What Matters To Me: Julien-Loïc Garin, Founder of Lumieres Hong Kong
In the What Matters To Me series, a Generation T honouree describes what they do, why they do it and why it matters.
He dabbled with acting and the lure of French television but, happily for the residents of Hong Kong, Julien-Loïc Garin decided his future lay elsewhere. He was working at the Fondation Pierre Bergé–Yves Saint Laurent in Paris when the call came in 2012 asking him to come to Hong Kong for a year to help with Le French May anniversary celebrations—and he couldn’t resist. One year turned into six. Along the way he has brought work by Monet and Picasso to the city, and launched the fabulous Lumieres Hong Kong. Here he explains his work in his own words.
Working on Le French May’s 20th anniversary celebrations was an offer I couldn’t resist. There were a few big challenges, like the Picasso exhibition, which was very large and expensive, but equally so fulfilling to work on. I was only supposed to stay for a couple of years, but I fell in love with the festival and city.
There have been so many highlights. The Monet exhibition in 2016 and the Louvre Museum exhibition last year were both incredible, and the fact that the festival has become a key moment in the cultural calendar. For us, it is not just about having nice exhibitions; when we curate the programme, we try to add value to the local offering.
I definitely feel more patriotic after working on Le French May. I have always been very proud of our country but having to choose different artists each year has made me understand the significance of our culture. We also like looking into how strongly French culture was inspired by Asia and China. In 2015, for example, we celebrated 500 years of the French renaissance, and one of the festival’s exhibitions explained how Sevres came into existence because the French were so jealous of the Chinese porcelain tradition.
I am particularly drawn to the energy of the people in Hong Kong. What is interesting is that the city is definitely Asian but it is also a very international city. People are always happy to pick up the best of the rest; they’re big travellers and like to borrow from other cultures while keeping a strong local identity.
Lumieres is a good example of how open Hong Kong is. We wanted a new festival and because I am from Lyon, I immediately thought of our famous Fête des Lumières. So I persuaded the government to create a festival focusing on lighting and heritage. People thought it was crazy, but the amazing thing about Hong Kong is that if you have a good project and are persistent, it can happen.