Jonathan Ly on fusion food, art collecting and the art scene in Hong Kong

Jonathan Ly is a man of many passions and talents. I find inspiring how he is embracing them and finds outlets for his creativity on top of his career as a Strategy Consultant in Hong Kong.

 We met thanks to his interest in art, which can be traced to his childhood, when he was able to get an immersion internship at 13 at the Musee d’Orsay. “It was amazing to be backstage and discover the different aspects of the life of a museum.” After that first experience, he got a chance to work at the Louvre, another opportunity to be closely in contact with art. That interest led him to become an art collector at an early age .

When we got to connect, I discovered that he was also a photographer with nearly 12 K people following his adventures on Instagram @jontravel360 and a chef who had the chance to be on Chinese National TV. Thanks Jonathan for sharing about your passions! 

Jonathan Ly in Tokyo

When did you move to China?

I came to Greater China for my MBA four years ago. My parents were surprised by my decision, since they had left their respective countries (Cambodia and China on my father’s side and Vietnam on my mother’s side) under difficult circumstances and settled in France where I was born. Somehow, it was a way for me to know my roots and also see where global growth is driven and how.

Can you tell us more about your experience as a chef?

I always had an interest in cooking. That started with my family first as my parents cook all the time and also while travelling abroad (he has been to 50+ countries Ed). I would meet with local chefs and collect recipes along the way. I love fusion food, mixing Moroccan and Chinese cuisine together for instance. When I did my MBA, I was the university ambassador and met many journalists and media people in Beijing. I started to organize events and one thing leading to another, I was offered to run my own online cooking show and also cooked on Chinese national TV for a livestream episod dedicated to One Belt One Road. It was a fun experience and there were 4 million attendees on that episod, but in China, it’s a small number.

Since I was in contact with art galleries, some offered me to cater for vernissages and openings and I also ran pop up events in restaurants in the capital city. Now that I am based in Hong Kong, I mostly cook for my friends and sometimes for specific happenings.

What is your speciality and would you share a recipe with us?

One of my specialties is the pineapple fried rice and here is a video of my recipe in Chinese, I can translate in English for those interested directly by private message. 🙂

When did you start to use social media and what is your relationship with Instagram in particular?

I created my Instagram about 4 years ago and at the time, I used to travel at a biweekly rhythm all across Asia and Europe. In the last 6 months, of course, things have changed and my content as well. I tend to share more about my art experiences. I like to meet with artists and share their work and what is happening in the Asian art scene. One great platform to follow here is ArtPower HK.

When did you start to collect art? What do you collect?

I have a passion for Asterix and started to collect limited edition sculptures by Leblon Delienne and Attakus seven years ago, the goal would be to collect some day an original comic board from Uderzo and Goscinny from the very first album.

I am also a fan of contemporary art and street art, with artists like Keith Haring, Hank Willis Thomas, Miss Tic, Mak Ying Tung or JaeRayMie in my collection to name a few.

Sculpture by Leblon Delienne and Attakus

What sparks your interest for a specific artist? 

I love the commitment of an artist to make a statement, not forcefully political but at least conveying a specific message, questioning the status quo of a determined society, a definition of academic aesthetics or revisiting historical milestones or landmarks with new eyes. I love to define art and compare it with Aristotle’s definition of philosophy as thaumazein, which means wonder in Ancient Greek.

Thus, an artist which makes me wonder whichever way brings my interest. 

These days, it is more difficult to experience art in person. How do you feel about buying art online?

In Hong Kong, the art scene is still very dynamic and energetic with lots of new exhibitions in museums like the recently restored HK Museum of Art, the opening of West Kowloon art districts, and gallery openings scheduled on a cyclical half-yearly rhythm with lots of artists coming to Hong Kong, not even counting the seasonal auctions by Christie’s, Phillips and Sotheby’s so I would not say I didn’t experience art in person. My May and June months were fully artsy and lots of vernissages happened in these months as there was no lockdown in Hong Kong.

Even with the cancellation of Art Basel, there were the online viewing rooms and the online auctions which were following the physical previews. I was comfortable to buy some artworks online after I had seen them physically, seeing how they stand into a specific space or under a specific light. Nevertheless, I already bought online with trusted galleries or contacts in the art scene. 

Who are the artists that you recommend to follow closely?

You are amongst the list of artists to follow closely but there are so many that I am following, Icy and Sot, Yoon Hyup, Fang Lijun, Mr Doodle, Andre Saraiva, Madsaki, Lalasaidko, Izumi Kato, Dark, Park Seobo, Zhang Dali, and so on.

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