Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In our weekly 27 Questions column, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same amount of time it takes to sit through a 2-minute speed date.

Following an insightful conversation with the artist better known as Frog King, it would appear we’ve stumbled onto something of a theme this November. In that vein, our guest this week is Sharlane Foo — Director of Opera Gallery Hong Kong. Established in 1994, Opera is among the city’s foremost purveyors of modern and contemporary artworks.

The Hong Kong outpost — a 4-storey monolith that straddles the perimeter of LKF — figures prominently in a network of galleries, covering locales as far afield as Seoul, Aspen, and Beirut. The group has a strong line in representing important contemporary artists, but punters are likely to be more familiar with their regular public programming (during ArtWeek festivities, the gallery can be relied upon to put on suitably engaging free exhibitions). 

Sharlane Foo
At 30, Foo is the youngest specialist to attain the position of director at Opera Gallery, bringing with her a wealth of experience in Asian markets including Singapore and Mainland China.

At 30, Foo bears the distinction of being Opera’s youngest ever director — bringing with her a wealth of experience in Mainland Chinese and Singaporean collecting, as well as a flair for digital strategy. By the standards of the often stolid world of private art collecting, her ethos is intriguing: challenging clients at every level to seek out work which is controversial and often under-appreciated within the context of the region.

Indeed, one of Foo’s first substantial projects was to put together the Arts of Asia 2018 group show — a springboard, amongst other things, for works by up-and-coming Iranian artists. In line with her professionally exploratory brief, she is also a dedicated supporter of LGBT creatives (e.g. British painter David Kim Whittaker) — a segment of the art world that has possessed a historically stricken voice in Asia. Below, we sit down for a quick powwow with Foo: touching on everything from West African illustration to her abiding distaste for traffic lights.

Name: Sharlane Foo
Age: 30
Neighbourhood:
Sheung Wan
Occupation: Gallery Director, Opera Gallery HK

1. What is your life motto?

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

2. Who is your role model?

My grandmother: she’s the strongest and most resilient woman I’ve ever known. She fought hard to raise our family — single-handedly.

3. What was your first job?

Waiting tables at Pizza Hut (at the age of 13).

4. What is your drink of choice?

Vodka soda served tall, with an extra squeeze of lemon.

5. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?

My harbour view and eclectic art collection.

Sharlane Foo

6. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Night owl I guess? I don’t sleep til 1am but I’m up for my 8am class at F45 every morning. So maybe that makes me both.

7. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Eggs — you do so much with them! Scrambled, boiled, poached — they’re even used in cocktails.

8. What is your biggest regret in life?

Not deciding to move to Hong Kong earlier.

9. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?

The ticking sound of the traffic lights. In my first apartment, I could hear them from my bedroom — even with noise-cancelling headphones on! Needless to say, I was out within a week.

10. What is the top destination on your bucket list?

Ghana. It’s got a funky art scene, not to mention my recent obsession with Ghanian vintage movie posters — hand-painted during the 80s and 90s.

Sharlane Foo

11. How often do you prepare your own meals?

If you consider protein shakes a meal, then daily.

12. What is your greatest fear?

Living a meaningless, mediocre life.

13. When did you last ride the Star Ferry? What were you doing/where did you go?

When I smuggled my dog Erika with me to go to the new K11 development. Erika loves going on adventures — I never expected to own a purse dog, but now I actually quite enjoy it.

14. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Drinking a nice full bodied glass of red, whilst binge watching make-up tutorials.

15. What is one movie everyone should see?

Almost Famous. It’s one of my all-time favourites, I cry each time I watch it.

16. What is your typical Sunday like?

I start the day with a 2-hour workout at Soho House, followed by lunch with friends, and then try to catch up on a book or two. Currently, I’m reading The most powerful woman in the room is you by Lydia Fenet.

17. Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?

The Norah Jones concert I attended in Singapore — it was a relatively small, intimate setting with only a handful of people. She closed out the night with her all-time classic Don’t Know Why. Definitely one of my favourite evenings.

18. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?

The hustle — in Hong Kong it has an exceptionally unique guise. If you know, you know.

19. If you could invite any five people in the world to your dream dinner party, who would they be?

Michelle Obama, Chuck Palahniuk, Anthony Bourdain, Nina Chanel Abney, and Gok Wan.

20. Where do you go when you want to be alone?

I take a long walk on the harbour front (with my phone on airplane mode).

21. If you had to describe Hong Kong in one word, what would it be?

“Thriving.”

22. What is your favourite scent in the whole world?

Freshly laundered clothing — I like that nowadays there are quite a few candles which capture that scent.

Sharlane Foo

23. Do you have a catchphrase?

“Are you f**king serious?”

24. Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Tell us about it.

The moment I saw the works of Claude Monet at the Chichu Art Museum. My heart was full — I was truly awestruck.

25. How many pairs of shoes do you currently own? Which do you wear the most?

I’ve lost count to be honest! For a casual day, Prada sneakers and Jimmy Choos for a night out dancing.

26. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?

Crave You by Flight Facilities.

27. What is your unique party trick?

Making everyone in the room feel like a superstar.

Opera Gallery Hong Kong, W Place, 52 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2810 1208

Randy Lai
Watches Editor
Having worked in the Australian digital media landscape for over 5 years, Randy has extensive experience in men's specialist categories such as classic clothing, watches and spirits. He is partial to mid-century chronographs and a nice chianti.