Tucked away on a tree-lined street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Fou Gallery offers more than the usual openings, artist talks, and receptions. It’s also a space for relaxation and community, hosting private dinners, tea ceremonies, and a monthly performance series. Founded in 2013 by Echo Hé, the gallery defines itself against the mainstream New York art scene.
“Traditionally, commercial art galleries operate on a very simple business model: sell artworks to a very small group of collectors to support the gallery’s operation. Normally the gallery is in a simple white cube to make the business straightforward,” she says. “Collectors tend to buy works from big galleries with a track record of artists that have ‘investment value,’ and smaller galleries struggle to be part of the game.”
“否画廊”（Fou Gallery）藏匿于布鲁克林道贝德福—斯都维森（Bedford-Stuyvesant）一条林荫小道中，这里除了举办各种展览开幕、艺术家对话和招待会之外，也是休闲放松和社区活动空间，举办各种私人宴会、茶会和每月定期的影像放映、音乐会和其他表演活动。画廊由何雨创办于 2013 年，是一家独立于主流纽约艺术圈之外的画廊。
Hé wants Fou to be different. While the gallery sells artworks to sustain itself, Fou also presents cultural, culinary, and other programming to attract a diverse group of people. The Chinese character it’s named for, 否, means negation, and is made of the components 不 (bu, no) and 口 (kou, mouth). “So, silent,” Hé explains. “We wanted to more silently promote ourselves. Plus fou means crazy in French and drunk in Scottish.”
Fou specializes in works by Chinese artists, as well as other artists working in traditional Chinese mediums. “A lot of Chinese artists in New York, especially the young generation who came here to study, can’t find places to show their work,” says Hé. “It’s hard for them to break into the community.” At Fou, artists can show their work and build relationships with their peers.
Liu Chang, an artist who held her first solo exhibition at Fou in 2016, is a firm believer in the gallery’s vision. “Many young artists, including myself, held their debut solo exhibition at Fou,” she says. “Instead of being limited by the constraints imposed by traditional or profit-driven galleries, artists are given the opportunity to showcase their work the way they want to here.”
Recent exhibits have showcased work by glass artist Du Meng, photographers Zhe Zhu and Fernando Villela, painter Chen Dongfan, multi-media performance artist Han Qin, and more. But the gallery also helps support collaborating artists in less tangible ways. “When I did a two-month artist residency and worked on a few exhibitions in China over the summer, I sent my portfolio to Echo,” Han recalls. “She told me that it should be updated; my two latest exhibitions weren’t in there. I was touched. It felt like I had someone truly on my side, someone who’s invested in my growth, an industry insider who can offer expert advice. It can feel quite lonely as an artist sometimes, so having a mentor like that is uplifting.”
艺术家刘唱在 2016 年举办的首次个展就在否画廊，她非常肯定画廊一直在做的事情。“有很多像我一样年轻的艺术家，他们人生中第一次个展都在否画廊举办。”她说，“与那些被利益和传统所向导的画廊不同，在这里艺术家们并不会受到限制，他们能够有机会以自己希望的方式呈现个人作品。”
近期以来，画廊内陈列了玻璃艺术家杜蒙、摄影师朱喆和 Fernando Villela、画家陈栋帆以及多媒体艺术家韩沁等多名艺术家的作品。同时，画廊还以各种方式帮助艺术家们。“之前有一整个夏天，我都在国内进行着艺术家驻地项目和一些展览。” 韩沁回忆道，“当时我把作品集发给了何雨，她发现我在作品集中遗漏了我最近的展览信息，并让我加进去。我觉得能有人为我和我的个人发展考虑，并为我提供专业的意见，令我非常触动。有时候做艺术是一件孤独的事，但能有一位这样的导师陪伴在身边，我倍感鼓舞。”
Traditional Chinese artistic values, with their emphasis on connections to the natural world, are central to Fou’s goals. Echo believes the gallery offers an alternative to the monetary emphasis of the mainstream art scene. “Nowadays, there are two main religions: technology and money. So there is a deep need for people to go back to their hearts. And I think old Chinese aesthetics can help with that,” she says. “What I’m trying to create or present in this space is old-soul tradition. It’s about an appreciation of god—not a singular god from any religion, but a universal connection to the earth and back to the universe.”
On the day of my visit, Michael Eade’s past is present is future was on display, and it’s hard to miss what Hé is going for by showing this kind of work. Eade’s paintings depict different versions of the Tree of Life, incorporating world mythologies and exploring different cultural relationships with nature. These images of trees and forests from around the world are paired with the real trees from the garden outside tickling the gallery’s windows. More than simply presenting art by ethnically Chinese artists, Hé’s goal is to foster real connections between art, humans, and the natural world.
去否画廊采访时，那里正在举办 Michael Eade 的《刹那》（“past is present is future”）展览。从这次展览的作品，不难看出何雨的这些艺术理念。Eade 的画作描绘了不同版本的生命之树，结合世界神话，探索人类与自然在文化层面的不同关系。这些描画树木和森林的作品与从画廊外探进屋里的真实树木相互映衬。何雨并不是单纯要推广中国艺术家的作品，她的目标是促进一种艺术与人，人与自然世界真正的连接。
The gallery also operates outside its own walls, striving to bring art to alternative locations. “For instance, we supported artist Chen Dongfan to present public art project The Song of Dragon and Flowers with a NYDOT and Chinatown Partnership, changing the 64-meter Doyers Street into a mural.” Fou also hosted a one-day program for Wix Academy’s design students, which included an art workshop and concert, and it will curate a special art program for the China Institute’s 2019 Blue Cloud Gala, which will showcase works from Yang Renqian and Liu Chang.
Hé studied business at Peking University. She was well on her way to her master’s program at the Guanghua School of Management when she realized she had chosen that path not for herself but to please others. After a stint abroad in Amsterdam, she returned to Beijing, graduated from her program, and moved into an underground artist community for a year.
That’s when she chose art. She interned at Pace Gallery Beijing and eventually applied to study Visual Arts Administration at NYU. “In New York, I continued to work part-time at Pace and also did an internship at Christie’s,” she says. “That’s where I found out that I did not want to pursue a career in auction houses. Monetary value becomes the main concern there, rather than aesthetic value, and there aren’t many opportunities to work directly with artists. Art becomes part of the capital game.”
Hé came up with the idea of opening an apartment gallery with classmate Jiaxi Yang, and they launched Fou in 2013. The gallery moved to its current location in 2016, a historic brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant, in 2016. Yet finding a permanent home was not easy, and after months of searching for a suitable and affordable site, Hé was close to giving up. “I still clearly remember that winter day in 2016. I met up with Du Meng, who was also graduating from school. We both had visa problems. On that windy street, I told her if I found a new space then we had to do a show together.” And they did: Du held her first solo show at Fou.
“This is a space where life and art become indispensable to each other. And it’s not staged dependence—it’s real. From the very beginning I wanted the gallery to have a kitchen,” Hé says. She wants Fou to feel like a home, and it probably helps that it is one: the space also serves as Hé’s apartment.
后来，何雨和同学杨嘉茜一起想到了创办一间公寓画廊，并在 2013 年成立否画廊。2016 年，画廊搬到了贝德福—斯都维森的新址。要为画廊找一个永久的家并不容易。何雨曾经为了找合适又负担得起的场地奔波了好几个月，最后几乎快要放弃了。“我还清楚地记得，那是 2016 年的冬季。我遇到了同样刚毕业的玻璃艺术家杜蒙。我们俩都有一些签证的问题。那天风很大，我俩走在街上，我告诉她，我找到了画廊的理想场地。我跟她说，如果能重新开空间，我们要一起做个展览。”后来，杜蒙就在否画廊举办了自己首个个人作品展。
Hé hopes Fou can be a space where artists, writers, performers, musicians, scientists, architects, and creative people of different professions can meet and collaborate. She believes too much of modern life occurs on the internet, accessible to everyone but genuinely experienced by no one. “The real joy of life is not to think of yourself, but to consider the wholeness of the world,” she says. “That’s what this gallery really wants to do.”