The New Online Platform London Asian Contemporary Art Aims to Demystify and Challenge ‘the Art-World Machinery’

Founder Virginia Sykes-Wright says the platform will be an online space for disrupting the art market.

Ren Zhong, Pine, Bamboo, and Plum Series—Plum (2018). Courtesy of Chelsea Art Co Ltd.
Ren Zhong, Pine, Bamboo, and Plum Series—Plum (2018). Courtesy of Chelsea Art Co Ltd.

Through the rollercoaster ride of the past few months, galleries have been hanging on with white knuckles, while simultaneously trying to peek and see what’s around the bend. One of the major question marks has been whether or not—or even how—to participate in virtual fairs. For emerging and mid-level galleries who might not be guaranteed the viewership IRL foot traffic ensures, the cost-to-benefit balance can be especially tricky.  

Longtime London dealer, event coordinator, and collector Virginia Sykes-Wright decided it was time to offer another model. This year she founded London Asian Contemporary Art (LACA), an ongoing and rotating online platform for Asian and African contemporary art exhibitions in one place—and not just for a long weekend (galleries can apply to join on their website).  

Lo Ch’ing, Crossing the Bar of the Soul (2017). Courtesy of Michael Goedhuis.

Lo Ch’ing, Crossing the Bar of the Soul (2017). Courtesy of Michael Goedhuis.

“There was a rising voice from galleries and artists, asking me to do something to address their growing concerns and frustrations about the complexities that come with joining large art organizations—the incumbent costs often prohibited galleries, with talented emerging artists, from joining,” she said. “This was especially the case if you were not lucky enough to be part of the machinery that so often engineers the contemporary art market!” 

Sykes-Wright was familiar with many of these galleries’ concerns firsthand, having run an advisory in Mayfair for years that focused on emerging artists. “There were needs for advice on the business aspect of the art world, as well as an honest discussion on their potential,” she said. (It was in this position that Sykes-Wright honed her knowledge of contemporary Asian art, after being asked to assemble a private collection devoted to the field. She included Yan Lei, Yan Pei-Ming, and Chen Yifei, among others).  

Fuku Fukumoto, Tsukikage II (2016). Courtesy of ESH Gallery.

Fuku Fukumoto, Tsukikage II (2016). Courtesy of ESH Gallery.

For Sykes-Wright, LACA needs to be more than a place to explore exhibitions. It should be a resource for learning about collecting and collection building from leading voices. An impressive talks series launched recently (past videos are there to be watched any time) featuring luminaries of Asian and African art collecting, including Sylvain Levy of the DSL Collection, Jean Pigozzi, and Anne Getty, among others, all of whom share their guiding philosophies and visions for a future art world. An upcoming series of talks will feature dealers and artists. 

“I want LACA to challenge the art-world machinery by providing the ‘audience’ interested in learning or creating with the opportunity to access art and information from anywhere in the world from the best in the world,” explained Sykes-Wright. “Sylvain Levy, my hero, put it perfectly when he said, ‘Disruption is a process where smaller companies with fewer resources are able to successfully challenge incumbent businesses.’”


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