Mark Lui Design Works

The art of love
With his work on Yan Gallery, musician Mark Lui has turned his passion for interior design into a professional project

TEXT: TERESA CHOW
PHOTOGRAPHY: DANIEL TAM

Unveiling his work publicly for the first time at the recently-relocated Yan Gallery, Lui has cleverly transformed the space into one which will encourage visitors to linger and, hopefully, encourage them to open their wallets – the longer they stay, the more money they spend.

Now situated on the first floor of a commercial building on Hollywood Road in Central and occupying approximately 2,000 sq-ft, the location of Yan Gallery’s– tucked inside a building – was a distinct challenge.

Lui responded first of all by defying conventional art gallery ‘style’ – typically, whiteboard or partitions with art pieces tagged onto them. The theme of Yan Gallery is led by three definitive colours: white, black and grey – creating shade without stealing focus from the artwork on display.

“My impression of most galleries is that they are all white, which I find too cold and unwelcoming,” explains Lui. “Many customers have built a long-term relationship with Yan’s Gallery; thus, I wanted to create a warm, cosy place – like inviting friends to your home.”

A prerequisite for gallery space is that it is clean and bright; the art should always be the star of the show. Today, however, the increasing sophistication of art-lovers means that greater attention needs to be placed on the layout of the space. “Art is like fashion; it needs to attract the interest of younger audiences,” Lui says.

Interior design, he believes, is not unlike composing the chorus of a song: both should have a hook-line to link and impress. The first hook-line is the passageway from the main entrance. Referred to as the ‘catwalk’, the corridor has black wooden floorboards and a ceiling specifically made lower as part of the design.

This approach is unusual in gallery design, providing visitors with an immediate direction and leading them into the rest of the space.
The second hook-line concerns the display of larger paintings. Lui devised two unique ways to solve the problem: first, by creating a framed wall which borrowed the idea of a cinema screen and the second by hanging artwork on curtains.

“We attached the painting onto specially-made fabric hung on the partition in order not to damage the painting; most galleries tend to use track and wire,” he says. “Of course, I am not the first to hang paintings on curtains, but my idea had to achieve certain purposes. Behind the curtain is a storage space which doesn’t have a supporting wall, so the only way the paintings could be hung was by using an iron bar, which is itself covered by the curtain.”

On both sides of the passageway are two display zones with black leather sofas which reproduces the atmosphere of a living room. “I prefer furniture which is classic, versatile and minimal. The art pieces themselves are already colourful; there is no need to put too many elements into one space,” says Lui.

Most people prefer to avoid clutter – particularly in an art gallery, where the work on display needs to be carefully positioned for ‘breathing room’ – but there are exceptions to the rule, particularly if you want to create an impact. Take Bob Yan’s Who Let the Dogs Out? 2008 oil on canvas series, for example. Lui decided to group the small, colourful dog portraits into one space for a collage effect. “To spark people’s interest and attention to the artwork is my role as a designer here,” he says.

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