A Force in China's Art Scene

Megan Connolly ’00 and her sister offer innovative ways to learn about contemporary Chinese art

by Christina Barber-Just

Artist Profile magazine has called them two of the most influential and cutting-edge curators in contemporary Asia. LifeStyle magazine has said that nearly every established artist and art dealer in Beijing knows them. They’re the sister-and-sister team of Megan Connolly ’00 and KC Vienna Connolly, the self-described expat “New York City gals” behind a two-year-old Beijing-based art venture called ChART Contemporary.

Megan majored in a combination of East Asian studies, East Asian languages and literature, and contemporary Chinese art at Smith and by age 21 was managing a TriBeCa gallery specializing in contemporary Chinese art; KC is a working artist—a sculptor—whose creativity complements her sister’s business sense, Megan says. Bringing together art and people is ChART’s stated mission, and the sisters have set about achieving that goal in hybrid ways, some for profit, some not.

Art tours are their bread and butter. In a twist on beginner, intermediate, and advanced, ChART offers “Curious,” “Committed,” and “Fanatic” tours, depending on one’s level of interest in contemporary Chinese art and culture. The insider tours have already generated an impressive list of big-name clients, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The New York Times.

The sisters are also making their mark as curators with experimental initiatives like ChART’s ongoing “Open House” series, which commissions and showcases—for one day only—new work by an emerging artist from a city other than Beijing or Shanghai in a space that’s for rent, for sale, abandoned, or due to be demolished. “Space comes and goes so quickly in Beijing,” Megan says, that ChART’s “hit-and-run” approach to art exhibition makes sense.
China’s “new cultural golden age,” as Megan calls it, has made it possible for ChART to grow rapidly. The sisters have already added modern architecture and design tours to their offerings, and they’re full of ideas for future exhibitions and other projects. All of which is “really exciting,” Megan says. “ChART is my life right now, and I think it will be for a long time.”

SAQ Winter 2010-2011