Find out how one woman turned her home decorating problem into a thriving online and offline gallery supporting Hong Kong’s local photography scene.
Three years ago, Dutch-born Madelon de Grave landed in Hong Kong from South America. Faced with the task of decorating her new apartment, she searched for affordable, beautiful art to decorate her new home – and found what was on offer was severely lacking. Working at The Hive Studios in Hong Kong’s Kennedy Town, she was exposed to her new city’s photography scene, and, from there, the roots of an idea formed. “I felt there were all these amazing artists, and I knew from my own experience that I wanted something nice to hang on my walls. People tell you to go to galleries, however, despite being beautiful, they are not always within your budget. So, you end up at IKEA. I thought to myself, this sucks! I have this really uninspiring cactus from San Diego hanging on my wall that I don’t care about! I had seen all these artists with really cool work, so why couldn’t I create a platform that not only represented the local art scene but was also financially accessible to everyone?”
And so, in 2017, Bamboo Scenes was launched. Working with a band of around 20 Hong Kong artists, the website offers a range of photographic prints, each available in three sizes and with three different framing options. Keenly priced (unframed prints start at HK$1,400,) and with a quick, 12-day turnaround thanks to local printing and framing, it offers a great solution to those who want to support their local art scene and buy affordable art that reflects the city they live in. “Every photo focuses on something different from the last,” explains Madelon. “I really wanted to try and find artists that not only had intriguing stories to tell but also their own unique way of showcasing the city they live in. They don’t necessarily showcase the Hong Kong you may see on postcards as they do it in a more artistic way. It can be the little things about living in Hong Kong that you will recognize, and that creates a certain kind of feeling. It’s about creating something more than just a cool picture.” Adding to the feelgood factor, 10% of all sales are donated to local charities.
Having held a series of pop up exhibitions, Madelon has just opened her first permanent gallery space in Sai Ying Pun with an inaugural exhibition, Hong Kong Perspectives. Housed in an old printing house, it’s an industrial space that works perfectly for her informal approach. As she puts it, “It’s a space that breathes this whole feeling that we want to create.” Determined to keep it as accessible as possible, the entire collection is printed on to A4 paper and put into wine boxes, enabling her visitors to flip through them like vinyl records.
“We created an exhibition similar to that of a record or bookstore,” she explains. “Let’s say you go into one of these shops by yourself and spend twenty minutes just looking through, experiencing and discovering new music or stories. This is the kind of feeling I want to create in my exhibitions. So, it’s not what someone may call ‘an ordinary gallery’, it’s a space where you can simply experience the pieces.” Launched last week with a neighbourhood block party in collaboration with local restaurants Black Salt and Locofama, “It was a really great opportunity for people to meet Hong Kong’s creative scene and just celebrate the fact that Hong Kong can have rich, cultural moments like this as well,” she says of the event.
Now permanently situated in Hong Kong, Madelon wants to expand Bamboo Concepts to where her life began back in Holland, helping Dutch artists exhibit their work in Hong Kong and taking her stable of Asian artists to Amsterdam. “I hope to provide the local artistic scene with a passport, enabling them to cross borders and showcase photographers and their work. Eventually, I hope to have galleries plotted on the world map, particularly in big, metropolitan cities around Asia. I want to retain the core idea that, wherever you are, you can get meaningful, local art for a good price.” With a proven concept under her belt, it’s an idea well worth transporting.