Mr. Michael Chow is known not only for his star-studded restaurants, but also as a global cultural icon whose portrait has been captured by the likes of famed artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, and Ed Ruscha. Indeed, Michael has had a creative streak since his youth: prior to opening his first restaurant, he worked as a designer of boutiques and restaurants in London. Michael went on to study painting in London at St. Martin’s School of Art, and exhibited in numerous solo and group shows in the late 50s during the Golden Period.
Michael (aka the artist known as Zhou YingHua) struggled as a painter in London. He turned his attention to the restaurant industry, following his vision to be a cultural ambassador and bridge between the East to the West. Michael founded his first restaurant, MR CHOW, in 1968 in London, becoming a legendary restaurateur.
About five years ago, after a nearly fifty-year sabbatical from his fine art practice, Michael returned to his true passion of painting. In 2015, his solo show, “Voice For My Father,” exhibited at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, followed by the Power Station Museum in Shanghai, and earlier this year at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Michael sat down with IVY Magazine to discuss his personal artistic journey and sources of inspiration, sharing his view of the role of art as a necessary counterpart to the violence, peril, and destruction seen across the globe.
In particular, Michael sees art as an essential piece in spiritually connecting people in the fight against climate change. “Art is the closest thing to God,” Michael explains. “When I say God, I mean… Nature. So especially in today’s time, art is really important because nature is really important, with global warming and everything else. So it’s all related to that, and from which we transcend… into spirituality.”