Our series of online HK people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of individuals in Hong Kong. In this instalment, we hear from TAMSIN NUGENT, whose involvement in Asia’s arts scene began with watching punk gigs in Beijing, and now sees her running her own innovative art solutions business, Red T.
Where are you from originally?
I’m a Hong Kong-born Brit. My parents were in Hong Kong for 12 years and moved back to England when I was 10 so that’s where I went to secondary school and university. But I was always determined to move back East so decided to study Chinese at university and that was my stepping stone home. Hong Kong always draws me back, it is definitely home.
Where else have you lived, and what did you do there?
UK, Beijing and Melbourne. The UK was home for a huge part of my upbringing. But I had travel and a love of Asia in me and loved the adventure of Beijing as a student, so I moved there right after university and got my first proper job with an events company running a monthly gig night. It was great but I broke away to launch my own business, Red T – a gallery for emerging artists in Beijing’s contemporary art district, 798. We quickly grew to incorporate an art fair, Affordable Art Beijing (AAB), and a music company, Red T Music.
That all came to an end in 2009 after the gallery had been demolished for Olympic development. I moved to Hong Kong to take the role of Director, Ben Brown Fine Arts. That was until I met a boy who was living in Melbourne. So I got a job down there as Director of Art Melbourne. We’re now married so I guess it was worth it!
A friend and I decided a recruitment company for the art world would be a good idea, so we started The Art Recruiter in Melbourne. However, after my first child, then moving back to Hong Kong and having a yoga-inspired epiphany, I realised that recruitment wasn’t my happy place. I relaunched Red T, this time with a razor focus on doing something artist-focused, innovative and impactful.
What was your motivation for starting the business, and what does it offer?
Red T has always been about delivering cool stuff to cool people. Red T Multiples is our crown jewel; it’s a platform enabling users to directly customise digital copies of original art to order as editioned prints. The Red T collection is entirely owned by us and all the art on our platform is licensed to us. For every print sold, our artists and partners receive a royalty. So art buyers who want something affordable and unique get what they want, while artists have a continuing benefit from work they have already made.
The motivation to do this was seeing first-hand how much of a grey area is involved in building art collections for commercial projects. There’s so much back and forth, with artists working on commissions, and only being paid for one but going through many iterations before getting ‘the one’ approved. I wanted to increase the efficiency for all involved and give artists a better way of benefiting from commissions without going through the pain of the back and forth, which ultimately compromised their creativity. Then I thought, if everyone could jump into an artwork and make it their own, I bet they would… so here we are.
What are some of the services Red T provides?
We basically get people the art they are looking for; this spans art consultancy, sourcing, procurement, commissions. Multiples is all those things on one platform but we still work outside of it, directly with clients, to get them what they’re after. Our latest original commissions have actually also been put into the Multiples model as we encourage our clients to leverage the special art going into their spaces. It’s good for the artists too.
We’re also developing the Red T 360 Canvas. It’s a fully up-cycled canvas alternative to offer as a medium on our website and enable circularity for commercial projects; use the waste linen from one property to create the art for the next.
How did you initially get involved in the arts scene?
Through punk music in Beijing, obviously (!). I went to a lot of live music gigs in Beijing in the early 2000s, so did the passionate and creative of Beijing. Many became my friends. I sold my first painting at a punk gig and that was that. Next step, open a gallery.
Give us an insight into a typical working day for you.
I’ll generally go through emails with my morning coffee, open the ones that need a response and either get straight on it or leave them open on my desktop to clear during the day. At 10am, I have a call with Jenn, my GM, and run through a quick WIP. I’ll meet with an artist, gallery or partner to discuss next steps for onboarding to the platform or events we’re going to run. Then it’s a bit of lunch, another meeting, maybe a presentation of our platform to a potential client. Next, a call with our developer, a call with an artist to ask how their concept is coming for the client, put out a fire, reach out to a few leads, maybe drop in on a virtual event. I round up the day tying the loose ends from meetings, updating Jenn and getting any graphics done up to send over to clients. Finally, make sure the open emails are replied to and head home for a family dinner.
What are you excited about right now with the arts in Hong Kong?
We have three events coming up that are going to finally show people first-hand how cool the platform is. Each event will exhibit original artwork and the ability to make Multiples out of them, live. We’ll also be there to offer support and direction to anyone with questions. Our first event is with HKWalls so we’ll have Multiples of the Murals around HK up as the exhibition, to show what is possible; you’ll be able to make your own versions in the gallery with us. The next two shows are with pretty awesome artists and will be solo shows offering affordable prints of pretty pricy originals.
What neighbourhood do you currently live in, and why did you choose it?
We’re in Pok Fu Lam. It’s a great location for us because it’s between Central and the beaches on South Side – places we go a lot. And it’s close to Wong Chuk Hang and Ap Lei Chau where I do a lot of work and my kids go to school.
What are three things you like about your neighbourhood?
- The view from our flat – sea and islands.
- Our friends; we have a great community literally on our doorstep.
- There’s a lot of outdoor space around, with the park at Cyberport and the mountains just behind us full of hiking trails.
Describe your home to us.
It’s a three-bedroom apartment with a surprisingly nice kitchen. I hope we have a comfy sophisticated aesthetic but I guess that’s subjective – and maintaining ‘sophisticated’ is definitely compromised once you throw young kids into the mix.
Our art is the part that makes a home for me; our walls are full. We have an eclectic collection by artists mainly from the places we’ve lived. I am always drawn to large work, which is a nightmare when you’re moving house, but I love a statement.
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
I love being in the hills (when it’s not spider season) and am really interested in zero waste initiatives, sustainable fashion and art exhibitions around town. And live music when it’s available.
Quick questions about Hong Kong: what is your favourite …
Casual restaurant? Maison Libanaise
Date night restaurant? Arcane
Bar? The Old Man
Local food? No question, Sijie Sichuan in Wan Chai. Is that local? Otherwise, the first stall on the left at the Sheung Wan hot food market. (The clams!)
Thing to do with visitors? Haha, you mean in the old days? City Hall dim sum and Tai Kwun.
Thing to do with kids? I love the circular Peak walk and breakfast at Rajasthan Rifles, but my kids would say Ocean Park!
Nearby holiday destination? China for adventure. Phuket for ease. Japan for fun.
Like this? See more in our HK People series in our Living in Hong Kong section