Pearl Lam Galleries Presented ‘Neo-Perception’ To Break Boundaries

International gallerist Pearl Lam refuses to be labelled as a feminist. In Pearl Lam’s Podcast, episode one, with Rebecca Jones, she stated that her background as a person born in Shanghai and then living in Hong Kong didn’t influence her to be a ‘feminist.’ However, this did not stop her from promoting Chinese women through her Pearl Lam Galleries in Shanghai. This exhibition was held in 2015, called Neo-Perception’ and 24 Chinese contemporary female artists’ works were shown in it.

If Pearl Lam doesn’t see herself as a feminist, why is she promoting women as the owner of Pearl Lam Galleries? There has to be a reason for Lam to select a handful of these Chinese women working on contemporary art and select from their oeuvres. The purpose of this is simple: though Lam does not see herself as a feminist and grew up in a different culture, she is very much aware of the male dominance in the art world, whether as an artist, curator, or gallerist. As the powerhouse of China’s art world, she has been trying to make the art society an equal playing field for all, whether it is for female artists, non-traditional, or non-conformist artists, because she does not conform to any rules and hence the Neo-Perception exhibition.

What Did The Owner of Pearl Lam Galleries Meant By Neo-Perception?

For many uninitiated, neo-perception was something not heard of before the exhibition. Even if anyone Google it, the meaning of the terminology is hard to find. Most of the time, the search lands on Neo-Impressionism. However, these two are poles apart from using the word ‘neo.’

The word ‘neo’ means ‘new,’ ‘revived,’ ‘recent,’ or ‘modified.’ In the exhibition held at the Pearl Lam Gallery, the word ‘Neo-Perception’ meant thinking of female identity anew. The concept embraces a new language, imagery, and thought unique to female experience and identity. This formation of art confronts the existing perception of identity that has often been represented through a male gaze. In ‘Neo-Perception,’ the unique language of art is reflected through the voice of a female artist. The fundamental pursuit of this form is to allow these women to explore a wide range of themes like gender, sexuality, identity, relationships, mortality, and social dynamics through a women’s lens in a contemporary way.

As a powerhouse of China’s art world, Pearl Lam created this space for 24 such young female Chinese artists in 2015 in the Pearl Lam Galleries, where fresh approaches were explored through traditional mediums. The where philosophical, psychological, and messiness that women face through their existence and lives become the focus of Neo-Perception. It is compelling as it tries to legitimise the different ways identities are shaped and formed for women. Through this exhibition, international gallerist Pearl Lam pushed the envelope to create an open discussion about women’s experiences and how they are reflected through art. But the exhibition was done without putting the label of ‘female art’ since it intended to unveil this new insight and consciousness of the world.

The Powerhouse of China’s Art World Pearl Lam Reshaping Societal Values

It would be a mistake not to owe or credit the exhibition to the concept of feminism, which shaped this ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking about societal structures and values. However, just owing this art form represented by Pearl Lam through the Pearl Lam Galleries to feminism would be an injustice to Lam’s progressive thinking.

The “Neo-Perception’ exhibition gave place to contemporary Chinese women artists who can be viewed within the scope of multiple-level marginalisation. This includes being represented as a female artist in a patriarchal field, a Chinese female artist, and an Asian artist. Or it can be considered as part of the intersectionality theory experience as coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw. It refers to how different types of inequality exacerbate and operate together for people, and in this case, for Chinese women artists. Hence, the 2015 ‘Neo-Perception’ exhibition curated by the international gallerist Pearl Lam needs to be remembered and revered.

The significance of the exhibition and the foresightedness of this female icon and entrepreneur is so powerful in this time and age because Pearl Lam started pushing ideas in Asia and China that very few curators of the region were bold enough to do. This, too, despite Lam not growing up or facing any inequality between genders in these two Chinese cities, i.e., Shanghai and Hong Kong. In the Pearl Lam Podcast, she even says that when she talks with the younger women of these two cities in her eponymous Pearl Lam Galleries, they do not feel discriminated against by the males of the society.

However, one doesn’t have to be a ‘feminist’ to recognise that women need representation separately from men and that too in Asia and China. If there is someone in this art field who has been breaking the glass ceiling not only for herself but for other artists across the world, irrespective of whether they are women or men, it is Pearl Lam. The ‘Neo-Perception’ exhibition was just one of the instances where we can view the deeper understanding that she cultivates while curating any exhibition.


  • Naomi Fletcher

    Your writing has a way of making complex topics seem simple Kudos!.

  • Naomi Fletcher

    I appreciate the effort you put into responding to reader comments Thank you for engaging with your audience.

  • Naomi Fletcher

    I’m grateful for the effort you put into researching this.