Lance Fung is the chief curator for Fung Collaboratives, an organization that conceives and realizes art exhibitions around the world and its non-profit partner FC (Fung Collaboratives) Projects. Through both entities, Lance advises, consults and creates public art master plans. He has been curating large-scale public art exhibitions since closing his successful NYC gallery in 2005 to pursue his curatorial practice. Most recently, Lance curated Fireflies by artist Cai Guo-Qiang as the centennial celebration for the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Lance also transformed vacant lots in Atlantic City into a much-needed green park system through his exhibition Artlantic, that attracted local residents and visiting art enthusiasts to experience art in “green” settings designed by Fung and the participants Diana Balmori, Robert Barry, Peter Hutchinson, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Kiki Smith, to name a few. Fung has curated internationally recognized exhibitions such as The Snow Show in 2003, 2004, and 2006, Lucky Number Seven (2008) for the seventh SITE Santa Fe International Biennial, Wonderland (2009-2010), and Nonuments (2014). Most importantly, FC Projects has had the pleasure to commission artists and architects to realize new, site-specific works. Norman Foster, Williams & Tsein, Tadao Ando, Yoko Ono, Ernesto Neto, and Rachel Whiteread are only a few of the visionaries that Fung has worked with. He is currently developing a cultural village as well as Sink, an underwater exhibition about marine conservation, in Bali and a public art exhibition on the San Francisco Bay Trail that encircles the San Francisco bay. Fung is a member of the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art (IKT) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM). Please enjoy reading his Frank Talk below!
What was your first job in the Arts?
Just prior to graduating from my Master’s program I became the Director of the Holly Solomon Gallery, NYC.
What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?
To be accessible and to trust my instincts.
Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?
Honestly, I realized it after I was smack dab in the middle of things. I guess I was so young I did not realize the huge opportunity Holly gave me. And then when I was doing a fine job I knew I loved being a small part of the Art World.
What do you do now?
After running Holly’s gallery for over six years and then mine for just as long, I migrated to curating exhibitions. The Snow Show changed my perception of my own abilities and the SITE Santa Fe Biennial I curated, Lucky Number Seven, gave me the confidence to continue.
Where are you from?
Originally from the Bay Area, CA prior to moving to NYC, London and now split between the East and West coasts of the States.
What is the arts community like there?
Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?
A supportive family, strong emphasis of education and culture, and work that helped me to evolve and challenge myself.
What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?
Fight for what is right, see the invisible, and be authentic.
What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?
Finding joy with each of my projects and truly valuing the artists I have the opportunity to work with. Working with my husband and still enjoying my work after 30 years is very important.
What has been a challenge for you?
Realizing exhibitions that are different and not about monetization. Most of my exhibitions commission artists for new works to be placed in the public place. The temporary exhibitions are free. The works are not plop art but rather relevant and thought-provoking. Securing funds for these kinds of interventions is always difficult – not succumbing to pressures by funders can be tough. But intellectual and aesthetic comprise has to be avoided.
What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)?
Email, zoom, speak, type. The real work is not glamorous. And opening events only last a few hours.
What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
Push snow to build a Kiki Smith sculpture, and just the other day drive a pedicab for Fireflies by Cai Guo-Qiang.
What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?
What do you think makes a person hirable?
Honesty, attitude, groundedness, kindness, work ethic.
What is your advice to make yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for giving a great interview?
Be kind and be calm and work hard.
Get to the point quickly and let your passion and personality be visible.
Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Do your research, find a mentor, and be patient. Also, if the job, boss or co-workers are not a good fit or abusive, leave. Find the right environment that you can flourish in and don’t be satisfied until you do. Settling will be the kiss of death. And be ambitious – the sky is the limit and some lucky few are happy, contribute, and are self-sustaining.
Any other anecdotes about your working experience that you would like to share?
I think the Art World has become more inclusive than before. When I entered the scene, I was one of the few Asians around and being gay was nervous at times speaking to collectors. Now I am fully comfortable with who I am and hope to see more diversity in this industry.
What artwork is in your home office?
Robert Barry, Kiki Smith, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Nam June Paik, Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner, Jaume Plensa, Norman Foster, Peter Hutchinson, Gordon Matta-Clark – all were friends and all artworks were gifts.
How do you think art can play a fundamental role in the world’s recovery?
Speak for the unheard, bring a sense of joy and normalcy, hold those accountable, accountable.
How has your current job adapted to the new virtual landscape? What do you think can be done better?
Allowed me to curate a city-wide exhibition with 16 artists, 8 projects, over 15 sites. Since it is outdoors people can come out, wear a mask, social distance and feel safe and somewhat normal again.
And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent?