Loreli is a cultural platform that focuses on exposing China’s great young artists to a wider audience. After only one year of existence, it is becoming an integral part of Beijing’s cultural life. We sat down to have a chat with one of the founders, Kerryn Leitch, to find out more about Loreli’s beginnings, the current state of affairs, and their future plans.
Loreli is a bit of a hybrid. What started as a website and WeChat account for writing about Beijing’s fresh-faced artists has morphed into a platform that does a whole lot more: hosting events, running competitions, promoting Beijing’s unsung bars and, increasingly, talking about artists outside of the Beijing bubble (a research trip to Chengdu has been ticked off the list, and “Dalian might be next,” Leitch tells us).
Loreli is split into three sections: Read, Look, and Listen (i.e. art, literature and music) with the goal being one new piece per section per week. It started under the guidance of three women, and now Kerryn and a small team of culture vultures run things. Everyone involved has roots in Beijing’s cultural scenes, whether hosting literary events, writing for Beijing-based publications, or presenting radio shows. Loreli also occasionally employs the services of guest curators, who are free to write and interview as they please, with the aim of discovering more interesting artists.
Leitch explains that Loreli aims to promote emerging artists, those who “haven’t broken into the scene and don’t necessarily have an established following” is one of Loreli’s chief aims. They’ve decided the best way to do this is “establishing a big and beneficial community.” In fact, Leitch emphasizes that “the whole point of Loreli is collaboration.” Being within a wide network can help young artists reach a wider audience and, as an artist, having a group of people around you who can critique, promote, and influence your work is key to developing your practice. Loreli recognizes and organizes just that.
With a pretty large handful of website-cum-magazines-cum-party planners already focusing on Beijing and China’s culture scenes, you might wonder why Loreli came about. For one, Leitch noted how these “closed-loops” often promote the same people over and over again, which leave relatively little room for new artists to make themselves known.
“Women were also often under-represented,” Leitch observes. That’s something Loreli works hard to rectify. The platform also focuses on simplicity, presenting well-curated content within a simple online framework, nothing too fancy. But, in our opinion, what really sets Loreli apart is simply their genuine passion and enthusiasm for what they are doing.
Successes have come in the form of exhibitions featuring artists introduced via Loreli and, course, through the opportunity for artists to sell their works. The exhibition “我们好玩就行” (“We have fun online”), at Loreli’s regular hutong haunt Más, brought together four young artists that Loreli had previously featured. In mid-2016, “Bipolar,” a successful international exhibition in 798, saw nearly half the artists introduced to each other via Loreli. On top of this, the Loreli Art Fair has served as a great space for young artists to sell their works.
All this has been achieved by a small group of people offering up their spare time. Of course, money is always an issue. Leitch spoke only apprehensively about money, but hopes to make Loreli “financially beneficial for everyone involved,” whether that be the Loreli writers or the artists, writers, and musicians they come to work with. The plan is to eventually include some advertising and start “selling content to another China-based magazine.”
While Leitch emphasizes how strong Beijing’s cultural scenes are, particularly art and live music, there are a couple of changes that Loreli aims to bring about. The first is the dilemma experienced by many young artists, particularly visual artists: If they don’t price their work high enough, it may come across as lacking in quality, yet few collectors want to pay large amounts of money for an unknown artist just starting out. Loreli wants to move beyond this and be a voice that emphasizes the primacy of the art’s aesthetic merits.
Leitch is explicit that “pretty much all of our future plans rely on collaboration,” and Loreli’s second major aim is to formalize the ties within this community a little more. In the world of music, it’s common for more established bands to act as “patrons” for emerging talent. Loreli wants to expand this practice across their Read, Look, and Listen sections. Creating “a much larger readership that we can all share and benefit from” would broaden the spectrum of people involved in their community. Leitch also wants to make “the website easier to use [so that] people could more easily find art and easily get in contact with artists.” With our own experience trying to contact Loreli and the artists they have featured, this is one development we’re especially looking forward to.
More parties and events are on the horizon. Loreli will be curating the bar Mimi e Coco for the Fangjia Christmas market on December 17. An implicit aim in events like this is to give greater recognition to some of the less lauded bars and event spaces around the city, like Ball House where Loreli just recently held their first year anniversary celebration. Keep an eye out for the third edition of their successful art fairs, invaluable opportunities for young artists to sell their wares. Whatever happens, it’s clear that Loreli is sure to keep finding and promoting the best of Beijing and China’s new artists, writers and musicians. Long may they continue!
By Thomas Mouna
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