Lilian Chan

The question is finding the right balance: how to engage with digital, but at the same time remember it is a medium we can use to enhance our creations.

Lilian Lai Lai Chan is deeply dedicated to bringing art to public spaces, and to promoting the long-term development of China’s contemporary art scene.
As senior manager of Hong Kong’s K11 Art Foundation, she uses her platform to help organise innovative cultural events all over China, which highlight the work of local and international artists.

Updated on 05/03/2020

10 min

Lilian Chan
© DR

Could you tell us more about your latest projects and your activities in Hong Kong?


K11 Art Fondation is a registered non-profit organisation in Hong Kong, which was founded by Dr Adrian Cheng in 2010. Our mission is to promote Chinese contemporary art: we run numerous exhibitions, partnerships, artist residencies, researches, publishing projects, and educational programmes, all related to art.

Recently, we organised an exhibition during the Hong Kong “Art Month” – which takes place every year in March. It gave us the opportunity to present something special. This year, our exhibition was called “Glow Like That”: we decided to highlight light, as a natural phenomenon but also as a product of technological advances. The exhibition featured 16 artists and collectives from different countries including China, the United-States, and Japan, showcasing an impressive selection of paintings, sculptures, video works, and installations.

At the moment, we are also developing several artist residency projects in collaboration with several institutions, including the Royal Academy of Arts (United Kingdom). We are also in discussion with the Hong Kong government to see how we can promote and nurture young artists for developing official educational programmes.


K11 Art Foundation is also known for bringing art into shopping malls. How did you get that idea? What feedback did you get from the public so far?


The idea of museum retail comes from our founder, Dr Adrian Cheng, who also runs the business of different K11 malls. He does believe that in every shopping mall, there should be a space dedicated to art, making art more accessible. For the visitors, it is obviously a very convenient location to discover artworks that they may never see otherwise. As for K11 Art Foundation, our aim is to organise art exhibitions everywhere we see fit, be it shopping malls or anywhere else.

[Digital mediation] is a trend that we all need to embrace, but somehow, we also have to ask ourselves: how much digital mediation do we really need?

You recently took part in the Institut français “Focus on Digital mediation and Cultural Innovation” programme in Paris and La Rochelle in France, where you had the opportunity to meet international actors in those fields. How did it affect your point of view about the relationship between culture and digital?


The design of the whole “Focus” program was very interesting, and so was meeting the 14 other participants from different parts of the world, as well as the French actors. The event led to numerous discussions and debates about what we should do for digital mediation. It is a trend that we all need to embrace, but somehow, we also ended up asking ourselves: how much digital mediation do we really need? It may be used for museums, for educational purposes, for art… But the main question is about finding the right balance in the future. How to engage with digital, but at the same time remember it is a medium we can use to enhance our creations, without being overwhelmed by digital? This being said, the “Focus on Digital Mediation and Cultural Innovation” gave us the opportunity to discover new technologies which may certainly help to enhance the visitors’ experiences. The participants were all quite excited by the perspective of including those technologies in our future projects!


You were also invited to visit in situ digital mediation projects, presented in museums and cultural centres in Paris. Could you tell us more about one project you particularly enjoyed?


We had the opportunity to visit different museums and cultural centres including l’Atelier des Lumières, la Conciergerie, le Petit Palais and le Grand Palais. Each of them has a different approach of digital mediation. I was personally really impressed by the Atelier des Lumières because of its immersive experience, not only digital but thought as a theatre production, which is as innovative as creative, and very site-specific. The projections also interact with the surrounding space itself, which is what I found pretty interesting.


Did you discover any attractive examples in other countries that you would like to share with us?


During the "Focus" presentation, I was quite impressed by projects enhanced by the public art project by Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles in Montreal, involving light technology, mediation, and art happenings in public spaces. Great attention seems to be given to the way the public interacts with both the artworks and with other people, which results in very successful 360° experiences.

In this globalised world, there are fewer and fewer differences between cultures, but France is a deeply culturally rooted country, and so are its people.

What are the main similarities, and differences, between Hong Kong and France regarding the way we address culture and innovation?


In this globalised world, it tends to be fewer and fewer differences between cultures, but France is a deeply culturally rooted country, and so are its people. I observed a lot of innovations whether art or educational ones, and I really hope that this is something that Hong Kong can learn from France, especially by developing more and more educational programs to attract younger generations, which are already fascinated by technology and innovation.



What is your next project in Hong Kong, or even abroad?


We have plenty of projects in the pipeline, but nothing I can talk about at this stage. We are however going to have a new location for putting up exhibitions in Hong Kong, and we are also hoping to develop more collaborations between Hong Kong and other cities in China. Please stay tuned.


If you had a dream project for the future, what would it be?


I would love to have a project that would appeal to art audiences as well as the general public. Leveraging the network of K11 group, our Foundation reach the public in many different ways, whether through the art spaces in shopping malls or on our social media channels… I wish we would create a project of online-and-offline integration -  that would engage all the K11 teams in different cities throughout China, like an extension of our main exhibition that would reach out to our audience from all over the country, but also online to international audiences. That would be great!

The Institut français and the project

In june 2019 Lilian Chan took part in the Focus on Digital Mediation organised by the Institut français, which aims to promote the international export of French expertise. Find out more about the Focus on digital mediation.

L'institut français, LAB