one, the gallery has embraced change and resisted conformity, being among the first to engage audiences through digital storytelling. Unit London was founded with the goal of creating a more open and inclusive art world – and these are values that the founders still firmly embody. The gallery’s programming is non-conventional and non-linear, while remaining cutting-edge, having worked with renowned artists including Helen Beard, Tyler Hobbs, Jason Boyd Kinsella, and Stacey Gillian Abe, as well as thought leaders including Hettie Judah, Ferren Gibson, and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

6)  Favorite art fairs ? 

I am excited to tell you about Eye of the Collector, London. I am on the Advisory Council of this refreshing, alternative art fair, which opened in 2021 and takes place annually at Two Temple Place London.  Founded by my dear friend Nazy Vassegh, this art fair is a carefully curated boutique art fair across all disciplines and all periods. Artnet described the fair « It couldn’t be better, the location, the combination of artworks, and it is attracting very good Collectors. »
Pad Art and Design has always a soft spot in my heart. It is a beautiful space, beautifully curated and presented. Intimate yet spacious. I love the relationship between fine art and design pieces, and this art fair speaks to me in particular. 

7) Did you go to the Venice Biennale last year? If yes, what did you think of this edition?

Yes, I enjoy attending the Venice Biennale every two years. As always, very interesting, very creative. Venice is a beautiful backdrop for contemporary artistic expression. It is one of my favourite things on my art calendar. 

8) What is the most exciting  city right now for contemporary art?

Paris . It is so good right now. The energy has been thriving since Covid, I love the new refreshing creative energy that the city is exhibiting. 

9) Which artists could you never give up in your private collection? Could you explain why? What is one of the most significant pieces for you personally in your collection? 

I have a deep spiritual and emotional connection with most of the artists in my family’s collection and my own collection.
When I was a child, my family collection started off purely in the Impressionist period – we collected works by Renoir, Pissarro, Monet, Degas. As a ballerina myself, I grew up particularly drawn to Degas as a painter and a sculptor. I particularly loved his pastel works on paper of ballet dancers. I also the raw elegance of his bronze sculptures.
We then moved on to collecting the Post-Impressionists and Modern masters – Chagall, Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso. As I became more prominent in representing the family collection we continued to move on through the art movements. We added the Surrealists – Dali, Magritte. We added some prominent Chinese modern masters, Chen Yifei, Sanyu. And now, we have moved further into collecting Contemporary Masters such as Warhol and Basquiat. I love how my family collection continues to evolve, it makes it always so interesting and dynamic. All of these artists have a special place in my heart.
It makes sense thinking about it now, that my own private collection, which is more a mixture of emerging and established contemporary artists, follows a more classical aesthetic . I collect across the art practices ranging from paintings, sculpture and installation, abstract and figurative, but each work I own carries a sense of the classical, a touch of romance. If you look at the art in my collection I think you would see elements of history, you will see hints of religious faith, you will see celebrations of the beauty of the human figure, the beauty of life , the beauty of death.
My favourite piece from my collection has to be my Damien Hirst Butterfly painting that hangs in my London residence. It is from his Kaleidescope Butterfly series, and is made entirely out of real butterfly wings. The wings are arranged in such a way that is reminiscent of a stained glass window in a cathedral or church. It is no surprise that it is titled Eden, given the biblical references of the composition and colours. It is an absolute delight to view the painting; the display of colours by the natural beauty of the butterfly wings is a celebration of Mother Nature and the beauty of natural science and natural history itself. Some of the butterfly wings, particularly those of the Papilio Ulysses, are irridescent and create a sense of luminescene across the entire work. I love how the painting is subtle yet powerful reminder of the beauty of life, and the beauty of death. Butterflies have a very short life, they are beautiful in life as in death. For me it is a constant reminder telling me to always cherish the present, to appreciate life, to live my life, not to take anything for granted. It teaches me also that even in death, things are beautiful, so whilst life is so short, one should accept and embrace death when it is our time.
I am very fortunate to have built some special friendships with many of the contemporary artists that I collect. To name but a few, Fredrikson Stallard (Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard) Philip Colbert, and his wife Charlotte Colbert, Massimo Agnostinelli, Zhuang Hong Yi, Jacky Tsai, Cydne Jasmin Colby 

10) Do you have mentors in the art world  ?

I will share three pieces of advice I learnt from the three most important figures in my art collecting life. My father always said to me. Don’t get carried away chasing a work of art. My husband always said to me. Buy what you love. My art teacher always said. Trust your instincts

Photographer Jacques Burga @jacquesburga
Stylist Róisín Breen @robohoe
Makeup Claverie Benoit @claveriebenoit
Hair Armanno Walter @armannowalter
Photo Assistant Fan @phan_vo

“Heart of Seduction” necklace – Laruicci
Mini dress with bow-appliques in black – Paskal
Stockings – Woolford
“Moon” bags in pink and black – Prada
“Bulla Sofia” shoes in black patent – Nodaleto

“Heart of Seduction” necklace – Laruicci
Mini dress with bow-appliques in black – Paskal
Stockings – Woolford

Angel wings corset – Fachionweak
Marbled denim skirt – Miu Miu
Stockings – Woolford
“LV Zoom” platform high boots in black – Louis Vuitton

“La Parisienne” necklace and tank top – Christian Dior
Croco blazer – Solene Lescouet

Pink washed bra and blue heart embossed denim skirt – Marrknull
“Maceo” over the knee boots in denim – Jimmy Choo
Off-white, khaki, burgundy and blue
“11.12” bag in tweed and metal – Chanel

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