Gallerist aids deeper appreciation of Chinese contemporary art

Yang Di
In 2004, Ana Gonzalez moved to Shanghai with the intention of opening a gallery and her dream came true in 2007, when she and three partners founded Art+ Shanghai Gallery.
Yang Di
SSI ļʱ

Ana Gonzalez's first encounter with Chinese culture, particularly Chinese art, occurred during a trip to China in 1993. With each passing year and subsequent trip, the Spanish woman's interest and passion for contemporary Chinese art grew as she became more involved in the field.

In 2004, she moved to Shanghai with the intention of opening an art gallery and her dream came true in 2007, when she and three partners founded Art+ Shanghai Gallery.

Gallerist aids deeper appreciation of Chinese contemporary art
Courtesy of Ana Gonzalez

Ana Gonzalez's first encounter with Chinese culture, particularly Chinese art, happened during a trip to China in 1993.

Before we talk about Art+ would you please introduce yourself?

I am a trained fashion designer with extensive experience in the fields of art and fashion in both Europe and Asia. Born in Spain in 1954, I finished high school in Barcelona, then studied science for four years before moving to Paris. There, I graduated in both fashion design and comparative literature from the Sorbonne University.

I worked for 25 years in the fashion industry, initially as a fashion designer and later as an artistic director. My first encounter with Chinese culture, particularly Chinese art, happened during a trip to China in 1993. With each passing year and subsequent trip, my interest and passion for contemporary Chinese art grew as I became more involved in the field. In 2004, I moved to China to open an art gallery. I worked as a Gallery Director in an M50-area Shanghai gallery before opening my own gallery, Art+ Shanghai Gallery, in 2007 with three other partners.

Gallerist aids deeper appreciation of Chinese contemporary art
Courtesy of Ana Gonzalez

Lin Fanglu Solo Exhibition in Art+ Shanghai Gallery.

Why, after living in Shanghai for a few years, did you decide to strike out on your own to build up your own gallery?

I moved to Shanghai in 2004 with the intention of opening an art gallery. However, it took me almost three years to find the right partners and establish a company in China. In the meantime, I served as a gallery director at M50 and as a fashion consultant for Shanghai IFA Fashion University.

What makes Shanghai's business environment so remarkable?

The energy of this city captivates me due to its vibrancy, dynamism, and ability to inspire me on multiple fronts. It constantly challenges me to push my boundaries, increase my creativity, and think innovatively.

The city's impact isn't solely due to its architecture or lively vibe, but also its inhabitants. This city is a talent-filled melting pot, teeming with individuals who possess unique skills and ideas.

Its cultural diversity, the fusion of traditional and contemporary influences, and the international ambiance all contribute to making this city an exceptionally inspiring and invigorating place for me.

What were you trying to bring to the local community?

In my capacity as an art gallerist, I have always strived to perform a role that transcends the mere selling of artwork. Instead, my primary goal is to introduce a range of diverse and thought-provoking artworks to the local community, thereby fostering an environment that encourages a deeper appreciation and understanding of art. This role also extends to actively supporting and promoting local artists, many of whom possess an abundance of talent, but may lack the necessary exposure or opportunities.

In China, there is a significant number of such artists who, despite their considerable talent, find it challenging to establish and maintain successful careers outside of the country. This is often due to a multitude of factors including, but not limited to, language barriers, cultural differences, and a lack of professional networks that can help them gain exposure on the international stage.

However, through our concerted efforts and the leveraging of our international connections, we have been able to overcome these challenges. We have successfully introduced our artists to an array of distinguished art collectors and enthusiasts from around the world.

Gallerist aids deeper appreciation of Chinese contemporary art
Courtesy of Ana Gonzalez

This exterior view of Art+ Shanghai Gallery shows works from the Zhang Xiaodong Solo Exhibition.

What are the biggest challenges setting up a business here? How do you stay motivated?

Starting a business in Shanghai presents challenges similar to other locations. It's critical to establish a clear business model and assemble a professional team. Additionally, staying alert to frequent market changes is key. However, the most crucial factors include maintaining motivation, celebrating small victories, and keeping a positive mindset.

I've had the opportunity to share this journey with my best friend and business partner, Agnes Cohade. Together, we've created more than just a team; we've formed an art family united by a shared passion for art. When asked about my motivation, I cite this as my source. Every day, I remind myself that the livelihoods of several families, our team, and our artists depend on the gallery's success.

Gallerist aids deeper appreciation of Chinese contemporary art
Courtesy of Ana Gonzalez

Ana Gonzalez shares the journey of running a gallery in Shanghai with her best friend and business partner, Agnes Cohade.

What was the moment that made you most proud?

Since becoming the owner of this gallery, there have been a lot of moments that have filled me with pride. However, one that stands out even from this multitude of proud moments was when we made our first sale of an artwork to an important museum.

This was an accomplishment that was more than just a sale. It was a testament to our tireless efforts to elevate the work of our artists, and our ongoing mission to bring their talent into the spotlight. As a local gallery, we face the daunting challenge of competing with larger galleries from all around the world. These galleries have vast resources at their disposal and a reach that extends to the far corners of the art world.

Despite these obstacles, we remained unwavering in our resolve and commitment to our artists. The fact that our artist was discovered by museum curators, who not only recognized but also appreciated the value inherent in their work, was a substantial achievement.

This purchase was not just a transaction, but a validation of our belief in our artist's talent and our efforts to promote them. This marked a particularly memorable moment for me, standing as a beacon of what we had achieved and what we can aspire to in the future.

Gallerist aids deeper appreciation of Chinese contemporary art
Courtesy of Ana Gonzalez

The Art+ Shanghai Gallery team pose with artist Lin Fanglu.

What are you working on?

We are persisting with our program of exhibitions both in China and abroad. We've secured several exhibitions for our artists in Europe and the USA for 2024 and 2025.

Simultaneously, we are renovating a new 350-sqm space for our gallery, to which we plan to move this summer.

Who is a female-role model who inspires you?

There are innumerable influential women who have played significant roles in my life. However, if I were to single out one person who has had the most profound impact on me, it would unquestionably be my maternal grandmother.

She was a woman of immense wisdom, deeply rooted in her cultural heritage. Moreover, her boundless optimism was infectious. She always managed to find a silver lining in every cloud, a trait that has helped me maintain a positive outlook in the face of adversity.

She was also an individual of immense open-mindedness. Her spirit was not confined by conventional boundaries. She welcomed new ideas and perspectives, and this open-ended spirit has taught me to be receptive and adaptable, to appreciate and respect the diversity of thought.

Her influence didn't just stop at shaping my mindset. She laid the groundwork for my mental construction, teaching me invaluable lessons about life and its complexities. Her principles, wisdom, and teachings continue to guide me, even in her absence.

Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself and trust your skills and abilities. Surround yourself with people who appreciate your talent and professionalism.

Never stop learning: Continually seek knowledge and stay updated with trends in your industry. Even at 70-years-old, I dedicate at least two hours a day to learning.

Network: Building strong relationships is critical to opening doors to new opportunities.

Perhaps most importantly for me: Don't fear failure. Mistakes and failures are opportunities to learn and grow.

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