As an art consultant for Imagine Gallery in Beijing, Jonathan Boehm spends his days in studios and galleries curating works to exhibit in galleries and public spaces. In addition to searching for artists and sourcing their works for display, he canvases for companies that might be interested in renting art for display. Originally from Paris, France, Boehm studied art history. He also holds a master’s degree in political science and an international trade degree. He first came to China in 2008 for four months and returned last year after a stint in India. He spoke to students at Beijing City International School (BCIS) about art and inspiration.
Ana Ota, 10, Brazil
How do you know if art is good?
Part of my background [is in]art history. In art history, you have to know all the techniques and media. By looking at art constantly, you get an idea of what’s good and what’s not. You look at the color, see how you can preserve the artworks, and how it will age. If you have talent but you don’t have good materials, you can’t do anything.
Bridget Leibold, 10, Australia
When you don’t like a piece of art, how do you tell the artist?
We always have to think about how to be diplomatic. If the quality is not there, usually the artist is aware of what he has been doing. So you can say “Oh, this one I don’t really like, so I’m not sure.” Otherwise, I would just say the technique has to be improved, or the technique is there but the theme is not up to the standards I have in mind.
Sarah Williams, 10, Australia
How do artists decide their ideas?
It’s really dependent on their inspiration. They take into account ethnic roots, family background, or a cause that they want to fight for, like environmental issues or cultural exchange. I also want to make people aware of something, of an issue in society. So that’s where I come in and say, “Hey, I would like to work on this. Would you mind doing [a piece]about that?”
Chengwei Xu, 10, Hong Kong
How do you know which artworks [to]exhibit?
That depends mostly on the theme of the exhibition and the quality of the reputation of the artist. Because an artist always has a reputation that he’s building all his life, and we have to make them more and more famous. Technique is really important [in]expressing yourself. [By looking at] technique and reputation, you can assess the quality of an artwork.
Nini Lepore, 10, China/US
When you’re making a piece of art and you realize that you did something wrong, do you try to fix it or do you just leave it?
Good question. You have to be creative but flexible, so you can’t just leave it. If there’s a logistical problem with the piece, I have to fix it. Considering the value of the products I’m working with, it has to be perfect. If you have experts coming, they’re going to look at [how it all comes together].
Cici Liu, 10, China
If an artist paints something, what is their relationship to the artwork?
It depends. For example, one of the artists I work with, I entered his studio and saw this huge canvas of famous historical characters. I asked, “Why did you decide to paint him?” He said, “I went to this island and he’s really famous on this island, that’s why I decided to paint him.” So the relationship an artist has with his paintings is directly connected to his inspiration.
Buda Du, 10, China
How do you know if a piece of artwork is good for an exhibition or not?
It really depends on the theme of the exhibition and the technique of the artist, the way he paints or sculpts. Sculptures are even harder to assess than other artworks, because it either works or it doesn’t. For a painter it depends on how he mixes the colors, how the theme is going to match with what he had in mind. When an artist is done, he’ll know if that’s what he had in mind or if he has to keep working on it.
Sarak Rhodes, 11, Cambodia
If you don’t like someone’s art and you want to change it, can you ask someone else to make it better?
You can, but you have to think that when an artist creates something, it’s personal. So the people are going to be judged on something personal and sensitive; you have to be cautious about that.
Natasha Ong, 11, Malaysia
Q1: If there’s a painting that you think is not very good, what do you do with the painting?
We have storage, so you can put it in storage in the gallery or the museum and just wait for a theme that you could match with it. Otherwise, you can ask the artist to modify it a little bit. If the colors are not bright enough, or there is something like that, the artist can work on it.
Q2: What do you do if you get stuck on something?
I try to do my best to not get stuck. You just have to foresee most of the inconveniences. Right now I’m having a problem because Chinese New Year is coming and I have an exhibition at the beginning of March. I had to create a bunch of leaflets and it’s been a month that I’ve had trouble printing them, because you can’t print something if the artworks aren’t perfect on the paper. That’s why I planned a month ahead, and I succeeded yesterday. Whew!
photo by SUI