Art Radar Asia

Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

  • Photobucket
  • About Art Radar Asia

    Art Radar Asia News conducts original research and scans global news sources to bring you selected topical stories about the taste-changing, news-making and the up and coming in Asian contemporary art.
  • Advertisements

Archive for the ‘Museum shows’ Category

National Art Gallery Singapore pays homage to 1970s leading artist Yeh Chi Wei in a retrospective

Posted by artradar on July 14, 2010


NATIONAL MUSEUM ART RETROSPECTIVE SINGAPORE

The Story of Yeh Chi Wei” at the National Art Gallery, Singapore celebrates the life and times of pioneering artist Yeh Chi Wei, a critical current in the shaping of a unique Southeast Asian style of painting in the 1960s and 70s.

Born and educated in China, Yeh became a well-known artist and educator in Singapore. He is most remembered for his role as the leader of the influential Ten Men group – a group of artists and art educators that would later take on the form of the seminal Southeast Asian Art Association.

Credited with defining the course of the Singapore arts scene in the early days of the 1960s and 70s, Yeh became famous with his unique style that drew from his interests in Chinese woodblock print, Han dynasty carvings, decorations on bronze vessels and oracle and stone drum inscriptions. In his paintings,varied Southeast Asian painting traditions achieve an unlikely unity, evoking a monumentality in both figurative and non-figurative works.

Drummer by Yeh Chi Wei. 1963

Yeh Chi Wei, 'Drummer', 1963.

Yeh took influence from his travels across the Southeast Asian subcontinent with the Ten Men group. Imbibing local painting styles, flavors and colors, Yeh’s works move from representational to an investment in abstraction during his career as an artist.

Boats in Bali by Yeh Chi Wei. 1962

Yeh Chi Wei, 'Boats in Bali', 1962.

In the heyday of Yeh’s popularity as an artist, educator and part of the Ten Men group, Yeh moved to a village in Malaysia where his career took a downward turn. A lot of his works never made it out of Malaysia and the artist fell into obscurity. In an article in The New York Times, Southeast Asian curator Ong Zhen Min said,

It was not until we delved into the archives that we realized how interesting and innovative this artist was, and understood the uniqueness of his art. Most of his paintings were in his Malaysian studio and were not widely circulated beyond that point, so his name faded into obscurity. We hope this exhibition would be able to reintroduce audiences to his art works.

A lot of Yeh’s work stands out for its choice of palette. Of the artist’s unique selection and application of color, Ms Ong says,

Yeh was probably one of the most daring artists of his generation in his use of black. Most artists use black to highlight things, but he actually used black and its different shades as a color. From a distance, it almost looks like a cave drawing, which I think is an effect he was trying to achieve.

Drummer by Yeh Chi Wei. 1970

Yeh Chi Wei, 'Drummer', 1970.

Yeh taught art for 22 years at different schools around Singapore and Malaya and passed away in 1981. This exhibition is the first survey show since his passing, and is an overview of his artistic career and his contribu­tions to the Singapore art scene.

The Story of Yeh Chi Wei” is on at the National Art Gallery, Singapore until 12 September, 2010.

AM/KN

Related Topics: Singaporean artists, museum showsgroups and movements

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for more on artist retrospectives

Bookmark  and Share

Advertisements

Posted in Chinese, Events, Groups and Movements, Museum shows, Painting, Singapore, Singaporean, Southeast Asian, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Not-so-underground artist showcased in basement gallery: Tsong Pu’s TFAM solo

Posted by artradar on June 23, 2010


TAIWAN ART ART MUSEUM SHOWS SOLO EXHIBITION

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum (TFAM) in Taipei, Taiwan is currently exhibiting the works of Taiwanese artist Tsong Pu. The exhibition, entitled “Art from the Underground: Tsong Pu Solo Exhibition, displays over 100 works representative of Tsong Pu’s thirty year career, ranging from his earliest works from the 1970’s to his more recent installation pieces, drawings and paintings. It comes amid rumblings from the art community that the Taipei Fine Arts Museum is failing to represent local artists.

“My first exhibit was held in this space 20 years ago. It seems that I haven’t improved much over that time because 20 years later I’m still … underground.” Tsong Pu, as quoted in the Taipei Times.

You Are The Beautiful Flower, Mix Media, 1996:2010 (re-presented in TFAM)

You Are The Beautiful Flower, Mix Media, 1996:2010 (re-presented in TFAM)

Tsong Pu was born in Shanghai (China) in 1947. He attended Fu-Shing Commerce and Industry High School in Taipei, Taiwan, and went on to study at Las Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de San Fernando de Madrio, Spain. He professes to choosing a school where he would be forced to draw realistically, a style that is in direct contrast with the abstract work he has created since leaving Spain and returning to Taiwan in 1981.

Tsong Pu, the artist. Photo taken in TFAM

Tsong Pu, the artist. Photo taken in TFAM

Tsong Pu has had a keen interest in European and American abstract expressionism since he was quite young. His early influences included Western art magazines from Japan and the US; the knowledge he took from these separated him from his peers.

In 1984, Tsong was presented with an award in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum sponsored “Contemporary Art Trends in the R.O.C. Exhibition”, an award hailed as being “an index of progress for Taiwan’s contemporary art world.”

He has held numerous solo exhibitions since 1983 in Spain and in Taiwan, as well as participated in domestic and international group exhibitions all over Asia, in Spain, the US, the UK, and Australia.

Tsong Pu is most well known for a painting style he developed during the 1980s, in which he paints an abstract pattern based on a grid, occasionally with diagonal lines of white. This is a method often praised by art critics as it has the ability to promote an emotional response while being thoroughly mechanical.

Transition, Acrylic on canvas, 130x193.5 cm, 1999

Transition, Acrylic on canvas, 130x193.5 cm, 1999

Tsong Pu is often viewed as one of the most progressive artists working in Taiwan today. His 1983 solo exhibition, “A Meeting of Mind and Material”, broke with established rules of painting, the result of his desire to abstain from simply drawing realistically and seeking new ways to present his ideas. He has been praised for his ability to embrace new concepts and new media, as he composes his paintings using inspiration from his everyday surroundings.

Enticing Encounter II, Mix Media, 193x130 cm, 1983

Enticing Encounter II, Mix Media, 193x130 cm, 1983

Editors’ Note:

We have since published a three-part interview in which Tsong Pu discusses six of his artworks in depth. This is framed by some discussion of the Taiwanese contemporary art community, past and present.

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

MM/KN

Related Topics: Taiwanese artists, museum shows, painting

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for news on exhibitions in Asia

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Museum shows, Taiwan, Taiwanese, Tsong Pu | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Compound Eye: RongRong and inri retrospective at He Xiangning Art Museum

Posted by artradar on June 16, 2010


CHINESE CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY MUSEUM EXHIBITION

Compound Eye: Works by RongRong & inri (2000-2010)(website in Chinese) is the first retrospective exhibition of collaborative works by RongRong and inri since they started working as a husband-and-wife team in 2000. In 1999, the Chinese photographer RongRong met inri, a Japanese artist, at his solo exhibition in Tokyo. They did not understand each other’s languages at that time, but they “understood each other deeply from their works.” Built on the foundation of their individual styles, their collaborative works surpass the limits of their individual vision.

Untitled Series, 2008, No.25 180x134cm, Courtesy of He Xiangning Art Museum and artists

Untitled Series, 2008, No.25 180x134cm. Courtesy of He Xiangning Art Museum and artists.

The lens naturally became a “compound eye” for the pair, enabling them to document themselves and their encounters with nature and their living landscape in depth and from perspectives only made possible by this “eye”. Feng Boyi, the exhibition’s curator, defines the unique quality of their works as such:

“Their collaborative method gives their works a romantic exterior, but the circumstances of their work and the narrative context overturn this romanticism, thus deconstructing their individual memories, dreams, and imaginations. This uniquely beautiful romantic language reflects their combined vision and a different side of nature and reality.”

In Fujisan, No.13 100x134cm , 2001, Courtesy of He Xiangning Art Museum and artists

In Fujisan, No.13 100x134cm , 2001. Courtesy of He Xiangning Art Museum and artists.

RongRong and inri’s freeze frame genealogy

The exhibition is divided into 13 series, each centering on a location and time, as well as the particular emotion associated with it. “In Fujisan, Japan” series (2001) was created after the pair made the decision to be together. This series concentrated on the spontaneous passion of discovering nature and each other, their realisation of their chance to live and create fully. “Caochangdi, Beijing” series (2004-2009) documents the births of three sons into their family. “Three Shadows, Beijing” series (2008), documenting the founding and operation of the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, can be read like a family genealogy. The freeze frames, shaped in circles, add a timeless flavour to the family portraits. The use of this circle shape can also be found in “Untitled 2008” series, suggesting the continuity of life in the universe and their creative process.

When asked about the challenges and decisions involved in putting together this exhibition, curator Feng Boyi replied:

Uncertainty is an important element of experimental contemporary art, because artists themselves are in the phase of exploring new ideas and methods. For a general audience not familiar with the art critical discourse, contemporary art seems distant. Everyone has grown up with a relatively fixed aesthetic preference, while the general art education in China is not very helpful in fostering individual taste. Hence, I am very careful in my curatorial process to take this dynamic into consideration. RongRong and inri’s works are less abstract, so the barrier to understanding should be lower. I also try to engage the audience by providing interactive opportunities – pinhole camera workshops are run every weekend.

Caochangdi, Beijing Series, No.1 102x109cm,  2004, Courtesy of He Xiangning Art Museum and artists

Caochangdi, Beijing Series, No.1 102x109cm, 2004. Courtesy of He Xiangning Art Museum and artists.

He Xiangning Art Museum an important part of China’s art landscape

He Xiangning Art Museum (website in Chinese) is located in Shenzhen, a small fishing town which was designated as a “special economic zone” in the 80s. From these humble roots, it has grown into the cosmopolitan city in Guangdong province you can visit today. Shenzhen has always been well known as a trading centre for business and industrial production, and is the hub of the Pearl River Delta economic region. Lacking an innate infrastructure for art, Shenzhen has seen its government working with private partners to initiate and build quite a few arts clusters.

As a young migrant city without broad art heritage, Shenzhen has gone through a very fast urbanization process in the past thirty years. It is open and welcoming to new ideas and attempts. We have worked with a roster of curators, both Chinese and international. Shenzhen has a leading position in the design discipline in China. We also focus on Shenzhen’s critical location as a regional hub connecting Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, and Macau. The recent exhibition “The Butterfly Effect – An Artistic Communication Project of Cross-Strait Four Regions(website in Chinese) pays tribute to this very idea. (Feng Boyi, curator)

The museum was founded in 1997 and is the first Chinese national museum named after an individual. Since its inception, He Xiangning Art Museum has put on programmes with high aspiration and an international view: the Shenzhen Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition, first held in 1998; Wang Guangyi (website in Chinese) and Yue Minjun‘s (website in Chinese) solo exhibitions; Xu Bing’s Primer for the Mu, Lin, Sen (木, 林, 森) Project in 2009; a number of shows collaborating with Italian and French artists and curators.

He Xiangning Art Museum has always championed slightly marginalized artists in China. They still keep on creating original works without receiving overwhelming media attention. In the past few years, the characteristic of Chinese contemporary artists has shifted from being critical, avant-garde to being less so, especially after the intervention of capital in the art creation process. To some degree, the desire for fame and status has replaced their critical spirit. RongRong and inri remain experimental. They are exactly the type of artist that He Xiangning Art Museum is interested in. (Feng Boyi, curator)

When asked how He Xiangning Art Museum views the current status of art museums in China, museum director Yue Zhengwei said:

“Competition amongst museums should not be our primary concern. Founding an art museum is not the most difficult thing, but maintaining a well-run programme requires a lot of efforts. Each museum in the same city or region should develop its own unique positioning to differentiate from the rest, to avoid the wasting of resources. This is crucial to maintaining a healthy art museum eco-system.”

As an example, in the factory-converted creative and posh residential zone Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) in Shenzhen, He Xiangning Art Museum co-exists with the OCT Art and Design Gallery (website in Chinese) next door. OCT showcases a fusion of art and design, a perfect fit for a city recently named as China’s first “City of Design” by UNESCO.

“Compound Eye: Works by RongRong & inri (2000-2010)” is on at He Xiangning Art Museum until 11 July, 2010. It has been organised by He Xiangning Art Museum, with assistance from the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre.

SXB/KN

Related Topics: museum shows, photography, venues – China

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for more reports on contemporary photography in Asia

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Body, China, Chinese, Curators, Environment, Female form, Identity art, Interviews, Japanese, Landscape, Migration, Museum shows, Photography, Professionals, Self, Shenzhen, Themes and subjects | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Visual culture of Shanghai on show at San Francisco Asian Art Museum

Posted by artradar on June 9, 2010


SHANGHAI ART SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM SHOW

For a long time in the West, the image of Asia has relied on popular, and almost always Western, media imagery. From medieval travel literature to films in today’s time, the tropes of the orient repeat itself with every kung fu movie. At Shanghai, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the image of China comes from the subject itself.

Taking a cue from the 30th anniversary of the San Francisco-Shanghai sister-city relationship, “Shanghai” presents a portrait of a city evolving over 160 years. Accompanying the exhibition are year-long festivals, concerts, workshops, film screenings, talks and discussions. The exhibition features more than 130 artworks including China Trade oil paintings, Shanghai deco furniture and rugs, movie clips, revolutionary posters, and video and contemporary art installations.

Nanjing Road – From Series of Views of Shanghai, after 1937. By Zhao Weimin (dates unknown). Chromolithograph on paper. Collection of the Shanghai History Museum.

Mirroring the life pulse of Shanghai over a century and half are its art and art objects. Neatly divided into four time periods, “Beginnings” (1850–1911), “High Times” (1912–1949), “Revolution” (1920–1976), and “Shanghai Today” (1980–present), the exhibition presents a rare glimpse of Shanghai’s visual culture in transition from a modest Chinese port town to a bustling cosmopolitan city.

The success as well as the challenge of this exhibition lies in presenting a complex and multi-layered visual culture within the framework of a linear narrative. Beginning with China Trade paintings from the 1850s, painted in large numbers to document the world of European colonialists, the exhibition moves forward to highlight artists from the Shanghai School who broke away from the traditional mode of landscape painting and created expressive and dramatic works for wealthy Chinese patrons. The later arrival of print technology lead to mass production and there are a number of posters and other graphic art on display, including the infamous large-format colorful government propaganda posters.

Landscape-Commemorating Huang Binhong-Scroll, 2007. By Shen Fan (b. 1952). Installation with lights and sound. Courtesy of the artist.

Landscape-Commemorating Huang Binhong-Scroll, 2007. By Shen Fan (b. 1952). Installation with lights and sound. Courtesy of the artist.

Shanghai Todaypresents a rare opportunity to interact with works produced exclusively by artists based in Shanghai. Embracing installation and video art, this section features some important Shanghai artists. A highlight of the show is Shen Fans 2007 installation Landscape-Commemorating Huang Binhong-Scroll, an homage to one of China’s great artists of the twentieth century. This installation piece utilizes computer-operated neon lights and music.

The city as a direct subject is very much present in the works of installation artists Zhang Jianjun (b. 1955) and Liu Jianhua (b. 1962). Both artists deal with the contemporary realities of Shanghai and its city space.

Zhang Jianjun’s work Vestiges of a Process: Shanghai Garden is an installation composed of two silicone rubber Taihu rocks, manufactured from molds of real Taihu rocks that are prized in traditional garden culture for providing city dwellers with symbolic access to nature. The rocks are accompanied by a silicone rubber vase and both are arranged on a pavement of gray antique bricks which have been acquired from the demolition of Shanghai houses constructed between 1923 and 1926. Visitors are invited to walk through the installation.

Shadow in the Water (detail), 2002-2008. By Liu Jianhua (b. 1962). Installation with porcelain and light. Collection of the artist.

Shadow in the Water (detail), 2002-2008. By Liu Jianhua (b. 1962). Installation with porcelain and light. Collection of the artist.

Liu Jianhua’s Can You Tell Me? consists of a series of stainless steel books suspended from a vertical wall. Each book presents two questions about Shanghai’s future, one on each page, that are translated into five languages: Chinese, English, French, German and Japanese. Ever-changing, propelled by its role as an economic powerhouse, the city suggests endless possibilities, some of which Liu asks visitors to contemplate.

For sometime now, the video format has been the preferred medium for many contemporary Shanghai artists and the exhibition closes with contemporary video art, one of the mediums in which Shanghai artists are taking a worldwide lead. Yang Fudong (b. 1971) is a contemporary video artist who features prominently in this section with three video works: City Light (2000), Liu Lan (2003) and Honey (2003). A celebrated photographer, videographer, and film maker, Fudong frequently explores feelings of longing and displacement. His works often focus on the lives of young urbanites who, despite possessing admirable qualities such as education or beauty, may not be well-adjusted to the environment in which they live.

Shanghaiis on at the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco) until September 2010. It has been co-organized by the Shanghai Museum and the Asian Art Museum, with assistance from the Shanghai International Culture Association.

AM/KN

Related Topics: Chinese artists, events – museum shows, venues – USA

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for more on worldwide Asian art exhibitions

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Chinese, Museum shows, Museums | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Peabody Essex Museum loaned 3 giants of contemporary and modern Indian art: Anish Kapoor, Francis Newton Souza, Paritosh Sen

Posted by artradar on June 9, 2010


INDIAN ART AMERICAN ART MUSEUM COLLECTIONS

This year, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has acquired three major works on loan from the Harmony Art Foundation: Anish Kapoor’s Halo (2006), Francis Newton Souza’s Birth (1955)and Paritosh Sen’s Amhedabad scene (1984).

“We are thrilled to have these three key works from the Ambani Collection,” says Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, the James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Chief Curator at PEM. “Their extended loan is just one of the many ways in which we are bringing global contemporary art to PEM.”

Halo by Anish Kapoor. 2006.

Anish Kapoor, Halo, 2006

Anish Kapoor is one of the most celebrated contemporary Indian artists. Earlier this year, Kapoor received a commission to construct the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park, continuing his successes in London following a 2003 Unilever installation in the Tate Modern and a 2009 show at the Royal Academy. In the United States, he is best known for his 110‐ton stainless steel public sculpture Cloud Gate (2004), installed in Millennium Park, in Chicago.

Halo consists of a shallow circular cone of stainless steel, 10 feet in diameter. Its surface is pleated in a radial pattern, a manipulation more commonly associated with pliable fabric than unyielding steel. It will hang in the PEM atrium, on long‐term loan from the Tina and Anil Ambani Collection.

“Anish Kapoor is one of the most important artists working in the world today,” says Trevor Smith, PEM Curator of Contemporary Art. “The extraordinary technical achievement of his sculpture depends on contemporary technology while invoking a sense of wonder that is timeless.”

Souza and Sen are often pronounced fathers of Indian modern art. Breaking away from colonial training institutions in post independent India, they founded the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group and the Calcutta Group respectively. Both groups pioneered the modern art movement in India in the 1950s.

Birth by Francis Newton Souza

Francis Newton Souza, Birth, 1955

The Peabody Essex Museum has had a long history of collecting Indian art. In the year 2000, renowned Indian art collectors Chester and Davida Herwitz donated their collection to the PEM, fortifying its status as one of the best places to go for Indian art in the United States. Today the PEM has three galleries dedicated to Indian art.

“There is a tremendous synergy between the Peabody Essex Museum and Harmony Art Foundation based on our belief in Indian art, and our genuine commitment to bring it to the global stage,” says Tina Ambani, a former Bollywood star and founder of the Harmony Art Foundation, an institution which supports emerging and established Indian artists. “It’s time that the art world looks beyond current fads and market trends to establish an abiding interest in the incredible power and potential of Indian art.”

AM/KN

Related Topics: Indian artists, collectors, events – museum shows

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for more on contemporary Indian art in museum collections

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Acquisitions, Collectors, Corporate collectors, Indian, Museum collectors, Museum shows, Museums, Painting, Progressive Artists' Group, Promoting art | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Curator Valerie Doran on ‘Hope and Glory’ and challenges for Hong Kong art world – interview

Posted by artradar on May 28, 2010


HONG KONG CURATOR INTERVIEW

Valerie Doran, Hong Kong-based independent curator, writer, and translator

For a place that has been repeatedly touted as a cultural desert, Hong Kong has managed to attract arts practitioners from many walks of life who are dedicated to working with the challenging realities present within the Chinese city-state. These creative professionals are forging an atmosphere in Asia where the contemporary arts are accessible and alive. Valerie Doran, an independent curator originally from Rhode Island in the United States, embodies the spirit of these determined arts professionals who are striving to transform the parched art landscape of the former British colony.

Her most recent project, Simon Birch’s Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, has been lauded by Art Forum Online as a ‘critic pick’ and praised by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times. However, Doran asserts, the exhibition represents more than a critically acclaimed artistic endeavor, and serves as an ‘intervention’ into the Hong Kong art world, “finding a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.”

A creative spirit seeking revolution

Valerie Doran is a dichotomy: a gentle creative spirit who harbors an intense attraction to revolutionary ideas. As a Wellesley educated translator and arts scholar who majored in both Chinese and English Literature, she effortlessly exists in both eastern and western cultural worlds. As a Chinese translator and expert in traditional Chinese literature, she can read and speak fluent Mandarin.

Valerie arrived in Hong Kong in the early 1980’s as a Wellesley-Yenching fellowship recipient at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where she studied Chinese intensively and taught classes in the English department and core curriculum programme. She later studied at the National University of Taiwan while the territory was still under martial law, and became involved in the burgeoning local avant-garde arts scene, which was riddled with political activists. Of the mid-80’s Taiwanese art scene, she says:

“Artists and the dissidents were very linked, and were all kind of loosely affiliated during this interesting time. There was a lot of patronage of artists by corporate people who themselves were quite liberal… Many of these people were early supporters for what became the Democratic Progressive Party.”

Her Path to Curating

Doran’s journey to becoming an independent curator included working for the distinguished Johnson Chang at Hanart TZ Gallery, which has been an instrumental gallery in pioneering contemporary Chinese art. During her 3-year stint at Hanart, Doran first began dabbling in curating contemporary art exhibitions. It was then her interest in curatorial practice was thoroughly peaked, and she enrolled in the Hong Kong Art School’s curatorial studies program, run jointly at the time with New York’s Guggenheim Museum.

In 2008, Doran was one of the first independent curators selected to curate a show for the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Her exhibition, Looking for Antonio Mak, earned wide attention, and was named as the best Hong Kong exhibition of 2008 by Time Out Magazine, as well as being cited as one of the 10 best exhibitions internationally of that year by the China edition of Artforum Online.

Most Recent Project: Hope & Glory with Simon Birch

Her most recent project is Hope & Glory: A Conceptual Circus, inspired by Hong Kong’s British expatriate artist Simon Birch. The show encompasses 20,000 square feet in ArtisTree, a non-profit art space that exists within a sprawling office complex, and is one of the largest multimedia art exhibitions ever created in Hong Kong. The show’s installations utilize video, sculpture, costume and sound design, live performers and 2-dimensional paintings to create a fantastic, interactive environment. Running themes include the journey through life and transformation, the ‘hero’ mythologies of various cultures, and science fiction. The show also maintains a definitive preoccupation with craftsmanship and the process of producing art.

Art Radar’s writer and researcher Erin Wooters met with Valerie Doran to discuss her experience and the challenges of curating Hope & Glory, a mammoth and unprecedented project, with no comparable exhibition ever attempted in Hong Kong. Valerie’s revelations are surprising, and include details of the conceptual performance that didn’t come to fruition in Hope & Glory due to the grave injury of the human ‘artwork’, how exactly the Birch Foundation managed to secure government funding for the show within Hong Kong’s hyper-competitive and chronically under-funded art scene, and what this exhibition means for the future of contemporary art in Hong Kong.

'Heavy is the Head that Wears the Crown', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Paul Kember. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How did you meet Simon and become involved with this project?

Simon was one of the artists in my ‘Looking for Antonio Mak’ show, so that’s how I met him. What I was looking for [in artists for Antonio Mak] was not a style—I was looking for a level of sensitivity and a voice. There were artists that I liked and I wanted to work with, and I wanted a figurative painter.  I had seen a painting of Simon’s, and I didn’t know who he was, but when I saw one of his paintings I was very struck by the texture of the brushwork. So I met him. He had never heard of Antonio, and I showed him Antonio’s catalogue and he was almost in shock because he responded so strongly to the work and the imagery. So he wanted to do it … After that show completed, he asked me if I’d work with him on ‘Hope and Glory’.

Can you describe the process of curating the Hope & Glory show?

We met for over a year, working on this concept, the floor plans, the narrative, and the sub-narrative. There was a lot of discussion. Then, 3 months before the show opened, Robert Peckham from Hong Kong University, who is a history professor who had seen both the ‘Antonio’ show and a smaller show that Simon did during his illness, which was a really powerful show called ‘Out of the Darkness’, got to know Simon and was very interested in this project, so we had discussions with him. There was a lot of in-depth conceptual thought and discussion, which lasted for about a year, that went into this show. The show was very formed in Simon’s mind and he already knew certain things that he wanted to do. However, the show as it is now also has elements that were changed, or gotten rid of.

This is a very unique show. How was curating this exhibition different from your previous experiences?

It was a very different experience from curating a show that I generated the idea. This is a situation in which an artist came to me with a concept for a complex multimedia installation, and asks to have it curated, so what does that really mean? It is a very different role. The closest analogy that I can come up with to describe our relationship is an editor and a novelist. Editors come across novelists with all different levels of formed work. Some may be very sketchy, or have just a few chapters. It depends on what stage you get into the relationship with the writer. So, you must challenge the language, challenge the structure, and challenge the concept.

'Crawling From the Wreckage', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot, including an interactive viewer. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Douglas Young. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Were there any surprises or unexpected difficulties in the making of ‘Hope & Glory’?

One of the key installations, the living room installation, originally wasn’t like that. It was originally all stage, and a key concept that ended up not being able to happen, was that he hired a guy he knows to transform himself into a super being. To transform himself, an everyday guy, into an iron man athlete over the course of a year. So, the guy started training for about 6 or 7 months, and filmed himself everyday, and that was to be edited into a film about his transformation. And then over the course of the exhibition, over 2 months, the man was to always be sitting in the living room. What happened was that 6 or 7 months into his training, the guy almost broke his neck during training. It was just before Christmas, and he severely injured his neck, almost severed his spine. So obviously that didn’t happen. Simon has him on video on one of the TVs on the floor, but the overall concept had to go. It didn’t happen. We decided then it would be fun to change the living environment into the computer vector cage, and create a cage for humans in the living room space.

When it came time to build the show, it was also so complicated to build that he hired a production company that usually sets up rock concerts. Because, no one knows how to do an art show here, except people who work at the museum. No one knew how to build it. We had to start from scratch with everything. It was hideously difficult.

I also knew I was taking a big risk, as was Simon, who was taking the biggest risk of all, because he’s put everything he has into the show, and he busted his butt for over and year and had to find a way to do something in a place where it’s impossible to do it.

'Spinal Mount Starcracker', 2010. Hope and Glory installation shot, by Simon Birch. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are you satisfied with the show? Does it achieve your intentions?

I think it fulfills Simon’s vision, and I believe it’s achieved something. I believe we’ve constructed a pretty interesting world for people to enter and take something away. I think it has communicated a lot of personal vision of the artist, and I think it is conceptually multilayered and very interesting in that way. I think in terms of the physical realization of the physical works, that partly due to time limitations and all the other limitations when trying to do this, such as money and space, that certain things weren’t pushed to the limit and there are things we weren’t able to realize.

I think my collaborative experience with Simon was more problematic than expected, but that’s ok. On many levels I feel very amazed by his achievement, and I’ve learned a lot… The fact that we were able to pull together so many interesting people in the forums, and to see the students coming in, it’s awesome.

The show has gotten a lot of attention and a lot of press, and there is a really great article in the International Herald Tribune, and that’s all great, but that’s not the key issue for me.

Were pieces transported into the space or built in ArtisTree?

The large-scale sculpture pieces like the star and the steel ball, and the letters were made in a factory in Guangzhou, according to the technical drawings. The production supervisor would go out there and send photographs back.

The steel frame for the trophy ball was created in Guangzhou, and the trophies were put on by hand, one by one. And engraved one by one. The cage living room (‘Crawling from the Wreckage’) was put up string by string.

What is inscribed on the trophies?

On the ‘Spinal Mount Starcracker’… The name of every artwork Simon’s ever made and every person he’s ever loved or has been a friend to him is on those trophies, so that’s why he calls it ‘my life in a thousand cheap trophies.’

Can you tell the story about how this was funded?

Simon is an outsider in the art scene. He’s a Westerner. This is a very personal show for him, and he’s taking risks and exposing himself to a very unsympathetic, hermetic contemporary art scene.  The show has done a lot of amazing things in a lot of ways, but people are suspicious, asking, why is there government funding? Why did the tourism board give money for the show? We find this criticism quite hilarious, because Simon was working on the show for two years, with me for one year, and was maxing out all his credit cards and scrounging for sponsorship.

We heard about a mega-event fund, through somebody over at the NGO art organizer. They said, there’s this crazy fund you should try for, because they’re supposed to fund entertainment, sports, and cultural events, and they’ve got a ton of money. The main criterion is that you have to guarantee that at least 10,000 people will come to your event. The second thing is that you have to show that it will attract tourism, and that it will help benefit the image of Hong Kong. So Simon was like, let’s go for this. I’m thinking, are you crazy, they’re never going to give this to a visual artist. But why not try it, what have we got to lose, right? So, I asked a friend of mine who worked with me on the ‘Antonio’ show, who used to be a government accountant and is now an emerging curator, to come look at these forms and help us understand them. Simon also did a lot of research online about how to fill out these forms.

We filled out the forms, submitted them, and Simon was really surprised when he got short listed and called back for an interview. Then, we made the second cut, which meant that we were one of nine proposals asked to submit a seven minute PowerPoint presentation to their selection committee. That amazed us. This was all in February—we didn’t even know we had any government funding until March. All these artists are accusing- oh, they could only do this because they got government funding—which is wrong.

We had KC Wong with us for the presentation, who is a friend of Simon’s and a really great artist. He was originally going to do a piece in the show but it didn’t work out. The 3 of us went to meet 20 people in business suits at the Tourism Bureau and Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and there was a question and answer session and it wasn’t hostile. I was so surprised they were actually interested in knowing more. I never expected they’d give us money.

We were really shocked when around February we were told they were going to give us a matching grant for up to 2 million [HK] dollars for production costs. That means that we have to spend 4 million [HKD] on production and they’ll give us 2 million. However, the overall value of the show is over 15 million Hong Kong dollars [approximately 2 million USD] . That includes the sponsorship, venue (which we didn’t have to pay for), the graphic design, and the banners. This is all sponsored. For our education program, we got $50,000 HKD from Louis Vuitton to do our forums, which we are also using to pay for buses to bus in students from less advantaged areas.We were able to invite the Symbiotic Dance Troupe, a community-based group incorporating physically handicapped dancers, to perform at our first forum, and they did an interactive work inside the installation, which was absolutely beautiful. So we’re using the money very wisely and producing an educational pamphlet for students.

All the actors in the films, the designers, the film directors, and the musicians—they’ve all done this for nothing or for very little. So the main cost is the production but the value of the show is on the scale of the Tate Modern.

So does this mark a first for artists trying for this government fund?

Well, it is a relatively new fund and most artists would never even consider it. They all go running to the arts development council, where artists usually get money… Yet, here is something interesting, because it’s supposed to raise Hong Kong’s international image. Hong Kong is trying to strengthen its creative industries and make itself the creative capital of Asia, but still does not include the fine arts or visual arts within their definition of a creative industry. So, the fact that we are able to get this money actually for a visual arts project from this unlikely source, and they are willing to take a risk and fund us, is a very good thing.

'Twilight Shadows of the Bright Face', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Prodip and LucyAndBart. Curated by Valerie Doran.

How do you feel about the critics who call Hong Kong a cultural desert?

The way I look at it is this: Hong Kong is not a cultural desert, and there are a lot of talented people that are doing excellent work whether in the performing arts, music, visual arts, or theatre. The ‘desert’ is the lack of platform for them. The desert is in the cultural policy of the Hong Kong government. It’s a conceptual desert, not a real desert.

So, what is the definition of a desert? It is a place where things don’t get watered. There are plants, water them! If not, they have to move elsewhere to survive. Except for the performing arts, which has more of a platform and is better known, everything else has to move to the periphery to find ‘water’. They have to water themselves. That’s the desert.

Of course art can never be government generated, but, in the West you have a mixture. You have the Guggenheim, a private museum created by a collector, you have PS1, and there are artist-generated spaces. But here, space is at a premium—it’s valuable, it’s money. The government also doesn’t know what to do, because they don’t trust the artists. Even the ADC [Hong Kong Arts Development Council] —if you apply for $120,000 [HKD], they give you $50,000 [HKD] because they assume you are exaggerating funding needs. Everybody is always under funded.

What do you think the show means for Hong Kong?

I don’t know. I just think it’s this weird entity that happened. One thing it means for sure is that more people have been exposed to a serious multimedia installation by an artist, and been exposed to an artist’s vision. That’s amazing. That’s what you want.

What is the biggest challenge for advancing the arts in Hong Kong?

Space is a huge issue in Hong Kong—space for the visual art, where  is it? The museum? No.

1A Space is great but it’s way out there. Artists have to invent their own spaces here in Hong Kong. They are amazing in that way.  But the problem is that they’re not accessible to most people so there tends to be this kind of interiority or privacy, a self-contained, almost clubbish atmosphere here in the contemporary art scene. If you’re not a member of the club, it’s a problem. When it’s like that in art, it’s not a good thing.

There are a lot of new laws, like the ‘80% law’, which I find to be criminal. For instance, if developers are able to convince 80% of tenants to sell their properties to them, then you would be forced to sell your flat. People talk about post-colonialism, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing. There is just always a new colonizer, and right now the colonizer is the developers, and the government allows it. Together, they are colonizing Hong Kong space. That has to stop, and needs to be more rational.

Which Hong Kong arts organisations do you appreciate?

In terms of an organisation that has made a new contribution in the past five to ten years, definitely Asia Art Archive. I think Asia Art Archive is a very important organisation.

1A Space is good, and has been struggling to stay open. They are artists in a government owned space; that’s really tough.

There are some important grass roots initiative projects run by artists. The Kai Tak River Project is run by artists and architects who are trying to preserve the Kai Tak River Area as a cultural space, and this involves a whole lot of other issues.

The musicians and theatre performers in the San Po Kong district who moved into factory areas to have rehearsal and performance space have also formed an organization. The government has a new initiative to develop the San Po Kong area, so they are trying to throw everyone out. But, where are they supposed to go? They have formed their own group to try to change things. [The San Po Kong Creative and Cultural Industry Concern Group]

'Tannhauser', 2010. Hope & Glory installation shot. By Simon Birch in collaboration with Gary Gunn. Curated by Valerie Doran.

Are there any particular galleries you value in Hong Kong?

When it comes to commercial galleries I prefer not to answer that question, but in terms of non-commercial galleries, I can say that it’s really great there are some new locally run galleries showing more conceptual works with a less commercial and more experimental style. Like the YY9 Gallery, and the Exit Gallery. These put on small and interestingly conceived shows that are less commercial, which I think is really great.

Do you attend biennales?

Not really. Frankly I don’t have a lot of time to travel because I’m very busy. I have a child and I teach. I get to some things here and there, but biennales are not a compelling interest of mine.

How do you stay informed about the art world? What do you read?

I think I read very much at random. I’ll read some of the Western art news, like Art Forum, Art News, and The Art Newspaper. I actually find a lot of interesting stuff in the Financial Times; they have a great Arts and Culture section. Occasionally the Wall Street Journal. I’ll also look at Yishu, which is a contemporary Chinese arts journal published out of Canada. And Orientations Magazine, because I am also interested in traditional art, and I have a background in traditional Chinese painting.

However, I do research a lot of particular topics that I’m teaching. For instance, I may read about Indian art or the contemporary scene in miniatures from Pakistan. I’m not the kind of person who regularly reads a whole range of things; I’m very much driven by my personal interests.

What literature and writers have influenced your thinking?

There is a very intriguing text by the 17th century ‘eccentric’ painter Shi Tao, called in English ‘Enlightening Remarks on Painting. It is quite a radical and conceptual text in its way, and I have re-read it and drawn from it many times since I first read it more than twenty years ago.

Another book is ‘Ways of Seeing’ by the British humanist and critic John Berger. In fact, the text of Hope & Glory’s educational pamphlet, which we designed for students, (conceived by myself and Robert Peckham of HKU, with text by Robert) was inspired by Berger’s approach.

What projects are you looking forward to next?

[Laughs] Sleeping! Actually, I am involved in another project but we have not gotten to realize it yet, partly because of Hong Kong’s weird ‘creative industries’ definition. The project is ‘In Dragon Garden, which is a beautiful private garden in Tsuen Wan, and the granddaughter of the founder has managed to preserve it from developers. With her aunt and uncle, who now own it, they want to create a public cultural and artistic environment and garden. However, getting the support to do that is very difficult. So I’ve been working on a prototype art project with that, and so far we have not been able to realize it because of funding issues.

I would like to do another show that breaks the mold of how things are usually done here. I would like to work with a single Hong Kong artist and just do a major show in a major space, because no one does that. Like in New York. I just want to do that to change the paradigm. It’s great to have art in these private intimate spaces, and that’s why Hong Kong art has developed the way it has, in a very interesting way. But we need to break out of that and think about projection.

The other thing I’d like to do is create a different kind of space. And I’d love to be a curator and get paid for it. That would be exciting. [laughs]

EW/KN

Related Posts

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for more exclusive interviews with arts professionals in Asia

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Art Funds, Art spaces, Artist-run, Curators, Democratisation of art, From Art Radar, Funding, Gallery shows, Groups and Movements, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Installation, Interviews, Museum shows, Museums, Mythical figures, Nonprofit, Performance, Profiles, Research, Sculpture, Simon Birch, Sound, Space, Valerie Doran, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Korean National Museum of Contemporary Art Young Korean Artists retrospective spans 30 years

Posted by artradar on May 16, 2010


It is now 30 years since the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, Korea, held its first Young Korean Artists exhibition. The exhibition, founded in 1981, quickly became a fundamental one within Korea and around the world, renowned for recognizing and exposing local artistic talent.

Kim, Ho-Suk, (Hwang, Hee), 1988

Kim, Ho-Suk, (Hwang, Hee), 1988

An instrumental exhibition

The Young Korean Artists exhibition (renamed New Talent Exhibition in 1990) is the museum’s oldest and most representative show, known for recognizing many of Korea’s most internationally renowned artists. This year’s exhibition, the 30th Anniversary of the Young Artists exhibition, will showcase original works by participants in the first 1981 show, as well as works spanning the following thirty years. There are 327 invited participants, many of them still “young” while others, particularly artists from the first shows, are now in their 50s and 60s.

Suh, Do-Ho, Staircase, 2009

Suh, Do-Ho, Staircase, 2009

Thirty years of contemporary Korean artists

200 works from a variety of mediums – painting, photography, sculpture, video and installation – will be represented here. The space has been divided into two sections: Young Korean Artists, spanning the 1980s to 1990s, and New Talent Exhibition, focusing on works produced in the 1990s to now.

Among the artists represented in the exhibition Bohn-Chang Koo, Do-Ho Suh, Bul Lee and Choi-Jeong Hwa enjoy international recognition, while five others, Ho-Suk Kim, Sang-Kyoon Noh, Yeong-Bae Lee, Hyun Chung and Yong-Sun Suh, have been named Artist of the Year by the National Museum of Contemporary Arts.

Koo, Bohn-Chang, In the Beginning, 1994

Koo, Bohn-Chang, In the Beginning, 1994

Exhibition a gateway for the new

While primarily a retrospective historical art event, this exhibition is also being used by the museum as a launching pad for New Tides, a future exhibition aimed at discovering and exposing up and coming artists.

The 30th Anniversary of the Young Korean Artists Exhibition at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea, closes on 6 June, 2010.

KN/KCE

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for more on influential Asian museum exhibitions

Bookmark and Share

Posted in Art spaces, Emerging artists, Events, Korea, Korean, Museum shows, Museums, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ai Weiwei is next artist in Unilever Series at Tate Modern

Posted by artradar on March 12, 2010


Ai Weiwei is first artist from Asia Pacific to create installation in Tate’s Turbine Hall

 

Ai Weiwei, Remembering 2009, 2009

Ai Weiwei, Remembering 2009, 2009

Prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will be the next artist in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall for the Unilever series (12 Oct 2010-25 Apr 2011). He will be the first artist from the Asia-Pacific region to undertake an installation there.

In the past year, Ai Weiwei has created the installations Remembering 2009, a memorial to schoolchildren who were victims in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and Soft Ground 2009 in the Haus der Kunst in Munich. He has also had a solo show at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo.

Click here for more information at Art Knowledge News.

AL/KCE

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia to learn more about contemporary Asian artists.

Posted in Ai Weiwei, China, Chinese, Installation, London, Museum shows, Museums, Political, UK | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Animamix Biennial – an alternative biennial pushes aesthetic of comic art – interview curator Victoria Lu

Posted by artradar on February 16, 2010


ANIMATION ART BIENNIAL

The Animamix Biennial is unique. The first was held in 2007, organised by Victoria Lu, an experienced curator and the Artistic Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai. This years show, also curated by Lu, spans four galleries: the Museum of Contemporary Art (Taipei, Taiwan), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Shanghai, China), Today Art Museum (Beijing, China) and the Guangdong Museum of Art (Guangzhou, China).

Animamix Biennial, 2009-2010, MOCA Shanghai

It presents art that develops or embodies the Animamix aesthetic, artwork that combines the styles of animation and comics.

The term “Animamix” was actually coined in 2004 by Lu when she became aware of the emerging stylistic trend while curating Fiction.Love at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, Taiwan.

Fiction.Love, 2004, MOCA Taipei

Animamix is now entering the mainstream, pushing the artists who have developed this style into the spotlight, artists such as Takashi Murakami (Japan), mixed-media visual artist Trenton Doyle Hancock (U.S.A.) and Brazilian painter Oscar Oiwa. As the style encompasses a broad range of mediums, and is often brightly coloured with bizarre narratives, it has an inherent ability to attract attention.

Animamix Biennial, 2009-2010, Guangdong Museum of Art, China

Always interested in exploring emerging trends, Art Radar Asia spoke briefly with curator Victoria Lu about the Biennial:

On Animamix as an artistic trend

The Animamix Biennial was inaugurated in 2007. Since then, has this art direction become more recognisable to mainstream audiences or does it still sit on the fringes?

This answer is rather difficult to define. If I judge by the growing numbers of Animamix direction artworks in the international art fairs, I can say yes. The Animamix direction is growing internationally.

Is this style popular internationally (for audiences, dealers and buyers) or is the popularity restricted to the Asian region?

There is more Animamix kind of artworks available in Asia market for the moment, so I believe Animamix art is more popular in Asia. But there are more and more artists in Europe working [with an] Animamix direction.

On the Biennial

Why did you want to start this Biennial?

I am tired of the current international biennials. There are a group of curators [which have been] leading the conceptual direction for too long. You will find [that] very similar artists list no matter where you go. So I want to try something new, something different. My concept for the Animamix Biennial is an ongoing evolution of art exhibitions and activities. This kind of biennial can really reflect the local art scene.

Would it be fair to say this Biennial is an Asian-initiated event focussing on an art trend that is becoming more globalised?

International biennials were started in Europe in the early last century. Now biennials are becoming more and more popular in the Asia, starting from the beginning of this century. Many cities in Asia are competing for the exposure of their art and culture.

Generally, how has the exhibition been received by critics and museum patrons?

My Animamix shows are very well received by audiences. So far we have also been well received by the critics.

Which artists have been well received by critics and audiences? Are there any “stars” of the Biennial?

I cannot say who the stars are. They are all important to me.

Animamix Biennial, 2009-2010, Today Art Museum, Beijing

The final leg of the Animamix Biennial, Dazzled and Enchanted – New Age Animamix, is now showing at the Guangdong Museum of Art in Guangzhou, China. The show will close on 28 February 2010.

KN

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar Asia for more interviews with art professionals

Posted in Anime, Beijing, Biennials, Body, Brands, Brazilian, Cartoon, Celebrity art, China, Conceptual, Consumerism, Curators, Emerging artists, Fantasy art, Guangzhou, Illustration, International, Interviews, Japanese, Manga, Museum shows, Pop Art, Professionals, Shanghai, Taiwan, Takashi Murakami, Technology, Toys, Urban, Video game art | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

15 artists in Hanging Fire, first show of contemporary art from Pakistan in US – video

Posted by artradar on January 29, 2010


PAKISTANI ART IN UNITED STATES

The Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan exhibition presented by the Asia Society Museum has recently wrapped up in New York City, but you can still get a taste for the show in this video, featuring the Asia Society Museum Director, Dr. Melissa Chiu.

The groundbreaking show, curated by the renowned Salma Hashmi, is the “first ever show of contemporary art  from Pakistan in the United States” and features 15 artists from all over Pakistan.

The show ran from Sept 10, 2009-Jan 3, 2010, but a full-color, 160 page catalogue of the exhibition by Yale University Press is available for purchase.

Related Posts

Posted in Melissa Chiu, Museum shows, Museums, New York, Pakistani, USA, Videos | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »