In Conversation with Gia Kuan: An Art and Fashion Forward Thinker in New York
Taipei-born, New York-based, Gia Kuan is an art & fashion PR powerhouse, with a global upbringing in cities like Santo Domingo, Auckland, and Melbourne. The Parsons alumna earned her stripes in PR at Commes des Garcons, Dover Street Market (NYC), and in culture as the Director, Arts & Culture at Nadine Johnson & Associates. I also love her insane, inimitable style too, like hardcore. Kuan talks about her journey, and what’s up next in 2019 for this cultural connoisseur.
Gallery Gurls: You most recently worked at NJA, how did you get into art pr?
Gia Kuan: I studied Communications and Visual Arts, Photography during college in Melbourne, Australia and always had a theoretical understanding and interest in arts and culture. Prior to NJA I was at Comme des Garcons and Dover Street Market in the press department so I was really immersed in fashion PR. During my time there, I worked on some amazing CDG and DSM projects that intersected with art and design - from Raw Vision, to Artek, Scooter La Forge and Ai Weiwei to name a few. Through Dover Street Market, we were also exposed and worked directly with an array of emerging designers which we'd support through press days at the store. Five years in, I wanted to further my interest in the art world, and Nadine gave me the chance and I learned so much from her. Within a year in, I was promoted to the Head of the Arts & Culture department and worked on so many great projects ranging artists, institutions, art fairs, galas and galleries - from Perrotin to Museum of Sex, Free Arts Gala, Outsider Art Fair, PULSE, Swiss Institute and more. it was a very well-rounded experience.
You work with some incredible, boundary-breaking brands like TELFAR and LUAR, that push culture, gender, and diversity. Can you expand on that?
TELFAR was founded by Liberian-American designer Telfar Clemens that started his unisex brand since 2005. LUAR is the reversed namesake label of Dominican-American designer Raul Lopez, former co-founder of Hood by Air. Like Telfar, Raul started designing at age at 12 , and his roots was inspired by New York’s downtown scene. The philosophy of LUAR lies in the intersection of New York City and the Dominican Republic, promoting the constant curiosity of "tomorrow" or what's up next. Both designers are visionaries, in that neither Telfar or Raul were concerned about gender, before gender and diversity were even a thing on the runways. I have great respect for their work, and it's been great helping to communicate their stories. At this point, we're all part of a similar community and they're like family. Both TELFAR and LUAR have really set the tone in the last year for an emerging wave of talent who are under-recognized.
I love the way that fashion and art intersect in your life! can you talk about both of these parts of your life?
For me personally, they are not separate entities, but more or less the same of the bigger picture. All creative practices stem from being inspired by a root that is personal/political in messaging, coupled with references to a visual backing and a sort of feeling. Whether it be the texture and tactility of a fabric or paint, or color palettes that sets a mood, or a performance, video practice that tells another element of a story. I'd studied both in school and college, and I'm particularly interested in the marriage of both, and beyond. Fashion designers commission visual artists for their works, and many designers now are also artistically trained as opposed to going through the standard fashion route. Last year, TELFAR previewed their SS19 collection at the Serpentine Galleries in London during their Park Nights series spearheaded by Hans Ulrich Obrist. Eckhaus Latta just had an exhibit at The Whitney. The marriages are endless and I'm also interested in bringing in culinary art and music performances into the picture.
“I'm also interested in the array of talented Asian designers and artists out in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and beyond. I’d love to bring them more exposure to the U.S. and international markets, help them grow, and nurture them with resources.”
“Both designers are visionaries, in that neither Telfar or Raul were concerned about gender, before gender and diversity were even a thing on the runways.”
Who are some dope female artists that inspire you right now?
I'd just opened the largest retrospective survey of Argentinian surrealist painter Leonor Fini at the Museum of Sex last fall. Though she's no longer living, the show really left an impression on me and I still often reference her catalogue, her illustrations and paintings. Fini is known for her depiction of powerful women, which for her time was really groundbreaking. I also really admire the work of Lissa Rivera, the curator at the Museum of Sex (who actually spearheaded the Fini show). Other female artists I love right now: Martine Syms, Marie Tomanova, Carly Mark, Tschabalala Self; also the OG Judy Chicago, whose recent retrospective at ICA Miami was so great.
What's next for you in 2019?
I am out on my own now, and I want to be able to merge my interest in the emerging fashion and art markets, not only being able to communicate the narratives of a diverse range of voices that I feel passionate about, but also being able to create synergy between them, including a wider range of cultural talents and partners ranging from badass culinary chefs to hoteliers, to restauranteurs. I'm also interested in the array of talented Asian designers and artists out in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and beyond. I’d love to bring them more exposure to the U.S. and international markets, help them grow, and nurture them with resources.
Follow Gia Kuan @giakuan