Yu-Kai Lin- Gallery Owner Q&A
Kai Lin Art opened its gallery doors in 2008 and over the course of ten years have grown to be one of Atlanta’s most engaging art spaces. The gallery hosts numerous group exhibitions throughout the year with new shows every six to eight weeks showing new and emerging artists. Kai Lin Art has been recognized by regional, national, and international publications for being on the cutting edge of art in America. The gallery has been selected as a Top 50 Cultural Destination in Atlanta by internationally renowned Wallpaper*Magazine and voted Best Gallery by Creative Loafing.
Behind the gallery name, Kai Lin Art is the owner and founder Yu-Kai Lin. Yu-Kai is a graduate of Emory University and is a long time participant in the Atlanta art scene. Some of his community partnerships include Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, Emory University, and The Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2018 Yu-Kai delivered a TedTalk, Living Creatively Through Art and Music and was also honored as Emory University’s Alumni of the Year.
Rigby Ink visited Yu-Kai in his gallery in the Westside Arts District of Midtown Atlanta. There we discussed the community Yu-Kai has helped cultivate and the realities of gallery ownership. Within our first moments of meeting Yu-Kai, his dedication to his role as gallerist shines through with his words. Yu-Kai’s attention to minute detail, self-discipline and his dedication to the artists he supports are conveyed in the thoughts he shares with us.
During our conversation with Yu-Kai he reflects on his experience opening Kai Lin Art, the success he has created, and his vision of the future.
RIGBY INK- You majored in Art in Music-Piano Performance at Emory University. What attracted you to a career in the visual art community?
YU-KAI LIN- All art is similar and interchangeable in that we are creating to express connection, relationships, and our shared human experience. While I was at Emory, I took a hand full of art history courses from Modern Art to Italian Renaissance and I was intrigued by the intersection of culture as it relates to creation and aesthetics. There’s a symbiosis relationship found in art with all aspects of modern life from politics to religion, medicine to architecture. Visual arts is just one component of representing the shared social expression.
“In our brave new world of tumult and division, art is the highest form of hope”
RIGBY INK- How does your experience in music translate creatively into your role as a gallery owner?
YL- Art is therapeutic and music is an audible expression of our soulful intentions: hopes, aspirations, fears, uncertainty, dreams, etc. My music practice as a piano teacher informs all aspects of my practice of being an art gallerist. We are all in the ‘practice of’ our chosen fields and as a creative, it’s my role to push the conversation forward, bring more people into the fold, and create an ever-expanding network of artful enthusiasts. These enthusiasts can choose to take a piece of expression home in the form of a tangible piece of artwork that will transform and bring inspiration to their interior space. Art is a necessity of life and I’m grateful to be a part of the ecosphere of making art thrive in our city.
RIGBY INK- When opening Kai Lin Art, what problem were you solving for art in the Southeast?
YL- In 2008 I had worked in two other galleries throughout my early 20s and learned what to do, what not to do, and what I would do differently were I ever to open my own gallery. I wanted to create an environment of inclusion, of celebration, of connection and of kindness. A cultural convergence of creatives that needed a voice, space, and a champion to fill a void in our community.
An art gallery is a reflection of society and the more galleries we have, the greater connection we feel with each other as an individual and collectively. Our space has become a center for not only the sale of art from creators making art across the Southeast, but the gallery is also an institution for people to spark their curiosities through the lens of art. With each exhibition, we host openings, performances, talks, fundraisers, non-profit events, dinners, birthdays, weddings, etc. I’m grateful to be a catalyst for that connection.
Artist Lela Brunet
RIGBY INK- Kai Lin Art has been open for ten years now while many other galleries have come and gone. To what do you attribute the success of the gallery?
YL- I feel that longevity is proportionate to diligence. A gallery is a place people come to shop for art. Our collectors who’ve had a great experience continue to come back, bring their friends, and keep up with the lives of our artists and what they’re creating. As a docent of art, I try to inspire others and teach people about the importance of what it is they’re seeing. We are all like pebbles in a river floating downstream. Each of our lives changes the course of the river through our actions and intentions.
RIGBY INK- Kai Lin Art hosts several exhibitions each year and in addition to private collectors, your clients include The High Museum, Coca-Cola, and Fox Broadcasting to name a few. How have you built the reputation of the gallery to establish these relationships?
YL- I’m grateful and humbled by the support of all the organizations, corporations, institutions, and individuals that we’ve worked within the last decade. With every conversation, connection, and collaboration, we are co-creating and manifesting. It starts with the art. We have artwork that is compelling, exquisite, reasonably priced, and that people want. We are here to serve the artists that make our gallery what it is and the collectors that need art to fill their walls with inspiration.
RIGBY INK- During your Ted-Talk, you shared the importance of structure and planning in the lives of creators. You said, “plan so that you can play” which really resonated with me. These days we hear the term “self-care” quite frequently, however few people associate responsibility as a means to self-care. When thinking of successful artists that you’ve worked with, what are some of the attributes or characteristics that come to mind?
YL- It’s important to plan free time into your day whether it’s doing something active like taking a walk or running to reading a book, writing or meditating. Unrestricted free time allows our imagination to create new realms of possibilities of what it is we’d like to create in our lives. What makes a successful artist is being persistent, mindful, mindless, creative, connected, networked, collaborative, thoughtful, curious, conversant, obsessive, constricted, free, adaptable, resilient, able to take criticism, an active listener, patient and kind.
RIGBY INK- Looking back over the ten years of Kai Lin Art, what are you most proud of?
YL- I have so much gratitude for my life and the opportunities and experiences thus far. It’s a beautiful world filled with wondrous, luminous, soul-inspiring creations. I’m most proud that I’ve made a positive impact in the lives of others through art. In our brave new world of tumult and division, art is the highest form of hope. Artists are always on the precipice of change and transformation. It’s through our creative lens that we can shift staid beliefs, opinions, mindsets and elevate one another to new planes of understanding, connection, and progression.
RIGBY INK- In what ways would you like to see Kai Lin Art grow?
YL- I’d like to continue our trajectory on the path we’ve built. To maintain, sustain, and flourish into the next level. We have great art/artists and a great network of collectors, museums, designers, consultants, decorators. To keep going, to keep growing, to keep learning, to keep our artists thriving, not merely surviving. I would like for us to continue to make art happen and adapt to the ever evolving, ever changing, ever expanding, endlessly abundant creative spirit that’s inside all of us.
We hope to see you at our upcoming 10 year exhibition of “Radiate” featuring 75 artists on Friday, November 16th from 7-10pm and running through January 4th, 2019.