09/02/2020 | Maria Adelaide Marchesoni
LGBTQ art in Patrick Sun's collection
Real estate entrepreneur based in Hong Kong, Taipei and Bangkok
Patrick Sun believes in the power of art. He is a collector and businessman with real estate activities through Kinwick Holdings Ltd, which was founded in the early 1980s. He was born and raised in Hong Kong and today he lives between Hong Kong, Taipei and Bangkok. He has been collecting since 1988. At first his preference was for modern Chinese painting, but later his interest shifted to contemporary art from all over Asia with a focus on gay Asian art. Since 2002 Patrick Sun has been active in defending and promoting equal rights for the LGBTQ community in Hong Kong and Taiwan and in 2014 he founded the Sunpride Foundation to raise awareness of and respect for the LGBTQ community through art.
I met him at the India Art Fair in New Delhi. "The foundation,” Sun told me, “aims to promote a stronger, healthier and fairer world for LGBTQ people and their supporters and to encourage and inspire a generation of young artists to act and encourage positive changes towards the LGBTQ community, exposing and preserving art that speaks to everyone, because even today social acceptance is difficult".
What progress is being made in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Asia? "Thailand is a progressive and liberal country, but there are still countries where homosexuality is illegal," says Sun, citing Butan and Bangladesh, but in some countries it is even punishable by death, as in Brunei. India has only recently decriminalized homosexuality.
Patrick Sun's optimism about the power of art is contagious. "At a certain point of my life," he says, "I shifted my focus to Asian gay art, which falls into two categories: works by artists who identify with the LGBTQ community and works by heterosexual artists who have a gay theme in their art production. In the collection there are all the different artistic languages, from video to performance, sculpture, photography to echo the diversity in gender acceptance”.
Nearly all the artworks of Patrick Sun's collection are intended for exhibition in public places. "When the collection reached about 200 works, I called the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Taipei and suggested that Taiwan was the ideal place for an exhibition dedicated to the LGBTQ experience. It took two years to set up the exhibition. That was in 2017 and I can say that it was a historic exhibition. In May 2017, Taiwan's Constitutional Court abolished the laws that defined marriage as only between men and women and Taiwan became the first Asian country to legally recognize same-sex marriage. In the wake of this historic moment, MOCA in Tapei organized “Spectrosynthesis: Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now”, the first major survey of LGBTQ-themed art in Asia and the first to be staged in a government museum. The exhibition spanned almost 50 years of history, with 51 works by 22 artists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China. One of the most popular works of the exhibition was the Taiwanese artist Chuang Chih-Wei's "Rainbow in the Darkness", consisting of large boxes painted black: the public could scratch the surface to show the rainbow hidden by black. This exhibition was followed by another exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), from 23 November 2019 to 1 March 2020, “Spectrosynthesis II - Exposure of Tolerance: LGBTQ in Southeast Asia” focusing on artists from Southeast Asia.
"I attend art fairs," says Sun, "where I can meet friends, other collectors, artists. It's a moment dedicated to networking, relationships. I like to meet artists. I've never bought directly from an artist, but I need their approval: I don't want artists to be in trouble, especially those who live in countries where homosexuality is still punishable, and at the same time I don't want to create difficulties and interruptions to their career. That's why their approval is important".
An example? "When I met Samson Young, an artist living in Hong Kong, and invited him to take part in the exhibition “Spectrosynthesis: Asian LGBTQ Issues and Art Now” in Taipei, he told me that he had no work that could be related to homosexuality. I told him that we would definitely find a work. And so it was: “Muted Situation #5: Muted Chorus” is a video that shows a choral performance without music. You can only hear the breath of the singers, the movement of their bodies, the rustling of the scores. The situation of silence that those who are discriminated against suffer is well depicted in this work".