Mandy d'Abo: The Cat's Meow - Art Collector

Issue 64, April - June 2013

Mandy d’Abo could see the potential for a new addition to the Hong Kong art scene, so in 2006 she opened The Cat Street Gallery with a focus on bringing Australian art to the city. Helen McKenzie speaks to her about the venture.

Martin Beaver and Susie Beaver with Poise, a glasswork by Benjamin Edols and Kathy Elliott, in the background. Photograph by Vikky Wilkes

In 2006 Mandy d’Abo established The Cat Street Gallery in Hong Kong to champion what she describes as the extraordinary art coming out of Australia.

Why do you say you feel like a kid in a candy store?

Mandy d'Abo: I don’t think I ever dreamt the gallery would grow as big as it has in six years. Having gone from just me to a team of nine with three venues to run - it makes my head spin if I think about it too much! We have just opened our Cat Street Gallery Aberdeen Annex, which is now the nerve centre for the gallery; 3,000 square feet, floor to ceiling with art.

You no longer just feature works by Australian artists, but also present work by emerging local artists and have created an events venue. What has brought on this expansion?

MA: Events are a way of getting people who might normally be intimidated by an art gallery to come in and have fun without any pressure to do art chat. It opens a dialogue with that person, some might hate the art and totally ignore it, but most people will find something they either like, or find provocative. People usually come back either as friends or collectors.

Can you describe the Hong Kong art market? How is it unique?

MA: The Hong Kong art market has changed so much over the last few years. There has been an extraor- dinary influx of international blue-chip galleries like Gagosian Gallery and White Cube, plus the impact of the art fairs. Those top tier galleries are selling to mainland Chinese and Taiwanese collectors. Western art is viewed in the mainland largely as a commodity. Our clients are generally expats based in Hong Kong and increasingly some local collectors too. On the whole people tend to be rather patriotic buyers of art. It makes sense that you feel an affinity with works by an artist who shares a common background.

Contemporary Chinese art has been internationally hot for over a decade – what does your crystal ball predict for the future?

MA: Chinese contemporary art has indeed been hot but I think that it is already starting to flail. There are a few Chinese artists who are now and will remain important figures in the contemporary art world but there does seem to be a bit of fatigue in the market from five years ago when it was all rather new and exciting. Just the same I will watch with great excitement the new generation of contem- porary artists making their mark. One thing that won’t change is China’s rich history of collecting antiques and ceramics.

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