Gallery  June 18, 2024  Cynthia Close

Merging Tech and Art in the LaiSun Keane Gallery

Courtesy of LaiSun Keane

LaiSun Keane Gallery Interior

Malaysian-born gallerist LaiSun Keane arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in 2013 with her husband and two kids. They moved to New England from Sydney, Australia where Keane had studied art history and theory. Prior to that, she had made a successful career in the tech sector working for Unisys, a global information technology company, and software developer Novell. As one can likely see, her metamorphosis as a gallerist was not an easy, overnight thing. 

Being a data-driven realist, Keane set out to explore the greater Boston art scene through volunteering. “I immediately immersed myself in the art world here in Boston— just to see what was going on.” The family had settled in Lexington, an upscale residential Boston suburb. “I tried to make myself useful and offered to work for free for a gallery in Concord. I used my tech experience to help modernize them.”

Courtesy of LaiSun Keane

Photograph of LaiSun Keane

In the process of transitioning a rather staid, conservative gallery into a more visible entity with an online presence, Keane was able to automate much of their inventory system and set up social media accounts. 

Eventually, she was hired by the Concord gallery owner, but as their vision for the future started to diverge, Keane realized she had to find another path. Surprisingly, COVID presented the ideal opportunity for someone with an extensive background in hi-tech to launch a gallery of their own.

“I can be impulsive, so in April of 2020, in spite of the fact that everything was closing down, I decided to open my own gallery.” With the enthusiastic support of her husband, Keane launched a gallery in the sitting room of her Lexington house. 

“People were buying art online, so I started doing business that way right from the beginning. We held virtual receptions… For some gallerists, the pandemic years were very successful. For those of us who made the choice to stay open, they were the most successful years we’d had.” 

By June 2020, some restrictions on public interactions had begun to loosen up, and Keane decided it was time to take her business to the next level.

Courtesy of LaiSun Keane

LaiSun Keane Gallery

“I realized I did not want to run a business from my home. There were a lot of vacant shops, so I approached landlords and found a few spaces to do pop-up exhibitions. In that process, I found a place in SOWA [South-of-Washington Street] on Harrison Ave.” 

This area is comparable to SOHO or Tribeca in New York, but with a more conservative, Boston touch. Much of the area reflects its industrial past, with turn of the century brick buildings that many artists occupied as illegal live-in loft spaces as early as the 1970s. 

That process triggered what has become a predictable pattern of further development— attracting galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, and more— creating an “arts district” that lures collectors, curators, and people who are simply curious about art. The older, more traditionally-run galleries in Boston line up on Newbury Street, in the heart of the city.  

Keane explains, “I started with an active social media presence to reach out. Attending art fairs plays a big part in my approach. I’ve attended eight art fairs so far and have done over 40 exhibitions in the gallery.” 

Besides an informative, easy-to-navigate website, Keane takes advantage of added visibility on Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and Facebook. She sees the benefits of combining curated shows in her 1,000 foot, brick and mortar space with all the digital options available for displaying visual art.  

 

The group exhibition, “Calibration,” on view through July 7, 2024, features ceramic artists Audrey An, Raina Lee, Cathy Lu, and Danyang Anna Song all working with cutting-edge technology as they incorporate 3D printing with ceramics

As explained on the gallery website, “The title, ‘Calibration,’ holds a dual connotation – a term common in both the 3D printing world and in everyday vernacular. We wanted this show to be about the new and exciting work in ceramic, especially in the area where technology is involved, so that the audience could calibrate their mind to look at ceramic in a whole new light.”

Courtesy of LaiSun Keane

LaiSun Keane Gallery Interior

To facilitate public engagement with a challenging theme, Keane organized a free Artist Talk event in the gallery, moderated by Zach Ngin, Curatorial Assistant at the MIT List Visual Arts Center. Boston is both a cultural hub and a center for technology, making shows like “Calibration” the ideal intersection between the two.                         

Keane’s upcoming summer show, “La Toilette,” derives its title from the 1889 painting by French painter Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). 

This exhibition presents work from four female painters— Kyra Gregory, Isabelle Higgins, Jenny Olsen, and Salome Rigvava— who explore concepts of femininity, identity, and societal expectations through the act of bathing and washing. These two exhibitions exemplify LaiSun Keane Gallery’s eclectic interests in style and medium, a smart move in today’s volatile art marketplace.

View works for sale by LaiSun Keane Gallery on Art & Object Marketplace

About the Author

Cynthia Close

Cynthia Close holds a MFA from Boston University, was an instructor in drawing and painting, Dean of Admissions at The Art Institute of Boston, founder of ARTWORKS Consulting, and former executive director/president of Documentary Educational Resources, a film company. She was the inaugural art editor for the literary and art journal Mud Season Review. She now writes about art and culture for several publications.

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