Julien-loïc Garin

CEO of Le French May arts fes­ti­val

Prestige Hong Kong - 40 under 40 - - Contents -

For the past seven years, Julien-loïc Garin has been spear­head­ing the arts fes­ti­val Le French May, mak­ing it one of Hong Kong’s most an­tic­i­pated an­nual events. Garin ar­rived just in time to cel­e­brate the fes­ti­val’s 20th an­niver­sary, and has spent the past few years en­sur­ing that the two-month-long event ap­peals to peo­ple of all ages.

“I’d credit the suc­cess of the fes­ti­val to the com­mu­nity,” he says, “since be­ing able to part­ner with lo­cal artists and stu­dent pro­grammes has at­tracted a lot of at­ten­tion to Le French May be­cause of the peo­ple of Hong Kong.”

For some, leav­ing the manic pace of the city is ex­actly what they need to feel recharged and en­er­gised. The op­po­site goes for Garin, who’s mo­ti­vated by Hong Kong’s non­stop life­style. “Every­one is al­ways look­ing for new projects, new ideas and new op­por­tu­ni­ties, so that’s re­ally some­thing that drives me — the pace,” he says. “Com­pared to the lethargy or the lais­sez-faire at­ti­tude back home, Hong Kong is so ex­cit­ing and can-do.”

Now, he fi­nally con­sid­ers Hong Kong home. “The in­ter­na­tional, cos­mopoli­tan as­pects, where ev­ery week you meet peo­ple from all over the world for projects, for events, I think that’s some­thing that for me em­bod­ies Hong Kong, a cul­tural melt­ing pot … and hot pot to­gether.”

He feels that the stars were aligned for him, as he ar­rived here at the per­fect time: the arts and cul­tural scene was ex­plod­ing, and new gal­leries were con­tin­u­ally pop­ping up, pro­vid­ing mo­men­tum that helped the fes­ti­val be­come such a suc­cess. “I ar­rived with the largest-ever Pi­casso ex­hi­bi­tion to head­line the fes­ti­val,” he re­calls. “It was a lo­gis­tics chal­lenge to bring 48 oil paint­ings and seven sculp­tures here. The in­sur­ance, the pack­ag­ing, the ship­ping — do you know how dif­fi­cult it is to care­fully bring The Bare­foot Girl, Woman in Red Arm­chair and Por­trait of Dora Maar? I lost so much sleep, but it was worth it as the re­cep­tion here was in­cred­i­ble.”

Le French May has been able to col­lab­o­rate with a mul­ti­tude of in­sti­tu­tions and artists, and now re­ceives more sup­port than ever from cor­po­rate spon­sors. “As with any­thing,” he says, “find­ing a venue suit­able for all of the per­form­ing arts and the ex­hi­bi­tions is es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing, given Hong Kong’s com­pet­i­tive na­ture, the over­whelm­ing costs of rent­ing venues and spa­ces. I know I’m not alone in this. Rent here is … well, I hate to use the word in­cred­i­ble again, but… ”

He prefers, how­ever, to fo­cus on the pos­i­tive as­pects of the fes­ti­val rather than the in­evitable, in­escapable chal­lenges. How, for ex­am­ple, he’s in­spired by the young gen­er­a­tion that at­tends the shows. “I have a lot of peo­ple say­ing that they re­mem­ber Le French May from when they were kids,” he says, “and that started to be the base of their ed­u­ca­tion of art ap­pre­ci­a­tion, so that’s re­ally some­thing we want to con­tinue. For me, I want it to be as­so­ci­ated with learn­ing and dis­cov­er­ies and en­joy­ment, so let’s hope that’s the re­al­ity.”

Al­ready pre­par­ing for next year’s fes­ti­val, he has sev­eral sur­prises up his sleeve and plans to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing. “I hope it be­comes an an­nual ren­dezvous where, like other fes­ti­vals, you re­ally plan out your time come May and June, to make sure you’re here to see the ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tions — and some of the great col­lab­o­ra­tions we have in terms of the per­form­ing arts as well.”

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