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Artistic endeavour

May 2015 | SCMP

Artists in Hong Kong generally set up studios in affordable districts such as Fo Tan, Kwun Tong and Kowloon Bay, or even Aberdeen and Tsuen Wan – making Justin Y probably the only artist who boasts an address at Two IFC. He saw the advantages of being based in a Servcorp serviced office there because he comes from an advertising/marketing background and is good at sales.

“I didn't start out thinking arts would be my future,” he says. Originally from Malaysia, he attended school in Singapore and worked in advertising there. By the late 1990s, he was based in Beijing and, in the early 2000s, moved to Hong Kong. In 2009, he set up his own business consulting for lifestyle products.

“I moved from advertising to marketing and to operations. In 2013, I left the company to my partners,” the artist says. “Previously, I sold ideas…then I decided I wanted to build a business where I could sell a tangible product.”

However, he didn't have a lot of capital to spend on product development. But what he did have was excellent contacts made over the years working in consulting, advertising and marketing for companies from around the world. He decided to produce his own art and counted on his contacts to help get his work out there, as he knew they would be able to see its practical aspects and relevance.

“In the autumn of 2013, I started out as a full-time artist. I didn't have formal training, so it never confined me to a particular format,” says Justin Y, who decided to paint his mostly acrylic paintings with his fingers.

Although it is rather unusual for an artist to have a serviced office, the arrangement has offered many advantages to the artist. He saved time, effort and money on setting up an internet connection and phone line, as they were already provided. But what he really finds useful is the administrative back-up, especially sending and receiving parcels.

The meeting rooms also are useful for Justin Y's presentations to clients and, in both the Two IFC and One Peking Road offices, Servcorp also provides him with an “exhibition corridor” where he can regularly display his newest works, which impresses the collectors who come to see his paintings.

“I never looked anywhere else. I thought, ‘it must be the IFC'. Location was very important; I wanted to be really close to the people I wanted to sell to. In order to attract an audience, I had to be in the right environment,” he says. For example, most of the clients who work in banking can get to the artist's office in 20 minutes.

He can access the office after working hours or during holidays, which is often when his clients have the time to look at his work. He is also located five minutes from the Airport Express, and has had visitors from the Philippines, Australia and the United States drop by after checking in for their flights to look at and buy his work.

“I also made friends with the tenants; there is a lot of camaraderie,” he says, adding that the transient environment, with new tenants regularly joining, also helps his art sales.

Justin Y and his paintings.