About Nicole Schoeni
Nicole Schoeni is a contemporary art collector, dealer and patron of the arts. She launched an art advisory company Schoeni Projects in 2020, a business and an independent art initiative to support her commitment to the arts.
Previously, Nicole was the director of Schoeni Art Gallery, one of Asia’s most influential art venues, pivotal in the development of a generation of Chinese contemporary artists and a prestigious hub for the Hong Kong art world. She directed Schoeni Art Gallery for 10 years, following the passing of the gallery’s influential founder (and Nicole’s father)—Manfred Schoeni. Her experience was honed by accompanying and assisting her father on his many artist studio visits across China.
Under Nicole’s direction, and the support and collaboration of her mother Wai Yin since 2004, the gallery continued to foster young Chinese talent, including artists Chen Fei, Li Hongbo and Yang Yongliang, whilst also taking the gallery into new areas such as Urban Art. In 2008, the gallery mounted the first-ever unauthorised exhibition of Banksy in Hong Kong.
Nicole made the decision to close Schoeni Art Gallery shortly after its 20th anniversary in 2013, dedicating her time to consulting for private clients and growing her own Arts patronage. In 2015 she curated the Hong Kong section of the China 8 Exhibition, the most comprehensive survey of contemporary Chinese art held in Germany to date; the exhibition was hosted across 9 museums—including NRW-Forum (Düsseldorf), Lehmbruck Museum (Duisburg) and the Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten (Marl)— throughout 8 cities. She has also consulted on art projects such as for the Grand Lisboa Palace (Macau). She is an active patron of Sovereign Art Foundation (HK), Asia Art Archive (HK), Para Site (HK), Victoria and Albert (UK) and a director of Asian Art in London. She also sits on the committee for The 14th Factory, and on the advisory team for Arts for Good Foundation (HK).
About Manfred Schoeni
Swiss-born Manfred Ludwig Schoeni (1946-2004) grew up in a humble background. After the passing of his grandfather, a carpenter and furniture maker, Schoeni became entirely independent at the age of 16 and began his career as a kitchen apprentice at a local restaurant, followed by his tenure at Hotel de Paris and Hotel de Palmiers. After realising he was losing interest in working in a kitchen, Schoeni decided to pursue a career in hotel management and completed an MBA at the Heidelberg Hotel School in Germany. As an adventurous young man, Schoeni moved from job to job including his short stint in South Africa and Germany. It was not until 1975 he decided to settle down when he was offered the position of Room Division Manager at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hong Kong.
His decision to stay in Hong Kong turned out to be one of the most significant points in his career. During this period, Schoeni travelled extensively throughout Asia and continued to develop his knowledge and interest in art which began at an early age with influences from his grandfather. In 1979, he founded Schoeni Fine Oriental Art Company with his former wife Wai Yin Kwan with a focus on Chinese antiques. It was this work that enabled Schoeni to travel all over China and visit artist studios, including Yuan Ming Yuan village in Beijing. It was from that point that he realised while art schools were exhibiting different styles of painting and schools of thought, it was also clear that the majority of these artists were not represented by any institutions. From there, the idea was born to realise his dream of opening the Schoeni Art Gallery in Hong Kong in 1992.
❝ Art should be free from any preconceived analysis by others because art should speak its own language, and its creation should find its place. ❞ – Manfred Schoeni (1995)
Schoeni relentlessly led his gallery through the exploration of the Chinese contemporary art scene with pure passion and vision, at a time when this art form was still unknown and not recognised by the West. His risk-loving nature inspired him to open other business ventures including Ashanti Vineyard in South Africa, and several restaurants in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Notably, Ashanti Restaurant (1998-2003) and Schoeni Art Gallery (2002-2004) in Beijing had played a major role in shaping the artistic environment in Beijing at the time. In particular, Ashanti Restaurant turned out to be a fashionable art hub (similar to the Impressionists’ salon culture during the 19th century in France) where many stories about art and artists have entered into local lore. Artists such as Li Guijun, Liu Wei, Qi Zhilong, Wang Guangyi, Yue Minjun, Zeng Fanzhi and Zhang Xiaogang were regular visitors.
In 2004, Manfred’s contribution to Chinese contemporary art was cut short due to a tragic incident. His daughter, Nicole Schoeni, took over the family business at the age of 23 and continued to foster Chinese talents and promoted the education and appreciation of Chinese contemporary art beyond Hong Kong.