The story of how Viviane Jasinski ended up opening an art gallery in Vail Village begins more than 30 years ago in Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, where she was born and spent the earliest years of her life.
“I dream about Mongolia,” says Jasinski, seated elegantly behind her desk on the gallery floor at A Hint of Asia, which is located downstairs from White Bison on the Gore Creek Promenade. Petite, stylishly dressed in black, and wearing a fur jacket and fur-lined boots, she has a faraway look in her eyes. “Sometimes I dream about the grass line and the beautiful sky. In Vail, I see a lot of similarities with Mongolia: the geography, the snow, the cold winter, even the vegetation. Here, I feel at home.”
When she was five, her grandfather, an art collector and academic who spoke five languages, moved the family to Jinan (the capital city of East China’s Shandong province) to open an international school and create more opportunities for his sons. With the Chinese economy booming in the early 1980s, Jasinski’s father and his brothers founded successful construction, energy, manufacturing, and mining companies that grew into something of a family empire—much to the dismay of Jasinski, who, as a 12-year-old inspired by her grandfather’s ever-expanding Western art collection, boldly informed her father that she intended to be an artist.
“He didn’t say anything and went away for two days,” she recalls. “When he came back, he said, ‘Your uncles and me talked. We don’t need an artist. We need a family attorney.’”
Though she was accepted into Oxford as a teen, her father (worried his daughter would catch a train to Paris to pursue her passion the moment her plane landed in London) instead enrolled her at the University of Beijing, where, under his watchful eye, she graduated with a law degree at 18. After passing the Chinese bar exam, Jasinski found work as an attorney at the largest law firm in the Shandong province. Miserable as a lawyer, she lasted seven months. Her father, a developer, then sent her to Kuala Lumpur to oversee the sales and marketing of a luxury condominium complex. Unhappy with the look of the sales model, she convinced her father’s business partner to give her a budget to redecorate it.
“It was sterile, like an Ikea showroom,” she says. “I thought I would fill it up with art.”
And so she did, redecorating the unit with eclectic furniture, rugs, sculpture, and colorful paintings she curated from a shopping spree to galleries and arts and crafts markets in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia. The two-bedroom unit, which had been listed for $850,000, sold for $1.25 million. With that success, she redecorated all 50 units in her father’s building, then 100 units in another, negotiating a 2 percent base sales commission for each unit sold, plus a 10 percent bonus of revenue generated beyond the listing price.
“By the time I was 20, I was very wealthy,” she says matter-of-factly. “Then I started my art gallery.”
In Singapore, Jasinski opened an art investment company and, with her nest egg, began purchasing and reselling works by Dali, Warhol, and other contemporary masters. With the proceeds from that business, she bankrolled Gallery V, which specialized in collecting well-known and emerging artists from Southeast Asia. During a visit to Vietnam, she met her muse, the godmother of Indo-China art, Madame Phuong, a cousin of the last Vietnamese emperor who operates a gallery in Ho Chi Minh City.
With help from Madame Phuong, who became a business partner, Gallery V began promoting a growing roster of artists via an annual seven-month Asian art exhibition that toured dozens of nations in Europe and the Middle East. Returning to her home in Skypark (a luxury high-rise favored by millionaires and billionaires) after one extended tour, she met her husband, Paul Jasinski, working out in the condo’s gym. As a finance manager for Royal Dutch Shell’s Asia division, like the gallerist, the oil industry executive (a Scot descended from a World War II Polish aviator who was shot down over the British Isles) resided in Singapore, yet rarely spent any time there. Kindred spirits, they started dating, and he invited her to a vacation home he owned in Breckenridge.
“Because my travels were so focused on Europe and the Middle East, I had never been to the United States,” Jasinski recalls. “So I asked my business partner, ‘Madame, should I go to Colorado with my new boyfriend?’ She said, ‘French people call Colorado the land promised by God. You should go, you will definitely love it.’ And she was right.”
After spending a month in Summit County, they married in 2011, and a year later, together purchased their first permanent home, a mountain contemporary in Silverthorne’s Eagle’s Nest neighborhood, the deal brokered over the phone, in an airliner cruising at 36,000 feet above the desert of Doha. It’s decorated just like those luxury condominium units in Kuala Lumpur: with an eclectic collection of colorful artworks assembled from all across Southeast Asia.
In 2016, the Jasinskis purchased the shuttered BigHorn Home Improvement Center in downtown Silverthorne, and converted the 6,700-square-foot big box store into a contemporary art gallery, A Hint of Asia, populated with works by the 25 far-flung artists she represents; it opened in September, three months before she took over the lease of the former Cogswell Gallery that now houses A Hint of Asia’s Vail Village satellite, where in May, she plans to unveil a shipment of “some of the best Asian craft work with thousands of years of history in the making,” including rare embroidered Chinese silk screens and exotic Liuli cast crystal.
The hallmark of her painters?
“I could talk about colors...,” she says.
But she’d rather demonstrate the absence of color: negative space. Tapping at the screen of an iPad Mini, she conjures “The Dust in a Dream,” a still life by Hanoi-based L. N. Tuong, a diptych composition of earthenware bowls and boxes and colorful balls against an ethereal backdrop of cumulonimbus clouds.
“John Fielder came in the other day—he’s the most famous photographer in Colorado—and he said something philosophical about the inspiration he gets from Asian art,” she says. “‘Those artists really understand the use of negative space and how to set the focus of a painting. It takes courage for an artist to use negative space, to have the technique and the skill and to be courageous enough to do that.’”
Which brings up the matter of her own dashed dream of so long ago.
“I realized I couldn’t be a good artist,” she says. “I can sketch, I can paint, I can do still life, but that doesn’t mean I can do something outstanding.”
But as a gallerist she can, curating a home for Asian art in Colorado.
“This gallery is for people who truly love art, who appreciate art and artists with great skill,” she says. “I can do this for the rest of my life.” A Hint of Asia, 223 East Gore Creek Drive, Vail Village, 970-779-0348