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Archive for the ‘Art districts’ Category

Ex-Tate Modern director Lars Nittve appointed to lead West Kowloon’s M+

Posted by artradar on July 14, 2010


HONG KONG ART MUSEUMS

The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) seems to be taking its plans to develop a world-class cultural district in Hong Kong seriously. After appointing ex-Barbican (London) Artistic Director, Graham Sheffield as the CEO of the project in April this year, the WKCDA announced, on 23 June, the appointment of Lars Nittve as Executive Director of the district’s Museum Plus (M+).

Lars Nittve was appointed as Executive Director of Museum Plus,Hong Kong in June

Lars Nittve was appointed as Executive Director of Museum Plus, Hong Kong in June.

Nittve will work in close collaboration with CEO Sheffield and will be responsible for all content and exhibitions of M+, which, as per guidelines set out by the Hong Kong government’s Museum Advisory Group, will be:

…more than a museum or a building space. It would be a new type of cultural institution with its mission to focus on twentieth to twenty-first century visual culture, broadly defined, from a Hong Kong perspective, the perspective of now, and with a global vision. With an open, flexible and forward looking attitude, M+ aims to inspire, delight, educate and engage the public, encourage dialogue, interaction and partnership, explore diversity and foster creativity and cross-fertilization.

While WKCDA is spending substantially on hiring the best names in the market, Hong Kong art enthusiasts are worried whether their expertise will work in the localised Hong Kong art scene. At a recent press conference held by the WKCDA in Hong Kong, Nittve said that he is relying on collaborators with an in-depth knowledge of the arts scene of Hong Kong paired with his own experience in the museum field to tackle this anxiety.

Nittve is a renowned museum director and curator with years of experience heading world-class institutions such as London’s Tate Modern and Stockholm’s Moderna Museet. As the first director of Tate Modern in 1998, Nittve led the development of the museum, establishing it as one of the top modern art museums in the world, drawing close to five million visitors in its first year.

Proposed Site for Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong

Proposed Site for Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong

When asked how he would compare developing M+ with his work with the Tate Modern, Nittve cautiously said,

If I look at complications and possibilities, someone told me yesterday when I just flew in, that it’s going be more complicated than the Tate Modern. I would rather say that there are many advantages in developing M+, because actually we start from scratch more or less. In Tate Modern, we have to plug-in into a one hundred-year-old institution with its traditions, with its already existing staff, and that made it quite complicated to create a museum, that soon turned out that would be the biggest one in the family. So I think that it’s probably different, equally complicated, but in different ways. Every museum is different to start with, because every local context is different. And you have to, of course, rely on what you know, but also you have to take some leap of faith.

Nittve will officially join the WKCDA team in January 2011 and will start with defining specific guidelines as to how the collection at the M+ will take shape.

AM/KN

Related Topics: business of art, art spaces – museums, art professionals

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Is Hong Kong a cultural desert? How can you become a better collector? Answers revealed at Asia Art Forum

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2010


ART PROFESSIONALS HONG KONG ART INDONESIAN ART ART COLLECTING

Guest writer Bonnie E. Engel, a Hong Kong freelance journalist, presents Art Radar Asia readers with her perspective on the talks of two speakers at the this year’s Asia Art Forum, held in Hong Kong in May. Hong Kong art critic and curator Valerie Doran discusses the question, “Is Hong Kong a cultural desert?” and Indonesian private art collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien divulges his collecting secrets.

Engel attended the third edition of Asia Art Forum’s three day gathering of talks and artist studio visits, designed for emerging and established collectors and presented by influential curators, collectors and experts. This year’s forum focussed on Chinese art. Read more about why organiser Pippa Dennis set up the Forum here.

Valerie Doran: Hong Kong curator and art critic

Curator and art critic Valerie Doran spoke on Sunday morning at Hong Kong’s Ben Brown Fine Arts. She covered the history of fine art in Hong Kong, trying to answer the question, “Is Hong Kong a Cultural Desert?”

 

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

 

This perception is fed by the lack of facilities in the city in which to show Hong Kong contemporary art and relatively few full-time artists who are more or less invisible unless collectors hunt them out. These artists are nourished on the peripheries of the territory, out in the new territories like Kowloon and the industrial sections of Hong Kong Island, rather than in Central or Causeway Bay.

The audience was grateful to see works by the older generation of artists in Hong Kong, who seemed driven to create art without a market or venue, artists such as Luis Chan and Lui Shou-kwan, who were born at the beginning of the 20th century, and Wucius Wong, Gaylord Chang, Ha Bik Chuen and Chu Hing Wah, all born before World War II. Most of their works are small, possibly reflecting the lack of space in Hong Kong.

Doran explained that Hong Kong’s art industry developed outside the concept of the art market. A lot of the art made in Hong Kong is installation (temporary) or conceptual, mainly due to a lack of space and resources, and the need for a supportive community rather than one so focused on making money.

Post-war artists also failed to rise to any great heights, but after the 1989 incident artists rose to the occasion and responded by creating conceptual and performance art pieces, perhaps a pivotal moment in the development of Hong Kong art.

As Doran relayed, part of the problem is the lack of governmental policy regarding artists, or rather that the official policy seems to be to ignore the arts. Recently, with the newly created West Kowloon Cultural District, built on reclaimed land, artists and curators are beginning to worry that the government will begin to establish arts policy, much to the detriment of arts development in the territory. To date, the government has sponsored performing art shows and events more substantially than the visual arts, perhaps a legacy of the culture-starved colonials from the UK before 1997.

She highlighted one successful governmental project, the art space Para/Site, which receives some funding from the rather new Arts Development Council, an organisation not noted for promoting local arts or artists without a lot of red tape and many meetings. The city’s major museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, is closed to outside curators (unless you are Louis Vuitton or other big money sponsors), so it was unique that Doran was allowed to create the Antonio Mak show there. Although many people agree that Hong Kong needs a contemporary art museum, Doran sees more hope in the integration and cooperation of the Pearl River Delta cities, an action that could sweep Hong Kong up into the larger regional arts scene.

Doran concluded by noting that Hong Kong’s artists are beginning to participate in the Venice Biennale and other internationals shows, and collectors are gathering in the territory twice a year for major auctions of Chinese and Southeast Asian art. Artists such as Kacey Wong, Lee Kit, Stanley Wong (anothermountainman), Tozer Pak, Sarah Tse, Luke Ching Chin-waiAnthony Leung Po Shan, Chow Chun Fai, Lam Tung Pang and Warren Leung are starting to shine at local and international galleries.

Valerie Doran is a critic and curator who, after spending seven years in Taiwan, is now based in Hong Kong. She specialises in contemporary Asian art with a special interest in cross-cultural currents and comparative art theory. She is a contributing editor of Orientations Magazine. Her Hong Kong curatorial projects include Simon Birch’s multi-media extravaganza, “Hope and Glory” and the controversial exhibition “Looking for Antonio Mak” which showed at the Hong Kong Museum of Art in 2008 and 2009.

Art Radar Asia has published a number of articles on Valerie Doran, including this exclusive interview.

Dr. Oei Hong Djien: Indonesian art specialist and collector

 

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

 

Dr. Oei Hong Djien, the final speaker on Sunday, was born and is based in Indonesia. He has been collecting art for nearly thirty years, focusing on modern and contemporary Indonesian art. The collection comprises about 1500 works, a fraction of which is on public display in his private museum, known as the OHD museum, where he is the curator. A book about his collection by Dr. Helena Spanjaard was published in 2004: Exploring Modern Indonesian Art: The collection of Dr Oei Hong Djien.

More open than most collectors, perhaps because he already has a large collection and has built a building to house it, Dr. Oei’s presentation was refreshing and candid. His “essence of collecting” vocabulary should become the bible of collectors: money, knowledge, passion, patience, courage, relation, quality, timing, luck and experience. He expanded upon these words, giving sage advice, and combined this with a showing of some of the best examples of modern Indonesian art.

His insistence on courage was very telling, as he advised new collectors with limited funds to go after young artists, buy unpopular works that go against the mainstream, look up forgotten old masters and get masterpieces that include unsuitable subject matter. This advice is predicated on hard work, self-education and endless observing, reobserving and observing again, to learn what quality art is and how to buy it. Most importantly, he said not to be afraid to make mistakes because that is how a serious collector becomes better.

Bonnie E. Engel has been a freelance journalist in Hong Kong for about 25 years. She is an Asian art specialist, covering all forms of visual arts. She travels around the region to visit artists, galleries, auctions and art fairs, and meets international artists when they come to Hong Kong. She has written for Hong Kong Prestige, Hong Kong Tatler, Gafenku, Muse Magazine, Asian Art Newspaper and other publications.

Editorial disclaimer – The opinions and views expressed by guest writers  do not necessarily reflect those of Art Radar Asia, staff, sponsors and partners.

Related Topics: art collectors, events – conferences, art curators, Hong Kong artists, Indonesian artists, venues – Hong Kong

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Posted in Art districts, Art spaces, Artist Nationality, Bonnie E. Engel, Business of art, Collectors, Conference, Curators, Dr. Oei Hong Djien, Events, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Indonesian, Professionals, Promoting art, Valerie Doran, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

London’s Michael Hoppen pioneers photography at Art HK 10, plans Hong Kong gallery – interview

Posted by artradar on June 9, 2010


INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY MARKET INTERVIEW

In the art bonanza that was the third incarnation of Art HK, there was one gallery among the 155 visual arts exhibitors with the unique distinction of being the only dealer specializing in photographic artworks. It was the second year of attendance for this maverick exhibitor, the London-based Michael Hoppen Gallery, which has coincidentally also developed a long-term interest in Asia. The gallery’s owner and director, Michael Hoppen, sees Asia as the frontier of the photographic art market, and intends to expand his business to the East- and specifically, to Hong Kong.

The Michael Hoppen Gallery deals in some of the world’s most influential photographers, including Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Peter Beard, Annie Leibovitz, and Irving Penn, in addition to promising young talents, who are constantly being sought.

The gallery’s spread at Art HK 10 was a mix of Asian and Western photographers, and both contemporary and historical photography. Hoppen’s reported ‘star’ piece was by the young Japanese photographer Sohei Nishino, who attracted an impressive crowd of viewers with a large-scale photographic collage depicting an aerial view of Hong Kong, part of the artist’s Diorama Map series. Other displayed pieces included Dr. Harold Edgerton’s Milkdrop Coronet, which was taken in 1957 and is the first image taken employing high-speed photographic technology, and documentary-style images of China taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1948.

Art Radar’s writer and researcher Erin Wooters caught up with Michael Hoppen on the last day of Art HK to discuss his impression of Asia’s largest international contemporary art fair, his experience as the fair’s solo photo gallerist, and his aspiration of opening a gallery space in Hong Kong.

'Diorama Map, Hong Kong', by Sohei Nishino, 2010. Light jet print on Kodak colour paper © Sohei Nishino Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Contemporary/EMON PHOTO GALLERY

Why did you choose to become a dealer?

I’ve been addicted to photography since I was about 8 years old. I was a photographer until about 1990 in London, and I was collecting photography at the time, and I realized that although I was a successful photographer commercially, it was very unsatisfactory emotionally and spiritually for me.  I was collecting photography and going to America frequently and buying prints for my own collection. I would get back and compare it to what I was making, and I thought, that’s enough. So, I sold all my cameras and lights. I had three studios, and I turned one of them into a gallery, and people started buying photographs. This was in 1991. My mother is an art dealer and a book dealer, so I suppose in the background there was always that influence. It really sort of went from there—there was no subconscious effort to become a photo dealer or photo gallerist, it was just something that I found myself falling into. We opened a second gallery in 1999. And the third gallery in 2001.

Your current gallery spaces are all in London?

Yes, all in London.

How is your organisation different from other galleries at Art HK 10?

We’re the only gallery specializing in photography. Photography in a sense is a wonderful new art, and it’s very closely connected to technology. It started 164 years ago, and it’s been tied to technology all the time, so we’re very much at the birth of an art form. It spans everything from science, art, investigation, reportage, information, and document.

In a sense, photography has an ability to span a slightly broader reflection of what’s happened in the last 160 years … So if you want to know what is different, that is a key. We have the opportunity to show the history of photography as well as the history of what photography has observed and recorded. Whereas here [at Art HK], you tend to find contemporary work made, with the exception of some Picassos and Warhol, all within the past 5-6 years.

Why did you choose to attend Art HK last year?

As an experiment. When Perry Photo opened, which was twelve years ago, we didn’t do the first year. We had a look at it, because I wanted to see what people talk about and write about afterwards. Everything that came out of the first edition of Art HK made me feel that they’d taken the right fork in the road. If you take the wrong fork, it won’t be held at the right time of year, won’t have the right publicity machine, and the stands won’t be curated well enough. That’s always a problem, because a lot of the galleries won’t come if they don’t see good art around them. You want to be with a group of people who compliment each other. I think Magnus [Renfrew] has understood that and he will continue to work very hard to make sure this fair gets better and better.

What other art fairs do you attend?

Perry Photo, Maastricht … We’ve done Basel although we haven’t in the last couple years. We plan to reapply next year. I had decided to stop doing Basel because it’s been difficult for photography. Also New York, Paris, and Pavilion Art and Design in London.

How does Art HK compare to other fairs?

There is obviously a much bigger presence of Asian art here … But, the major difference is the service in the back office. People couldn’t be more willing to help. If you are at Maastricht or Basel, the service is there but you have to fight a little bit to get it. There is wonderful backup here. They make it incredibly easy for you to glide in and glide out.

So you find Art HK to be very organised?

Yes. And also there are no import duties, no value added tax, none of the things that make the gallerist’s job more difficult. Every country has its different rules and regulations, and here it is simply, bring some great work, hang it on the wall, and take it away or ship it to your clients. There is enough paperwork in our lives already, and here that is something they felt they could dispense with.

The back office is brilliant. They are a fantastic, young, energetic team of people. And I assume behind that, the government and cultural departments are behind them, making it easy for them to operate. It’s a chain of command.

Did you have high expectations this year?

No, I’ve learned the hard way to never come with high expectations. Come with the best you’ve got and do the best you can do. If you’re lucky and people respond to that, then that’s great.

'Milkdrop Coronet', by Dr. Harold Edgerton, 1957. Signed Dye Transfer 16 x 20" © Dr. Harold Edgerton Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Which of your artists have drawn the most interest at Art HK 10?

Sohei Nishino is definitely the star of our stand. He’s a young Japanese artist, 25 years old. Henri Cartier-Bresson still draws a huge crowd … Nobuyoshi Araki, a Japanese artist, always draws a big crowd. Surprisingly enough I’ve been very pleased to find that people have recognized images. They have seen them in books and come and said, ‘God, I have only seen this in a book and here is the original!’ Dr. Harold Edgerton invented high-speed flash, and a lot of people seem to know that picture.

We are interested in opening a gallery or space in Hong Kong, and I am encouraged by seeing people come to our stand and they already know something. There is a hook there that we can grasp and improve on and embellish and build on. It’s not starting quite from scratch.

What are the price points of what you are selling at Art HK 10?

I would say the average price point of pieces we’ve sold is about $15,000-20,000 USD. Some would be more, some less, but that’s about the average price. So that’s very affordable, if you say for instance that you have $100,000 USD in your pocket and you decide you want to start collecting art … With photography, you can start to create a really impressive collection.

There is also an opportunity with photography because there are not the huge price spikes that you might otherwise see. I’m not saying there aren’t any at all, but if you go to artnet and look at photography price trends since 1976, it’s been a very nice, steady, gentle climb. It hasn’t been all over. For me, that’s encouraging. It means there isn’t a bubble. I’m very frightened of recommending to clients to buy something, and they spend all this, and next year it’s gone down. You can also look at the auctions, which are selling 80-85% of what comes up onto the block.

What style has been most sought after?

I wouldn’t say there is a prevailing style, as photography occupies such a broad range, but certainly handmade things. Craftsmanship is one of the things that I have been disappointed to see take a backseat over the past 5, 6, 7 years. There has been a sense of sort of ‘grunge’ photography. Stuff that lasts, things that are well made are very important. I tell my clients to go to other galleries and ask tough questions, like who made it, what was it made on, and under what conditions? If you want to look at an object for 10, 15, or 100 years time, it is always going to last longer if it is well made.

With your huge repertoire of represented artists, how did you choose the works shown at Art HK 10?

I think it’s really a gut feeling you have. You make a choice about what is the right thing for a particular environment. Last year I think we got a lot of that wrong. We had to come here and learn from our mistakes. I don’t see mistakes as a bad thing, I see them as a good thing as long as you learn from them.

I wouldn’t say we’ve gotten everything right this year, and I’m already thinking about who I will bring next year. It’s a learning curve, that’s what makes the job enjoyable.

What is your opinion of the variety and creativity of the work shown at Art HK 10? Do you find much of the art to be similar?

That’s not about this fair, funny enough. That’s a completely different conversation about a drought of new ideas. Every renaissance needs a calm down period, because there’s been such a huge amount of art being produced and churned out to feed the market for the past 15 years, that you needed things to stop. What we’re seeing now is a reflection of what is coming.

Everyone thought the end of the century would produce a new way of thinking. It’s doesn’t happen like that. Time is a human invention, and culture is something that is very organic, and I think we’ve reached the end of a period creatively in the world, and now we are seeing, hopefully, a birth of new ideas, new artists, and new ways of expressing ourselves.

I think certainly the last 2 or 3 years has been pretty bleak when you’re talking about great new artists coming up with great new ideas. There’s the factory mentality, where things are made and churned out. What we all search for, every curator or museum, is a new fresh way of telling the same story.

…When walking around the fair, at how many pieces do you stop and say, wow, I’ve never seen anyone express themselves in that way? That’s something we have to wait for, that’s not something you can manufacture.

The next wave of great art will not be immediately apparent. It will take a group of brave people to champion that. Whether it’s a photograph, a piece of music or literature, or a politician, it will come from left field. Great art and great new waves of culture don’t often come from where you think they will come.

Of course it will be criticized in the beginning, but that’s part of it. That’s what makes it so exciting to challenge preconceived ideas. That is why I enjoy what I do. You are standing and waiting to be washed by this, and there’s no better feeling than being washed by a fresh wave. Certainly I haven’t seen it here at Art HK. I know when I get excited, and that’s when you see something that really fundamentally changes the way you look at things.

Do dealers know what the other galleries will bring?

If you have friends in the other galleries you can ask, and sometimes that is a good idea because you can have comparative projects that actually bounce of each other. We’ve done that before in Paris. Here, no. I was totally unaware of what other galleries were going to bring.

Have you found there to be interest in historical photography at Art HK 10?

Yes, I’ve been really amazed. Almost all our Henri Cartier-Bresson’s we brought that depict China in the 1940’s have sold. Marc Riboud hasn’t done as well as we thought, but Marc doesn’t limit his prints. I find it slightly ironic in a society where massive reproduction is pretty much a byword … When it comes to copies themselves, no one wants to buy them.

Marc Riboud, 'Antiquary Window', Beijing, 1965. Gelatin Silver Print Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Do you find certain themes to work better at Art HK than others?

I don’t think shocking art works very well here. There was a period certainly in the West that celebrated art that shocked you, whether it was with nudity or content in some way, and that doesn’t work here. People don’t need that, and they’re looking for a different sort of piece and a different aesthetic.

Do you represent digital photographers?

We only represent one photographer who uses digital photography. Everyone else we represent still shoots on film. Our digital photographer is a young Italian anthropologist called Daniele Tamagni, who we are showing currently at the gallery. As an anthropologist, he had a small digital camera, and the pictures are wonderful. We found him a year ago, and he won the Infinity Awards in New York, which is like the Oscars. He’s the only living photographer we represent that uses digital cameras. All our other artists still use film.

Why do you generally only represent film photographers? Do you view digital photography as less of an art?

No, it’s not the art, it’s just the technology hasn’t reached a point where its as good as film, it’s as simple as that.

Contemporary digital technology is based on a very clever piece of technology, being able to record information digitally, but what it does is turn everything into blocks of ten. Unfortunately, life is not blocks of ten. What I love about traditional photography is that every print is a bit different, and there is a sort of chemistry, literally an alchemy, that goes into making a picture. As soon as you go digital, you rely on a computer to do it for you. A lot of the creative process is suddenly given to the machine, which is very smart, and it records everything.

I’m not trying to demean digital photography, but it is a choice that we’ve made whilst digital technology struggles to become as good as analogue photography, that we will stick to analogue photography. I know we won’t have a choice for much longer.

Do you find the buyers’ tastes at Art HK to be different from tastes in London?

People see much more photography on the walls in Europe or America, and people there are very used to seeing a framed photograph displayed as artwork on the wall of a home. I don’t think people have seen a lot of that here [in Asia]. That’s the first key difference.

Do you see a problem with Asia not yet considering photography an art form?

I don’t think it’s a problem; I think it’s an opportunity. It’s not flooded with photography. In a funny sort of way, going to New York is almost harder. Okay, you’ve got a converted audience who accept that photography is art or photography has value, and photography can be hung on their walls. But you’re jostling for your artists to squeeze in amongst all the other artists.  Here, as far as I’m concerned, there is a nice clean, flat ground.

I’m not saying people here will collect photography with the same appetite they do in Europe or America. Will there be a museum of photography in Hong Kong? Probably not in our lifetime. But, that means you can be a pioneer instead of walking around with a lot of other people, doing the same thing.

When did you begin eyeing Hong Kong for your new gallery space?

There was a time when we thought we’d open in Paris, and we started looking at that. But then, I thought, well it’s only two hours away, why do I need to open there? Then, we thought it would be fun to have something in New York, but in New York there are a hundred galleries, so why add another one to the mix? It’s not that I want to stand alone, but I feel there is an opportunity in Hong Kong, because no one has really taken up that challenge here.

… Nobody [in Asia] is showing the artists that we represent. I believe those artists are good artists, I believe they have something to say, and I believe people would enjoy their work here, so by natural train of thought, you’d say, why not try to open a space in Hong Kong? Certainly the welcome we’ve had here, the people of Hong Kong, the opportunity that the government gives you, to in a sense paves the way to come. They don’t make it difficult. They actually encourage you to do it, so, all those strings pulled together, apart from the distance of travel, make me feel like it would not be an onerous or difficult proposition to open up.

Do you see Hong Kong as the art hub of Asia?

Very much. This is the gateway to not only Asia, but Australia, China, the Philippines, Singapore, and Japan. It’s a bit like London, which is very much the hub for Europe, and I believe Hong Kong shares some of those qualities.

I believe Art HK will become the Basel of the Far East. It’s in its 3rd year so it will take another few years for it to generate the excitement. I love the fact there’s lots of schoolchildren coming, students. Last year was a much more sedate affair. That didn’t concern me because you have to start somewhere. I think there’s been a very good energy. Of course, there are lots of things they need to work on, and there are some things that I feel could certainly be changed. But you know, that’s a rolling program with any art fair. Magnus [Renfrew] is doing a great job, I really think so.

Tim Walker, 'The Dress Lamp Tree', England, 2002. C-type print © Tim Walker Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Contemporary

What benefits do you see in opening in Hong Kong over Singapore or Shanghai?

A wider audience.

Do you expect it to be logistically easy to open in Hong Kong?

I don’t see why it should be any more difficult than opening in a city like New York or London. I think the space is going to be the problem. Finding the right space. I’ve been told there are certain areas that you need to open a space in. And I’ve looked at other areas where there are fantastic old buildings. I saw an amazing old 1930’s building in Wan Chai, similar to the old Flatiron Building in New York, and I thought it would be fun to take a flat there, not an office but an apartment, and open up a gallery and office there. I’ve been told the problem is that they’ll probably knock it down in a year, or not want a gallery in there, or people won’t come because if they’re going to galleries they want Hollywood Road. So I suppose those are the challenges.

There are a lot of cities, like Buenos Aires or Cape Town, far-flung cities, where there are dockland or industrial areas that tend to be reconverted or enlivened by students and galleries, and funky restaurants and clubs. I sense that is not going to happen here, but I don’t know. I’ll be back in a couple of months to really spend a week or 10 days walking around and speaking to people, trying to gauge the situation. What I don’t want to do is to just follow everyone, because when I look at Hollywood Road it is crammed full of galleries, and I understand the obvious opportunity of being there with them. But on the other hand, you have huge limitations of space, access, storage, and all the things that a gallery needs to plug in to what it does. I’d rather have a salon than a shop.

Are you interested in representing local photographers once you open in Hong Kong?

It’s a possibility. However, I see no distinction. I’m interested in representing good photographers, wherever they’re from. I certainly think we’d far more like to bring photographers from outside into Hong Kong, because there are galleries in Mainland China and Hong Kong that already look after Hong Kong photographers. There’s no need for me to start poaching people, but if a good photographer from Hong Kong, Singapore, or Philippines comes to us.. or we find them, they don’t usually just come to us.. then we’d be glad to take them on.

When do you project that your gallery will open in Hong Kong?

No idea. We’ve been talking about it for 6-8 months. I have to physically come here, find the space, find the staff, and ultimately decide whether it is financially feasible. I think it would be foolish not to find a partner here with local knowledge. It would be very arrogant to think you can just walk in here, open up a space, and do well. I love working with people, so it seems it would be prudent and sensible to work with a local businessperson or gallerist who understands how the ground works. Because China is not like the rest of the world. I certainly wouldn’t open up in Tokyo because of the language barrier. Here there is less of that barrier, and culturally there is less of a barrier.

EW/KN

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Posted in Art districts, Art spaces, Business of art, Fairs, Galleries, Gallerists/dealers, Hong Kong, Interviews, London, Market watch, Photography, Promoting art | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beijing first to host Arles program outside France

Posted by artradar on June 1, 2010


PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL BEIJING EXHIBITIONS

In the first part of Art Radar Asia’s coverage of Beijing’s Caochangdi PhotoSpring (17 April-30 June, 2010) we presented the winners and semi-finalists of three photography awards. This article aims to explore some of the 27 photography exhibitions, several of which are from the long-established Les Rencontres d’Arles, with which Caochangdi PhotoSpring has partnered for the next three years. These Arles exhibitions are, for the very first time, being showcased outside of France.

Some of the Arles exhibitions seen in Beijing

Rimaldas ViksraitisGrimaces of the Weary Village won him the 2009 Recontres d’Arles Discovery Award. This Lithuanian born photographer has chosen to document the lives of his country’s village dwellers who, in order to face the difficult economic situation they are in, have turned to excessive drinking. Many of his subjects are intoxicated and the photographer’s portrayal of their nudity and often degrading behavior lends an air of the surreal to his images. This show, curated by Anya Stonelake and Martin Parr, was exhibited at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

Rimaldas Viksraitis, Grimaces of the Weary Village, 1998, image courtesy Three Shadows Photography Art Centre

Rimaldas Viksraitis, Grimaces of the Weary Village, 1998. Image courtesy of Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

A number of ’70s vintage prints by renowned Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama were also on display in a solo exhibition entitled Tono Monogatari – The Tales of Tono, presented with the cooperation of Taka Ishii Gallery (Tokyo) and Zen Foto Gallery (Tokyo). Moriyama was the winner of the No Limits Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles 2004 and his images of densely populated Tokyo districts are “characterized by blur, high contrast and rough printing.” His celebrated image of a stray dog, Misawa (1971), has come to describe both the dog and his style of photography: “ragged, savage and disoriented”. More recently his work has also been labeled “random, irrational and zero technique.” A Moriyama retrospective will be held 2011 at the National Museum of Art in Osaka.

Daido Moriyama, Misawa, 1971, Gelatin silver print, Courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery & Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Daido Moriyama, Misawa, 1971, gelatin silver print. Image courtesy of Taka Ishii Gallery and Caochangdi PhotoSpring.

ArtMia Foundation showed the work of renowned photographer Lucien Clergue (b. 1934) who was one of the co-founders of Les Recontres d’Arles in 1969. This Arles native was a long-time family friend of Pablo Picasso and the exhibition, entitled Picasso Close Up, documents this friendship as well as other intimate views into the daily life of the painter. We get glimpses of Picasso as a father, husband and friend. We see him in a kimono, on an outing with his family, playing drums with musician friends, casually conversing with a cab driver or warmly engaging with Clergue’s daughter, who was Picasso’s god-child. This exhibition also featured eight original lithographs by Picasso.

Lucien Clergue, Picasso and Olivia C., Mougins 1967

Lucien Clergue, Picasso and Olivia C., Mougins, 1967

Another of the Arles exhibitions, Under the Skin, was held at the Galerie Urs Meile Beijing-Lucerne in collaboration with Juana de Aizpuru Gallery (Madrid) and featured the haunting portraits of Pierre Gonnord. These portraits are in a style reminiscent of the great Spanish masters and have come from two series. The first series, Utopians, portrays the underprivileged dwellers of Madrid. The second series, Gypsies, attempts to record the lives of inhabitants of an isolated part of Seville.

Pierre Gonnord, MARIA 2006, image courtesy Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Pierre Gonnord, MARIA, 2006. Image courtesy of Caochangdi PhotoSpring.

Mo Yi presented black and white photographs, video and an installation in his My Illusory City – 1987-1998-2008. The Tibetan-born artist has for most of the past thirty years chosen the city as his subject. He states, “the city has already become my long-term subject, and photography has become the most convenient language with which to transform this subject.”

Mo Yi, My Illusory City No. 5, silver gelatin print, image courtesy Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Mo Yi, My Illusory City No. 5, silver gelatin print. Image courtesy of Caochangdi PhotoSpring.

At Taikang Space a solo exhibition of two series by photographer and filmmaker Wu Yinxian (吴印咸), entitled Beijing Hotel-1975 and The Great Hall of the People, was on display. The former was completed toward the end of the Cultural Revolution and the latter in the early Eighties. These photographs were taken in an attempt to record the power and grandeur of the government at the time. His images are those of a bygone era, both in terms of changes in the political climate of China as well as the outdated furniture and faded patina.

Wu Yinxian, Meeting Room, 1975, image courtesy Caochangdi PhotoSpring

Wu Yinxian, Meeting Room, 1975. Image courtesy of Caochangdi PhotoSpring.

Future of Caochangdi PhotoSpring in limbo

We spoke briefly with RongRong, one of the directors of Caochangdi PhotoSpring, about the significance of this photography festival both for Beijing and China. “The Caochangdi PhotoSpring is the first major international photography festival in Beijing. It is an important event for photographers from all over China. Beijing is a global city that is convenient for a global gathering.”

However, the whole Caochangdi art district including the hub of the festival, the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, and numerous other independent and commercial galleries, have recently been slated for demolition and eviction notices given to all village inhabitants. The art district is being cleared to make way for a “culture zone.”

Read part one here: 3 young Chinese artists awarded prizes at inaugural Caochangdi PhotoSpring

NA/KN

Related Topics: photography, art prizes, venues – Beijing

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Posted in Art districts, Beijing, China, Chinese, Cultural Revolution, Documentary, European, Installation, Japanese, Photography, Tibetan, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hong Kong’s new museum district appoints ex-Barbican CEO, Graham Sheffield – media round-up

Posted by artradar on April 29, 2010


HONG KONG ART MUSEUMS

Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District Authority recently announced the appointment of Graham Sheffield as Chief Executive Officer of the proposed West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD).

What is the West Kowloon Cultural District?

According to Wikipedia, the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD, Chinese: 西九龍文娛藝術區) is a proposed and developing project to boost cultural and entertainment establishments at Hong Kong, SAR. Located at a wedge-shaped and waterfront reclaimed land west of Yau Ma Tei, the district will feature a new modern art museum, numerous theatres, concert halls and other performance venues under the management of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, which is directly financed by the government with a one-off funding of 21.6 billion Hong Kong Dollars[1] for construction and operation.

Graham Sheffield’s previous experience

Sheffield comes to WKCD via 15 very successful years at London’s Barbican Centre, where he held the position of Artistic Director.

Graham Sheffield

An embattled project

He replaces Angus Cheng Siu-chuen, a former Disney executive who spent one week in the position before resigning. In fact, a number of setbacks have hindered this embattled project.

As reported in The Standard: “In 2002, British architect Norman Foster was declared the winner of an international design competition…The project was shelved in April 2006 because of public opposition to a single developer and the lack of enthusiasm from developers to tender for it.

In September 2007, the government…handed control to the new West Kowloon Cultural District Authority while abandoning the Foster design. The following year, the government injected a one-off funding of HK$21.6 billion for the West Kowloon construction and operations.”

A model of one of the plans for the Centre

Shift in governmental thinking

“Art has already emerged as one of the most prominent industries in the world, but Hong Kong is still focused on finance,” states Jim Chim Sui-man, artistic director of Please, Imagination, Play, speaking with The Standard.

Oscar Ho, Curator, Director of MA Programme, Department of Cultural & Religious Studies, CUHK, was recently interviewed on RTHK’s Backchat. Here, he mentioned that the current governmental system in Hong Kong is not used to understanding or recognising artistic professionalism and this is something that needs to change for WKCD to be successful.

Ho went on to say that there are hopes this appointment signals a shift in governmental thinking. Graham Sheffield is an experienced arts manager and prior appointments to this role focussed on bureaucratic and site management skills. Many in the local arts community hope this shift in understanding will continue to influence administrative decision-making, including the imminent formation of a management team to work with Sheffield.

The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority will soon appoint a management team consisting of six executive directors and Sheffield will surely have heavy input into its selection. The Authority recently announced the appointment of a Performing Arts Executive Director.

Arts management expertise

The fact that Graham Sheffield’s expertise is concentrated in the area of arts management is a concern to some critics of the appointment.

The centre is due to open in 2014, and Sheffield’s three-year contract will take him up to this date. There is some scepticism as to whether he can fulfil the obligations of opening a centre. The Barbican was a well-established arts complex when he took over its directorship; he was not building it from scratch.

The site of the proposed West Kowloon Cultural District

Lack of local experience

Lee Wing-tat, a Democratic Party legislator, is reported by The Standard as being “unsure of how the new man will perform because of Sheffield’s lack of local experience, though Lee acknowledges he has well- honed skills in managing a cultural center. To offset that…he’s suggested Sheffield should have a local as his deputy.”

Jim Chim Sui-man, artistic director of Please, Imagination, Play, also speaking with The Standard, “said a local with insight in the city’s art scene should be hired to assist Sheffield.”

Graham Sheffield doesn’t speak Chinese and has readily admitted to having little understanding of local culture or politics. Tanya Chan, Former Civic Party Legislator, speaking on RTHK’s Backchat program, stressed that Sheffield will need to very quickly come to understand local values and business culture, as well as get a good grasp on the system of government currently operating in Hong Kong.

Sustainable Living Hong Kong writes, “Although [Sheffield] readily admits that he will need the support of a local team to get him up to speed, there are bound to be enormous obstacles in that Hong Kong has nothing like London’s mature and vibrant art scene.”

It is generally viewed as a success that Hong Kong has been able to attract such world-class talent and local advocates of the appointment believe that Hong Kong just doesn’t have someone from the area with enough experience to successfully lead such a large-scale arts project. As mentioned in HK Online, “Hong Kong needs the worldwide publicity that comes with such good news.”

Listen to it here:

West Kowloon New CEO, Backchat, RTHK, 23 April 2010

Read about it here:

New king of Kowloon, The Standard, 9 April 2010
Arts hub chief vows to make global impact, The Standard, 25 March 2010
West Kowloon Cultural District: Graham Sheffield better brace himself, cnngo.com, 25 March 2010
Good luck Graham Sheffield, Sustainable Living Hong Kong, 25 March 2010
This is a job for…Supergwai! Big Lychee, Various Sectors, 25 March 2010
The West Kowloon Settlement, HK Online

KN/KCE

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Art industry elite meet at inaugural Abu Dhabi Art fair

Posted by artradar on December 21, 2009


ART FAIRS

The inaugural Abu Dhabi Art fair opened to much fanfare on November 19th. The government-run Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) organized the fair, along with the area’s new cultural district on Saadiyat Island.

The project features the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi by architect Frank Gehry, the Louvre Abu Dhabi by architect Jean Nouvel, the Performing Arts Centre by architect Zaha Hadid, the Maritime Museum by architect Tadao Ando, and the Sheikh Zayed National Museum by architect Foster + Partners Ltd.

In attendance at the event were big time players from the Western art world, including London’s White Cube, New York’s Acquavella Galleries, and Dubai’s Third Line and B21. Megacollector François Pinault along with Jeff Koons were in attendance as special patrons.

Jeff Koons on left, François Pinault on right.

According to ArtForum who covered the event, Abu Dhabi Art was really two fairs under one roof. On the one hand, there was a slew of young galleries from places like Bangalore, Damascus, and Dubai, showing works that ranged from calligraphic kitsch to more promising endeavors. The other fair was a higher-stakes arena, featuring major New York and European dealers.

Dealer Iwan Wirth, from Hauser & Wirth, in front of a large Louise Bourgeois spider

Hauser & Wirth brought a large Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture and Subodh Gupta skull, while White Cube offered sparkling paintings by Hirst. Tony Shafrazi hung his ’80s-themed stand with Basquiats, Warhols, and Harings. A consortium of seven dealers, including L&M Arts, Malingue, and Louis Carre & Cie, combined forces with Picassos and Légers.

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Singapore Museum Guide

Posted by artradar on November 11, 2009


QUICK REFERENCE GUIDE TO SINGAPORE’S CULTURAL TREASURES

Singapore is home to a diverse offering of heritage attractions ranging from arts, history, culture, lifestyle, science, to healthcare. According to the Renaissance City Plan III developed by the National Heritage Board, as of 2007 there are 52 museums located in Singapore including both private and public institutions. The focus of this guide will center on the public arts related museums including the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and its extension gallery 8Q, the National Museum of Singapore, Asian Civilisations Museum, NUS Museum, Peranakan Museum, and Red Dot Design Museum.

Singapore Art Museum (SAM): opened in 1996, with the  mission to preserve and present the art histories and  contemporary art practices of  Singapore and the Southeast  Asian region. SAM has amassed the largest public collection of  modern and contemporary Southeast Asian  artworks comprising of over 7,000 artworks from mediums of painting, sculpture, installation, drawing, print, and photography.

8Q_buliding

8Q hosted the highly publicized "Masriadi: Black is My Last Weapon" exhibition in August 2008.

8Q at SAM: is an extension gallery to the main museum space showcases fresh, multi-disciplinary, interactive and community oriented programming by living artists. 8Q aims to offer visitors a diverse sampling of contemporary art practices ranging from painting and sculpture, to installation, film and video, new media, performance art and sound art.

National Museum of Singapore: Housed in its current location since 2006, the National Museum of Singapore is Singapore’s oldest museum. Designed to be the people’s museum, the National Museum is a custodian of the 11 National Treasures, and its Singapore History and Living Galleries adopt cutting-edge and varied ways of presenting history and culture to redefine conventional museum experience.

Christian Lacroix 10

The National Museum of Singapore hosted "Christian Lacroix the costumier" exhibition in March 2009.

Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM): is the first  museum in the region to present a broad yet integrated  perspective of pan-Asian cultures and civilisations.  Spread over 11 galleries and three levels, ACM presents  the story of Asia showcased in themed galleries  (Singapore River, Southeast Asia, West Asia, China, and  South Asia). Virtual hosts, in-gallery videos and  interactive ExplorAsian zones are incorporated in the  galleries as guideposts which help visitors learn more  about the multi-faceted aspects of Asian cultures.

NUS Museum: The National University of Singapore established the museum in 1997 to create an enriching experience of the social history and the art of Asia to NUS and the nation. The museum hold three separate permanent collections (Lee Kong Chian Collection, Ng Eng Teng Collection, and South & Southeast Asian Collection) as well as hosts special exhibitions like “Mapping the Corporeal: Ronald Ventura” exhibition in September 2008 and “Jendela – A Play of the Ordinary” in February 2009.

abtmuseum

The Peranakan Museum

Peranakan Museum: explores the culture of Peranakan communities in the former Straits Settlements of Singapore, Malacca and Penang and their links with other communities in Southeast Asia. Three floors of permanent galleries illustrate important rituals, practices and the material culture of the Peranakans, as well as how this unique fusion culture is viewed today.

The museum’s mission is to explore and present the cultures and civilisations of Asia, so as to promote awareness and appreciation of the ancestral cultures of Singaporeans and their links to Southeast Asia and the world.

red-dot-design-museum-singapore

Red Dot Design Museum

Red Dot Museum: The museum engages, excites and inspires its  visitors with interactive installations and interesting exhibitions on  design. It is the focal point of design and creative activities such as  design conferences, exhibitions and parties.

 

Progressively, these efforts will transform Singapore into a global city of arts and culture. Indeed, the world is noticing– media articles and analyst reports are describing how vibrant Singapore has become, and what an attractive place it is to live in….more importantly, it will provide Singaporeans with a rich cultural life, nurture the sense of pride in our heritage and history, and strengthen our identity as a nation.

~ Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, at the Official Opening of the New Peranakan Museum on 25 April 2008

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Posted in Art districts, Museum collectors, Museum shows, Museums, Profiles, Resources, Singapore, Uncategorised | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Two contemporary art museums planned for Moscow

Posted by artradar on September 12, 2009


RUSSIAN ART MUSEUMS

Two new contemporary art museums are planned for Moscow reports Artinfo.

National Centre for Contemporary Art

Facade of National Centre for Contemporary Art

Facade of National Centre for Contemporary Art

Mikhail Mindlin and Leonid Bazhanov, directors of the National Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow, initiated the plan to establish a new contemporary art museum in the region. The $100 million proposal, although not government-funded, is approved by the Minister of Culture Alexander Avdeev.

Mindlin and Bazhanov face two options: “either wait until the crisis is over or form a partnership with gallerists and local businessmen who show an interest in contemporary art.”

On July 24, the Ministry of Culture invited a number of gallerists and businessmen to its private session.

According to ARTINFO, attendees included:

Gary Tatintsian, owner of Tatintsian Gallery (which recently sold a small Jake and Dinos Chapman sculpture to the center at a discounted price after no one stepped up to buy it following its debut at a group show there four years ago), and Alexey Tsarevsky, head of Horizont Finance Company. Horizont is owned by Valery Nosov, who also owns ArtMedia Group, a publishing house that puts out two art magazines — Art+Auction Russia (a publishing partner of ARTINFO sister publication Art+Auction) and Blacksquare — and an arts and culture Web site, openspace.ru. Tsarevsky promised help from Horizont, including “consulting with the center on the predevelopment level and financial administration of the project.

The goal is to complete the project by 2015.

While in the process of developing a new museum, Mindlin and Bazhanov hope to expand their current museum too:

The two, who would lead the new institution, plan to expand the center’s current home to include 25,000 additional square meters (269,100 square feet) of new exhibition space, as well as a café, storage facilities, and a cinema, among other amenities. Essentially, the center would transition from a small, state-funded institution to a large and complex one, with the new museum inheriting its management and resources.

Their plan is not exactly new. The center already expanded once, in 2004, adding a three-story building as part of a larger redevelopment plan that would have included a large hotel and financed the center’s activities with money from developers. The current proposal adapts the earlier plan to the realities of the current economic situation. For example, with most of Moscow’s building projects on hold, no commercial spaces are planned to accompany the future museum, and it’s unclear if the new project will be subject to an architectural competition.

Stella Art Foundation

That Obscure Object of Art. Collections of Stella Art Foundation. Displayed at the Venice Biennale.

That Obscure Object of Art. Collections of Stella Art Foundation. Displayed at the Venice Biennale.

In tandem, Stella and Igor Kesaev, respectively the director and the funder of the Stella Art Foundation, have recently purchased a Constructivist garage in the centre of Moscow for a planned museum to house their foundation’s collections.

The couple showed their private collection of postwar art in Vienna a year ago, and the foundation financed an Ilya and Emilia Kabakov exhibition at St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum(www.hermitagemuseum.org) in 2005, as well as Culture Minister Alexander Avdeev’s trip to the Venice Biennale for the opening of the Russian Pavilion this year.

Despite the state’s inability and reluctance to provide financial aid, the Ministry of Culture may still provide funds by drawing on Russian businesses.

Russian oligarchs invest in art to rehabilitate their image with the Kremlin, buying works abroad and bringing them (or “returning” them, in patriotic terms) to Russia.

Read full article at ARTINFO

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Hugs in Hong Kong by mainland artists formerly branded national criminals – interview Gao Brothers

Posted by artradar on September 3, 2009


CHINESE PERFORMANCE ART

Take a walk down a public Hong Kong street these days and you might find yourself bumping into some portable – and surprisingly intimate – art.

While Hong Kong artist Tim Li’s private bed has been erected all over Hong Kong from Pedestrian Street in Mong Kok to the center of Times Square, last month the Gao Brothers from the mainland brought their special brand of peace-promoting intimate performance art into the hustle and bustle of the city. Bring on the hugging! 

Gao Zhen and Gao Qiang, a pair of prominent artists born in Jinan and based in the Beijing 798 Art Zone were invited by Para/Site Art Space to spread an hour of love and hugs outside the Hong Kong Arts Centre on July 29 2009. The Gao Brothers share with Wendy Ma how their ideals are reflected in their installation, performance, sculpture, photography works and writing, and how these beliefs were shaped by their unusual experiences.

Q: What inspired you to create artwork such as Miss Mao, etc.? Did it create any controversy in China at the time?

Miss Mao by Gao Brothers. Painted fiberglass. 85 x 55 x 59 in.

Miss Mao by Gao Brothers. Painted fiberglass. 85 x 55 x 59 in.

Miss Mao is mainly inspired by Chinese people’s “mao” bing (毛病*), ignorance, and immaturity. The artwork is only permitted to be displayed in overseas galleries and museums, it still forbidden in mainland China.  We can only find information regarding the exhibition of this artwork on the internet. The reactions from the audience are a mix of praises and criticism.

*Note: Mao bing means “problem” or “syndrome”. In Chinese it is the same “mao” in “Mao Zedong”. 

Q: What inspired you to initiate the World Hug Day*?

Utopia of Embrace. Performance by Gao Brothers.

Utopia of Hugging for 20 minutes. Performance by Gao Brothers in 2000..

There are too many conflicts in this world. The hatred and blood-shedding tensions among humans, among ethnicities, among nations have never ceased. In 2000 we believed that the human civilization should enter a millennium of compromises. So we began to promote the act of hugging among strangers.

At that time we were forbidden to leave China, which left us unable to promote hugging overseas. By proposing the “World Hugging Day” on the internet, we earned corresponding support from various parts of the world. Among the advocates there were non-artists, artists, as well as the organizer of the Venice Biennale, Harald Szeemann.

*Note: “Gao Brothers carried out their first group hug performance, “The Utopia Of Hugging For Twenty Minutes” on September 10, 2000 by inviting one hundred and fifty volunteers, who were previously strangers to each other, to take part in the event. They asked all participants to choose a person at random for a hug of fifteen minutes duration. Afterwards, all participants huddled together for an additional five minutes.

Since 2000, Gao Brothers have hugged hundreds of strangers and organised group hugging performances with strangers at many public locations in different ways and have taken a lot of interesting photographs.

The Gao Brothers are proposing an ongoing series of World Hug Day events around the globe via the internet, and so far have got enormous feedback and support.”

Q: In your view what is the most meaningful artwork you’ve created? Why?

 

 

Point of View Chair by Gao Brothers (2007). Mixed Media.

Point of View Chair by Gao Brothers (2007). Mixed Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In our eyes, our artworks are all different and irreplaceable. It’s difficult to decide which one carries the most meaning.

Q: How long have you been involved in art and how has your art evolved over time?

We have been working for 20 years. Regarding the transformation of our artwork, there’s a lot of articles written by art critics, but it’s hard for us to say.

Q: Were your parents supportive of your decision to pursue art as a career? Would you encourage your children (if you have any) to pursue art? Did you think you would become this successful?

My father passed away a long time ago during the Cultural Revolution. My mother was skillful at paper-cutting but she became ill and died in 1999. She gave us plenty of support for creating art. Our children are interested in art, too, so we definitely support their decision to pursue their interests. Initially we became involved in art purely from the heart and never considered whether or not we would succeed. Even now we don’t consider ourselves too successful.

Q: Any obstacles in your art career?

IMG_9799Too many unforgettable obstacles. The most memorable took place in 1989 during which we participated in the Contemporary Chinese Art Exposition in Beijing. By coincidence we took part in the “Pub Petition Incident” in which the intellectual circle demanded that the government release the political criminal Wei Jing Sheng*.

After Wei Jing Sheng was released from the prison and before his second imprisonment, we paid him a visit. As matter of a fact, we weren’t acquainted with Wei Jing Sheng. He simply wanted to invite us to participate in the China-Japan-Korea Contemporary Art Show organized by him and Huang Rui. However, due to the petition and the correspondence with Wei, we were placed on the government’s infamous black list as “national criminals”. For ten years we couldn’t obtain our visa, which had a profound impact on our participation in international art activities.

In 2001,  the organizer of the 49th Venice Biennale, Harald Szeemann invited us to the  Opening Ceremony to demonstrate our “hugging”. Unfortunately we failed to obtain a visa. We were even prepared to smuggle ourselves out but eventually we decided not to go. It wasn’t until 2003 when we were invited to attend the Second Rome International Photography Festival that we were taken off the black list and given the visa.

*Note: Wei Jing Sheng was “an activist in the Chinese democracy movement, most prominent for authoring the document Fifth Modernization on the “Democracy Wall” in Beijing in 1978.”

Q: What message do you want to convey through your art?

Liberty, peace and compromises, human love, and many more related yet ineffable messages.

Q: What are the characteristics of your artwork?

This is rather difficult for us to discuss too…

 Q: You’ve done so many “world hugging” events in various cities (which ones?). Which have made the biggest impression on you and why? What did you think of the one in Hong Kong?

 

Final round of embrace on a hot July day in Hong Kong.

Final round of embrace on a hot July day in Hong Kong.

Gao (in black) giving a participant an enthusiastic hug.

Gao (in black) giving a participant an enthusiastic hug.

Ever since 2000, we have been “hugging” in Jinan, Beijing, London, Nottingham, Marseilles, Arles, Berlin, Tokyo, and many more cities. Each “hugging” left a deep impression on us. Despite the fact that the fewest number of people showed up for “hugging” in Hong Kong, it was still memorable. The number of attendees at the hugging event carries more or less some sort of implications. Actually, we don’t really think it’s that Hong Kong doesn’t embrace hugging. It was so scorching hot that having some hugging enthusiasts was enough to move us deeply.

Q: You just went to Macau today. Was it for the “world hugging” event again? What are the differences between their attitudes and Hong Kong people’s?

Gao Brothers' demonstration of hugging outside the Hong Kong Arts Center, late-July 2009.

Gao Brothers' demonstration of hugging outside the Hong Kong Arts Center, late-July 2009.

We were invited by Para/Site to do the hugging in Hong Kong. Macau didn’t invite us. We only went as tourists and didn’t make any hugging plan.

Q: Your next stop is Israel. What do you expect?

Last year we already received the “hugging” invitation from Israel. It would be nice to have an Israeli and a Palestinian hug each other.

Q: Have there been any changes in mainland contemporary art? How is the freedom of expression? Have you encountered any difficulties or objections?

Every artist is different. We’ve always been busy with our own work, so we haven’t paid sufficient attention to other artists. With a lack of comprehensive understanding, it’s difficult to say about the changes in mainland Chinese contemporary art. To us, it’s not bad, even though the art examination regulations in China do not permit public exhibition of certain pieces of our artwork.

Q: Can you perceive any differences between Hong Kong and mainland contemporary art?

We don’t have an adequate understanding of contemporary Hong Kong art to discuss it. 

Q: Which other artists inspire you?

Are there not enough ridiculous, not enough stimulating events happening in the world every day? Why would we need to excavate inspiration from the salt of other artists?

Q: Among photography, sculptures, and performance art, which one do you prefer?

About the same. A bit bored with all of them.

Q: What would you like to do next artistically?

Film. We’re in the process of revising a script to make a film.

Spice up with Perspectives

                                     – on the Hugging Scene in Hong Kong

 

Gao (in white) hugging a participant outside the Hong Kong Arts Center in late July, 2009.

Gao (in white) hugging a participant outside the Hong Kong Arts Center in late July, 2009.

As the Gao Brothers observed, the number of  participants who turned up for the hugging event organised by Para/Site in Hong Kong  was scanty and many of those who did participate were not even from Hong Kong. So what did the organizers and the spectators think about their World Hug Performance in Hong Kong? Art Radar explores behind the scene:

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, Curator of Para/Site Art Space:

Q: Why did you invite the Gao Brothers to do this performance (hugging)? 

I wanted to test the use of public space in Hong Kong. The Gao Brothers performance is very much connected to the Chinese physique, but also the public dimension of it is quite fundamental to this work of art. In practice, the project has proved how many burdens and restrictions exist in preparing this type of event that engages the public sphere in Hong Kong.

Q: What did you think of the performance?  

The performance has a degree of improvisation that I love. As it adapts to each new situation, it is quite fluid and dynamic, and it blends and connects with the social, cultural and political framework of the location in which it takes place. This time it was specifically connected to Hong Kong. With the greater involvement of the artists in the performance, this probably highlighted some relational issues, as it took a turn more towards the sculptural and the theatrical.

Q: How is it similar or different from other artists’ performance or exhibitions? 

Every time they stage this performance it has a different meaning and a different result. I find this work meaningful in relation to the other works, but on a superficial level it might seem unrelated to their work, specifically their sculpture, painting and photography. However the notion of the outer boundaries of the body and its political inferences are  themes that run through their art practice.

Beth Smits, an art collector and a professional in the banking sector:

I only wish more people in Hong Kong had participated in the hug day. I was watching from the side at the start, and people came up to me to ask “what is going on?” They were genuinely curious and when I explained it to them, they were very interested and supportive. Later, I did actually get involved and hugged the two artists and others there. While I admittedly felt awkward at first, I appreciate the powerful symbolism of this act amongst strangers. I am now a huge fan of their work – beyond the world hug days, too, and look forward to seeing what they do next.

Contributed by Wendy Ma

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Wallpaper’s guide to Beijing art districts

Posted by artradar on July 23, 2009


Central Academy of Fine Arts - CAFA District

Central Academy of Fine Arts - CAFA District

BEIJING ART DISTRICTS CHINA

Bringing with it cheap flights and artists focused once again on art-making rather than art-marketing, the recession is a great time to plan art jaunts and studio visits. 

If you are interested in exploring the art scene in Beijing, check out  Wallpaper ‘s brief guide which includes an introduction to the Beijing art scene and a map image with links to information about 5 districts (798, Today Art Museum, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Cao Changdi, Liquor Factory). As Meg Maggio, director of Pekin Fine Arts explains to Wallpaper there are in fact many more art districts in Beijing. Read an excerpt below:

Meg Maggio, director Pekin Fine Arts

Meg Maggio, director Pekin Fine Arts

What constitutes an ‘art district’?

In Beijing, any area where artists’ studio spaces start to propagate, galleries, along with both private and public exhibit spaces quickly follow. And hence very simply, art districts are born; more de facto than planned.

How many art districts are there in Beijing?

More than I can count!

How did they develop?

In the city centre, the cost of real estate escalated in the years leading up to the 2008 Olympics. Resulting in an artist exodus to the city outskirts where rents were cheap and bricks and mortar left over from Beijing’s vast Olympic construction plans were in ready supply. Artists’ spaces quickly sprung up all around Beijing’s periphery, in the same way that itinerant worker “villages” quickly sprung up to house construction worker families from far-away provinces. 
Are they supported by the government?

Many start as impromptu housing and work space among artist friends, which then morph if they grow to a sufficient critical mass into an area co-opted by local officials, designated for “culture industry”. Others start as converted warehouse space, due to the make-shift storage facilities needed during the pre-Olympic construction years.

 

 

 

798 District

798 District

 

 

Is there a danger that the more that spring up the less significant they become?

No, Beijing is vast enough to support a large number of artistic communities.

Why are they so focused in Beijing as opposed to any other city?

Beijing is traditionally seen as the capital of Chinese culture, it seems normal and natural for art districts to continue to emanate out from the vast richness of the cultural legacy of the Forbidden City and other imperial arts repositories of Beijing’s ancient city center. Beijing is also a center of learning and education with many of China’s most elite universities including national theatre, film, music and architecture four year under-grad universities and graduate schools located in Beijing. The deep and diverse creative talent pool in Beijing tends to support culture nation-wide.

For rest of interview Meg Maggio click here

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Wallpaper’s introduction to the Beijing art scene

Wallpaper’s map Beijing art districts

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