Vincent Wu Combines Art With Coffee With His New Cafe at M+
Gone are the days when art was something to be enjoyed only by the upper echelons of society. Today, thanks to entrepreneurs like Vincent Wu, art in Hong Kong can be both appreciated and acquired by the public outside traditional galleries or auction houses. His company Curator consists of an art advisory service plus three cafés across Hong Kong blending art, culture and food, which have become a hit among those who prefer to enjoy art in a laidback setting.
Now in his 30s, Wu set his sights on the art world at an early age. “I come from an art-loving family,” the art dealer says. “As a child, my parents would take me to exhibitions. Later, I became fascinated by the evolution of craftsmanship in art history. I would get excited when I saw significant artworks in person that I had only previously read about in books. I realised art was in my blood when I could tell stories about each piece without preparation.”
To turn his passion into a career, Wu studied archaeology and museum studies at Nanjing Normal University before gaining both a master’s degree in anthropology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a Connoisseurship of Chinese Paintings qualification from the Academy of Arts and Design at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
He worked for Bonhams auction house as a specialist in fine Chinese paintings and contemporary Asian art between 2011 and 2016, before channelling his knowledge and expertise into buying and selling quality artworks under his own dealership. “A major milestone was when I helped an important Taiwanese collector sell a rare oil painting by [20th-century Chinese painter] Liu Haisu to a private museum. There was a lot at stake but it cemented the foundations of my business,” Wu says.
Though the food and beverage industry had always interested Wu, he focused his early career on gaining a grounding in the art world. However, an experience with art collector Eugene Wong in Taipei in 2016 changed the course of his career. “I had a single cup of amazing coffee at his home. I’d never tasted coffee like that. This experience opened the door to a whole new world for me,” he says.
Inspired, he decided to combine the gallery and café experiences, and immediately embarked upon a professional coffee course in Hong Kong. Within nine months, he had acquired all of the certifications offered by US-based coffee professionals organisation Specialty Coffee Association, gaining knowledge and barista skills, including roasting, extraction and brewing. He also went to Shanghai to become a certified Q-Grader: the credentials used to signify an individual’s ability to grade and score coffee.
In 2018, he opened Lex Art Gallery and Lex Coffee in Kennedy Town, selling coffee and food, and focusing on the secondary contemporary art market. The gallery features blue-chip artists, like Kaws, Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama and Yoshitomo Nara, and regularly hosts art events and free talks. The following year, Wu expanded into K11 Musea with Curator Art & Café, which shot to Instagram fame for its lattes printed with well-known works of art, such as Kusama’s pumpkins or Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night.
In July, Wu launched his third location, the dining-only Curator Creative Café, at the soon-to-open M+ museum, the latest step on his mission to share art with as many people as possible. “Democratising art is very important to us,” says Wu, who says that as well as connecting buyers with rare, high-end pieces, his business model makes art more “approachable” and supports his personal mission. “I am devoted to bringing art to life by putting together my expertise and acquired knowledge in the field.”