We had the good fortune of connecting with Echo He and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Echo, the decisions we make often shape our story in profound ways. What was one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make?
I started Fou Gallery in December 2013, with the goal to build a vibrant and organic art community to promote the creative talents and projects of contemporary time, especially artists and creators with connections to Asian culture. I curated four exhibitions at Fou’s inaugural home which was on the fifth floor of a modern apartment building in downtown Brooklyn. After one year, we sorrowfully lost our space. As I was searching for a new space, we curated two more exhibitions in an artist-run restaurant in Beijing, and a Chinese restaurant in New York. At the end of 2015, we found the perfect new home located in the Stuyvesant Heights area in Brooklyn. It’s a gorgeous historic 1905 New York brownstone with its timeless architectural design. However, the rent exceeded my budget and the landlord was hesitant to lease it to a new immigrant with a cat!
I knew in my heart this was Fou’s destiny and was not going to lose this opportunity so I decided to drain my savings account to pay in advance a full year’s rent. That was one of my best decisions I’ve ever made in my life and the gallery continues to operate here till today. We have 11 colleagues managing the daily operations of the gallery from all over the world– New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Jianxing and Shanghai.
What should our readers know about your business?
Fou Gallery is an alternative art space that operates in a unique way, which is very different from mainstream white cube commercial galleries. The gallery space is located in an apartment, which gives the visitor a homey feel where one can enjoy art and conversation within an intimate setting. We provide a distinctive variety of events, such as, independent film screening, concerts, sound meditations, art workshops, tea ceremonies and special dining experiences. In fact, our goal is to create a microclimate of diversity that bridges art, design, culture and technology. Most recently we conducted a mycology class. Our galleries persona is reflected in its name and represented through an ancient Chinese character 否 which is still in use today. It has two pronunciations – “Pi” and “Fou”. “Pi” is one of the 64 hexagrams in the I Ching book (also named The Book of Changes), an ancient Chinese divination text and the oldest of the Chinese classics. “Pi” means unfortunate, but it can also be a turning point to fortune. “Fou ” is a more contemporary pronunciation, which means denial and negative. “Fou” can be also found in Scottish and in French languages. In French it means crazy and in Scottish it means drunk. I found the character very interesting as it possesses similar rebellious meanings (negative), but also positive, like Yin (阴) and Yang (阳) in the Chinese culture. It responds to Fou Gallery’s mission to be a different model from the mainstream commercial galleries.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
That’s easy, a full day at Fou Gallery participating in events and engaging with the art community. For other experiences in the neighborhood, I would recommend some other cool venues.
- Natty Garden – a charming black-owned urban nursery selling a wonderful selection of plants, flowers and gardening supplies.
- Ancient Blends Apothe’Care – The black-owned business makes hair products, skincare products from herbal materials with their own cultural tradition. They also sell Sacred Sage Bundle.
- Macosa Trattoria – An artist-run restaurant with rustic Tuscan fare made with fresh ingredients daily, mounting a simple yet elegant menu.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate the shoutout to the Fou Gallery team and partners. New York is a fast-paced and dynamic environment and we continue to do creative and heartfelt projects in spite of all the challenges our great city has faced! In the past nine years, I had the great fortune to work with groups of people who have a wide range of interests and talents, who’s loving care and devotion to the visual arts, theater, dance, music, design, architecture, kintsugi repair, urban farming, esoteric healing, cooking and countless other fields of unique vocations. I thank you all, especially my Chinese and female co-conspirators (you know who you are) for bringing your passion, love and creativity to build the Fou community!
Photograph by Zhaoyin Wang, Lynn Hai, Zhou Xi, Zhou Weihan, Peichao Lin, Ziyan Luo, Serko Artinian, Artworks by Guo Shuling, Michael Eade, Dongfan Chen, Han Qin, Wei Jia, Isshū Saiuchi Kintsugi Artist: Yiheng Yu