Katie de Tilly
Director of 10 Chancery Lane

Home-cooked meals can work wonders for sundry appetites. In early 2001, as Katie de Tilly sat for dinner in a friend’s flat, the conversation turned to a shuttered studio located downstairs. “I had this crazy idea,” recalls De Tilly with a mirthful smile. “Even though there was paper over the windows, I thought I could do something with that space.” Ten years and 93 exhibitions later, De Tilly proved prescient, and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery is one of the city’s most respected contemporary art galleries.

But it’s hardly luck that accounts for the California native’s success. Since childhood, De Tilly has avidly painted and drawn, and she might have become an artist herself if not for harsh critiques of her college-day works. “I realised what was better for me in the art world was to promote the arts,” she says. “That was a very good thing for me to learn.” Few would disagree. Previously working alongside her self-employed pharmacist mother, de Tilly developed a nose for business to match her heart for art, and today her gallery engages in Asian themes and ambitious programming.

In 2007, for instance, she persuaded Julian Schnabel to present his first Hong Kong exhibition at her gallery; last year, Baz Luhrmann and Vincent Fantauzzo installed a multimedia work for ART HK. Regularly exhibiting artists like Wang Keping, the provocative Chinese sculptor, especially inspire her. “When artists you’ve believed in for a long time show you a whole new body of work, it takes your breath away,” says the cheerful mum of four, who warms to the “organised chaos” of art dealing because “working with artists is exactly what I want to be doing.” De Tilly clearly shares the artist’s abandon, which makes sense considering how her dream unexpectedly got cooking over dinner one night.

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