Patrick Sun is the founder of Sunpride Foundation, a nonprofit working to create awareness for the LGBTQIA+ community in Asia through art.
The Artsy Collector Series
We are asking 11 questions to illuminate untold collector stories and shed light on how Artsy can be used to discover artists and connect with galleries.
Patrick Sun has made it his personal and professional mission to support LGBTQIA+ artists. As the founder of Sunpride Foundation, he’s led the nonprofit’s efforts to create awareness for the LGBTQIA+ community in Asia through art. One of its biggest projects to date was organizing a pair of institutional exhibitions dedicated to queer themes, titled “Spectrosynthesis,” which took place in Taipei and Bangkok in 2017 and 2019, respectively. And since the 1980s, Sun has been building an impressive collection of works by influential LGBTQIA+ artists such as David Wojnarowicz, Shu Lea Cheang, Sunil Gupta, Wu Tsang, Danh Vō, and Samson Young, among many others. Now a member of the M+ Council for New Art, Sun has carved a place for himself as a major patron of LGBTQIA+ art.
We asked Sun 11 questions about the works in his collection and his approach to collecting. Here is what he had to say:
Can you describe your collection in a sentence or less?
LGBTQIA+ and Asian.
What is a piece you own that people are often drawn to or ask you about frequently?
I think Chinese artist Xiyadie’s large-scale paper-cutting works are perhaps the most frequently asked about. These works tell incredible personal stories of the artist, and they are so visually stunning. They were selected by the curators of both our exhibitions, in Taipei and Bangkok. The media, collectors, gallerists, and even institutions have asked us about these works.
Can you tell us about a piece you recently bought on Artsy?
I have participated in Para Site’s benefit auctions through Artsy and successfully acquired a few works. Among them is Brooklyn-based artist Jes Fan’s 2020 video installation Dr. Pimple Popper. Jes is a wonderful artist. Their work often deals with the notion of the body and questions the concept of otherness by exploring materials with biological and social connotations. I went to see Jes’s solo exhibition at Empty Gallery in 2018 and acquired a large-scale work from the exhibition, and have been following the artist’s development ever since. When I saw Jes’s work appearing in Para Site’s auction catalogue, I immediately decided to go for it.
Can you tell us about an artist or two you’ve discovered through Artsy?
Artsy has published many interesting and informative articles which have brought to our attention many talented artists. New York–based artist Kyle Dunn is one of them. It was in June 2020, when Dunn was among the artists included the article “14 Artists on the Importance of Portraying Queer Love.” Later that year in December, I acquired a great work by the artist from P.P.O.W at Art Basel in Miami Beach.
What was the biggest challenge you encountered while starting out as an art collector? How have you overcome it?
In the beginning, my colleagues and I felt like private detectives trying to discover whether an artist identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. You can imagine how awkward it would be if you asked this question to gallerists face-to-face at their exhibitions or booths. After some time, through the trust we built with people in the art circle, it gradually became less difficult. We realized the best way to overcome this hurdle was to openly tell people about the focus of our collection. Because of this unique focus, people remember Sunpride’s collection and will inform us about which artists or exhibitions to pay attention to, or who we should talk to.
What is the most unusual thing you’ve done in order to collect a work?
I once followed an artist all the way to Paris just to see his performance and to have a chance to meet him in person. This was the amazing Singaporean artist Ming Wong. In 2016, Wong had a performance at the Club Silencio designed by David Lynch. It was a special live performance for the opening of the FIAC fair. I told Ming after the show that I was very moved by his piece, and that I hoped he could repeat it for our exhibitions one day. He did so much more than that! Ming created amazing new works and opening performances for both of our exhibitions—2017 in Taipei, and 2019 in Bangkok. I was so grateful for this.
How do you build relationships with galleries?
I go to see exhibitions at galleries and visit their booths at art fairs. Learning about artists and their practices from gallerists is very important and rewarding. Even if the initial contact does not result in immediate acquisition, the connection almost always leads to a mutually beneficial relationship. Artsy has certainly helped in this process. Artsy’s articles are very informative, and I can often pick up a couple of artist names or exhibitions that tremendously contribute to my own research and inform the conversations that I have with gallerists.
What is your collecting process like? Do you collect differently online versus in person?
It’s always a team decision, whether I’m collecting in person or online. My team and I always go to art fairs together whenever we can. If not, we go through lists of works online. These days, online sales and exhibitions are just as important as their physical counterparts. We actually end up seeing a lot more works through online presentations.
When you’re deciding whether or not to buy an artist’s work, what’s the most important information that helps you make that decision?
When we see a work we like, our first question is always: “How would it work in our exhibitions? Would it create dialogue with our other works or fit well under the curatorial theme and in a public museum show?”
How does your collection inform your work with Sunpride Foundation?
Sunpride Foundation’s mission is to help foster a healthier and more equitable society for the LGBTQIA+ community, and I think this collection reinforces and materializes the mission. Through institutional exhibitions, the works in the collection have had a chance to reach a wider audience and spark conversations. The constructive feedback and the very positive reaction from the public, professionals in the art circle, and the media gave the foundation and myself the strength to carry on, and has helped us broaden our perspective.
These days online sales and exhibitions are just as important as their physical counterparts.
What do you enjoy most about being a collector?
Meeting people, making friends, and creating experiences and memories together is what I’ve enjoyed the most in my journey becoming a collector. There are so many amazing and incredibly talented people in the art world who have opened up my eyes and introduced this spectacular new world to me.