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Archive for the ‘London’ Category

Ai Weiwei fills Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall with 100 million ceramic sunflower seeds

Posted by artradar on October 19, 2010


AI WEIWEI CHINESE ART TATE MODERN UNILEVER SERIES INSTALLATION SCULPTURE

Ai Weiwei – artist, architectural designer, curator and social commentator – unveils his work for the prestigious Unilever Series for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall – Britain’s largest contemporary art commission. It features the first living artist from the Asia-Pacific region to be commissioned for this series. Guest poster Pippa Dennis provides an in-depth look into the production and exhibition of this breakthrough installation.

Sunflower Seeds by Ai Weiwei is a sensory and immersive installation which sees the vast 1000 square meters of the Turbine Hall covered with over a hundred million porcelain replicas of sunflower seeds, ten centimetres deep and weighing in at 150 metric tons. Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project in the city of Jingdezhen, home to porcelain manufacturers since the days of Imperial China.

Each ceramic seed goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. The artist jokes that he made a few himself, but his contribution was hastily rejected by the artisans in charge, such was the level of craftsmanship involved.

Ai Weiwei. Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

“Ai Weiwei has created a truly unique experience for visitors to this year’s Unilever Series. The sense of scale and quality of craftsmanship achieved in each perfectly formed sunflower seed is astonishing. In trying to comprehend their sheer quantity, Ai provokes a multitude of ideas, from the way we perceived number and value, to the way we engage with society at large.” Sheena Wagstaff, Chief Curator, Tate Modern

Initially, the audience was invited to touch, walk on and listen to the seeds shifting beneath their feet. Image courtesy of Pippa Dennis.

The effect is a highly simplistic and subtle creation, yet complex and powerful in its depth and potential for interpretation. The sunflower itself is a profoundly symbolic object for Chinese people. A common street snack shared by friends and enjoyed by everyone, but requiring a certain skill in breaking the husk and releasing the seed in a singular movement of the teeth and tongue. For the artist it has more personal significance as he remembers it as a staple during the Mao years when material goods were virtually non-existent and food was in short supply. At this time he remembers the sharing of them as a gesture of human kindness and generosity in a period of extreme poverty and uncertainty. It was also a symbol adopted by the Communists. Propaganda pictures from this era depict Mao as the sun, and the mass of people as sunflowers turning towards him.

Ai has used the sunflower seed repeatedly in his work since his period in New York, such as Hanging Man (1983), and here this simple motif works to examine the concepts of mass production and traditional craftsmanship, an important aspect of Ai Weiwei’s work. The phenomena of “Made in China” and the association that accompanies it – repetition, copying and mass production – are all themes deeply rooted in Chinese tradition whilst recently they have taken on a new significance in the current geopolitics of cultural and economic exchange.

Ai Weiwei believes the role of the artist is not only about raising issues but transforming them. Here the seeds also raise questions about ourselves and society, what does it mean to be an individual in China, an individual in this world? Individualism in China was heavily criticized during the Mao years but now with its radical economic and urban transformation China’s attitude is starting to shift, particularly amongst the younger generations. Ai has commented “From a very young age, I started to sense that an individual has to set an example in society. Your own acts and behaviour tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be”.

Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project... and goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. Image courtesy of the Londonist.com.

Each seed is individually made, intricately handcrafted by over 1600 expert artisans brought together specifically for this project ... and goes through a process of twenty to thirty steps in its production, they are molded, fired and ultimately hand painted. Image courtesy of Londonist.com.

Ai Weiwei’s work has always had an element of political and social commentary and he has not only become an important contemporary artist on the international stage but also a leader of social thought in China and the world. He comments, “My art may be political but I never intended to create political art”. However in recent years these themes, particularly for public commissions, have become increasingly prominent and in interviews and on his blog he openly criticises the Chinese government, calling for freedom of press and speaking up for human rights. He has always said his life is ready-made, “I’m my own ready-made”, acknowledging his most significant influence, Marcel Duchamp.

Life for the artist is art, politics and exchange. The act of individuals voicing their opinions and communicating with one another is of great importance to him and his practice. In Remembering (2009), he harnessed the powers of the Internet to recruit two hundred local and regional participants in the research and archiving of the names of the children who lost their lives in the Sichuan earthquake. This project resulted in five thousand names being collated and recorded and is considered the first civil rights activity in China.

In Sunflower Seeds, he harnesses the powers of social media to take his “social sculpture” to another level. Combining online and video technologies, this commission has enabled the artist to engage in a global dialogue about the work. Below the Turbine Hall, Ai Weiwei has installed a series of video booths to record questions and comments to the artist, whilst outside the Turbine Hall the audience can connect with the artist via Twitter. One to One with the Artist also marks a milestone in the Tate’s use of new media technology and the Internet, transforming the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern into a hub of global conversation.

Marc Sands, director of audiences and media at the Tate said,

“In recent years, Tate Media has found a variety of new ways for visitors to engage with the Unilever Series commissions, from iPhone apps to interactive websites. Ai Weiwei’s own passion for new communication technologies has made it possible for us to develop something really special this year, which we hope people around the world will enjoy”.

'Sunflower Seeds' (2010). Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

'Sunflower Seeds' (2010). Image courtesy of Tate Modern.

Originally, the audience was invited to touch, walk on and listen to the seeds shifting beneath their feet. However, after a very enthusiastic response from visitors, staff noticed a fine dust rising off of the seeds, and after it was confirmed that the dust “could be damaging to health following repeated inhalation over a long period of time”, the Tate was forced to cordon the sculpture off. Visitors are still invited to view the installation “from a walkway above the hall.”

The immediate critical response has been extremely positive. The Guardian’s Adrian Searle comments, “I love it. It is a world in a hundred million objects. It is also a singular statement, in a familiar, minimal form – like Wolfgang Laib’s floor-bound rectangles of yellow pollen, Richard Long’s stones or Antony Gormley’s fields of thousands of little humanoids. Sunflower Seeds, however, is better. It is audacious, subtle, unexpected but inevitable. It is a work of great simplicity and complexity. Sunflower Seeds refers to everyday life, to hunger (the seeds were a reliable staple during the Cultural Revolution), to collective work, and to an enduring Chinese industry.”

The Telegraph’s Richard Dorment observes, “For the 11th commission in the Unilever Series, Tate Modern has offered the poisoned chalice to the Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei – and he’s come up with a masterpiece.”

With the seeming success of this event and Tate Modern’s curatorial commitment to show art from new territories, we can look forward to more opportunities to see art from the Asia-Pacific region in such significant spaces as London’s premier contemporary art museum.

About Pippa Dennis

Pippa Dennis is a Chinese art specialist based in London. She has an MA in Art History and spent ten years making documentaries for the BBC before living in Shanghai and working at Eastlink Gallery. She subsequently set up Asia Art Forum, an educational platform to promote the understanding of Asian contemporary art.

HH/KN

 

Related Topics: Chinese artists, installation art, participatory art, political art, London art

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New project on Chinoiserie and contemporary art to launch at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum

Posted by artradar on October 7, 2010


CHINESE CONTEMPORARY ART CHINOISERIE CONFERENCE

Originating in the 17th century to describe the Western fascination with Chinese art and design, the phenomenon of Chinoiserie will be the focus of a new three year project SINOPTICON: Contemporary Chinoiserie in Contemporary Art which opens with a symposium at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in early October this year.

 

Genuine American Chop Suey Served With Some Hokey-Pokey!, Paper, 33 x 33 cm, Karen Tam, Source: SINOPTICON

Karen Tam, 'Genuine American Chop Suey Served With Some Hokey-Pokey!', 2006, paper, 33 x 33 cm. Image courtesy of SINOPTICON.

 

Project founders Eliza Gluckman and Gayle Chong Kwan will chair sessions, including a keynote speech by Beijing-based curator and writer Philip Tinari, alongside sessions featuring Ben Schmidt (University of Washington), Ying Kwok (Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK), Glenn Adamson (V&A), Sarah Teasley (Royal College of Art, London) and artists Wu Chi-TsungEd Pien and Erika Tan. Each will set out the key themes of the project, identified as: politics and trade, authorship, interpretation and cultural misunderstanding, fantasy, escapism, fiction and design.

In the words of SINOPTICON, the project aims “to use the metaphor of Chinoiserie to expand the discourse of artistic exchange between the two sides of the globe”. As well as the symposium, Philip Tinari will write a series of critical articles for the SINOPTICON website. Major new works are to be commissioned, including a collaborative pavillion featuring Gayle Chong Kwan and Stephanie Douet in late 2010. Art residencies and a touring exhibition can also be expected as the project unfolds.

 

SINOPTICON is part-funded by Arts Council England and supported by the National Trust’s ‘Trust New Art’ programme. Places for the symposium are now fully booked but those interested can still contact Eliza Gluckman via the SINOPTICON website to receive updates on future events.

 

 

Shot Through: Journey of Connections, 2008, DVD still, Erika Tan, Source: SINOPTICON

Erika Tan, 'Shot Through: Journey of Connections', 2008, DVD still. Image courtesy of SINOPTICON.

 

HG/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Chinese artists, conferences

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Important ArtInsight conference on Middle Eastern art market in London – event alert

Posted by artradar on October 6, 2010


MIDDLE EAST CONTEMPORARY ART LONDON CONFERENCES

ArtInsight, the events partner of leading art market research firm, ArtTactic, has organised what we think looks to be a very important conference for early October in London. State of the Art – Middle East [The Future of the Middle East Contemporary Art Market] will focus on trends and opportunities in the Middle Eastern contemporary art scene.

Artwork by Houria Niati. Image courtesy of Janet Rady Fine Art.

Artwork by Houria Niati. Image courtesy of Janet Rady Fine Art.

As detailed in the latest press release from ArtInsight, State of the Art – Middle East will include talks and in-depth panel discussions with leading figures from all facets of the Middle Eastern art world, including curators, gallerists, consultants, museum professionals, artists, patrons/collectors, auction house specialists and art market experts. With this event, ArtInsight hopes to provide an comprehensive insider’s perspective of both market and artistic trends in the Middle East today, and into the future.

Key issues and topics to be explored and debated at State of the Art – Middle East will include:

  • The impact of substantial museum building plans and activities throughout the region
  • Collector opportunities: The effect of the rapid and growing visibility of Middle Eastern artists across the international art scene and art market
  • The significance of the roles of auction houses, art fairs and galleries, in the development of the region’s art market

Leading speakers listed are:

  • Lulu Al-Sabah: Founding Partner, JAMM-Art
  • Alia Al-Senussi: Collector, Curator and Advisor
  • Bashar Al-Shroogi: Director, Cuadro Fine Art Gallery (Dubai)
  • Maryam Homayoun Eisler: Leading Patron/Collector and Contributing Editor
  • John Martin: Co-founder and former Fair Director, Art Dubai
  • Ahmed Mater: Artist
  • Jessica Morgan: Curator, Contemporary Art, Tate Modern
  • Anders Petterson: Founder and Managing Director, ArtTactic
  • Dr Venetia Porter: Curator, Islamic and Contemporary Middle East, The British Museum
  • Janet Rady: Director, Janet Rady Fine Art
  • Stephen Stapleton: Director, Edge of Arabia
  • Steve Sabella: Artist
  • Roxane Zand: Director, Middle East & Gulf Region, Sotheby’s
  • Conference Moderator Jeffrey Boloten: Co-founder and Managing Director, ArtInsight

State of the Art – Middle East [The Future of the Middle East Contemporary Art Market] will take place on Friday 8 October this year and runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Asia House in London. The £195 conference fee includes a Halal lunch and there is a student discount available. For bookings, visit www.artinsight.eventbrite.com.

MS/KN

Related Topics: Middle Eastern artistspromoting art, art market

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“Korean Eye: Fantastic Ordinary” exhibition tours London, Singapore, and Seoul

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


KOREAN ARTISTS WESTERN EXPOSURE

The Saatchi Gallery in London once again hosted the popular exhibition “Korean Eye“, which showcases emerging Korean artists to the West. This year the exhibition will travel; in October and November it will travel to Singapore and Seoul with the aim of reaching a wider audience.

“Korean Eye,” founded by curator David Ciclitira, specialises in introducing Korean artists to the international market, giving them recognition outside the Asian region. The first exhibition, “Korean Eye: Moon Generation” in 2009, was extended due to its popularity, reaching 40,000 visitors in two weeks, and ultimately drawing a total 250,000 visitors.

The 2010 exhibition “Korean Eye: Fantastic Ordinary” hosts over thirty works by twelve talented Korean artists with little prior exposure to the Western market. This year the show started off at the Saatchi Gallery in London, and will move to Singapore in October and Seoul in November, to coincide with the G20 Summit.

Bae Joon Sung, 'The Costume of Painter - Drawing of Museum R, J. L. David lie down Dress Inn', 2009, oil and lenticular on canvas, 181.8 x 259.1 cm.

Bae Joon Sung, 'The Costume of Painter - Drawing of Museum R, J. L. David lie down Dress Inn', 2009, oil and lenticular on canvas, 181.8 x 259.1 cm.

The ten artists participating in this years exhibit are: Bae Chan Hyo, Bae Joon Sung, Gwon Osang, Young In Hong, Jeon Joonho, Ji Yong Ho, Kim Dong Yoo, Kim Hyun Soo, Park Eun Young, and Shin Meekyoung. In addition, 2009 Joong Ang Fine Art Prize winner Jeon Chae Gang and Perrier-Jouet nominated artist Lee Rim will join the list of members.

The success of the franchise clearly shows a rise in interest towards Korean art, but may also have something to do with shrewd management. In a 2009 Art Radar interview, “Korean Eye” founder David Ciclitira revealed his views on the future of the art industry and his unique take on the management of art exhibitions, both of which should involve not only collector and auction house input but also government support and bank sponsorship.

What I’ve found interesting in this whole learning process is how unsophisticated the art world is, because when you work in major sports events, there are more dates, so much more research, everything is television linked to media values, and art feels amateur when you look at how they do things, and it’s no small wonder that when they need to raise massive money, they find it quite hard.

“Korean Eye” is funded by Standard Chartered, one of Britain’s largest banks, and features each of its artists along with a catalogue of their work to create an international selling environment for the brand new Korean works. It has opened up a window of awareness for Korean art in the West and suggests a rise in Korean contemporary art sales in future.

Plans for the 2011 and 2012 exhibitions have already been made and involve further expansion. “Korean Eye” will continue at Saatchi Gallery in 2011 and in 2012, and in 2012, plans have been made to expand “Korean Eye” over the entire gallery, where works will be selected and curated by Charles Saatchi and the gallery’s team.

MM/KN

Related Topics: David Ciclitira, gallery shows, Korean artists, venues – London

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Indian art market hits peak 2008 figures – modern art favoured

Posted by artradar on July 27, 2010


ART MARKET INDIAN ART MODERN ART AUCTIONS

For some time now, the Indian art market has been reviving after the post-2008 buying slump. New Delhi-based journalist John Elliott, who runs the current affairs blog Riding the Elephant, reports in a recent post that now it may well be on the first step towards similar pre-2008 peak figures. However, the artists raking in money this time around are not contemporary but modern Indian artists.

In June this year, Sotheby’s raised USD7.9m in a mostly Indian art sales. In the same month, Saffronart sold art worth USD6.7m, and together with a Christie’s two day sale of USD18.1m, Indian art sales for the month of June totaled a substantial USD32.7m.

Rabindranath Tagore. Portrait of a woman.

Rabindranath Tagore's 'Portrait of a Woman' sold for over USD461,000 at Sotheby's.

Elliott reports that ArtTactic, a London based art market analysis firm believes that average auction prices and volumes for modern Indian art are now back to levels seen at the market’s peak in June 2008. Anders Peterson, who runs the firm, adds that,

The return in the confidence for the Indian art market is at the high end of the market.

A significant change from the trends of 2008 is the consistent sales of established veteran artists of Indian modern art rather than contemporary artists. However, given the overall push in the performance of the market, contemporary sales have also picked up. ArtTactic reports that previously popular contemporary artists such as Subodh Gupta and Jitish Kallat are still lagging far below 2007-2008 prices.

Saffronart founder and owner Dinesh Vazirani agrees with ArtTactic’s line on modern art. He says,

Auction prices are reasonably close to their 2008 peak. Serious collectors are there and this is backed with confidence in the Indian economy and with people investing as a hedge against inflation.

But how much do these results tell us about trends in buying Indian art? Anders Peterson from ArtTactic believes that,

Auctions are now a filtered version of the reality in the art market. Lots that are likely to sell are works of high quality, rarity and outstanding provenance. Works that do not demonstrate these qualities are still selling at lower prices or not at all. Therefore the return in confidence is at the high end of the market.

SH Raza. Rajasthan.

SH Raza's 'Rajasthan'.

The highlight of the Sotheby‘s sale were the works of Indian modernist painter, poet, philosopher and Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, while Saffronart relied on modern art veterans like S.H. Raza, who was part of the Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group and now lives in Paris. His wife, Janine Mongillat, died in April 2002.

AM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Indian art, Bombay Progressive Artists’ Group, market watch- auctions

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Leading non-profit institutions gathered by Tate Modern for art event: Art Radar Asia lists Asian participants

Posted by artradar on July 8, 2010


TATE MODERN ARTS FESTIVALS ASIAN ART INSTITUTIONS LISTS

In celebration of the Tate Modern‘s tenth birthday, thirteen Asian art institutions were invited to join global arts festival No Soul For Sale: A Festival of Independents in early May this year. The event brought over seventy independent art spaces, non-profit organisations and artists’ collectives from across the world to the Turbine Hall, indicating which institutions the Tate considers leading in the global art scene.

Read on for more about the thirteen Asian art organisations in attendance at No Soul For Sale. (Listed in alphabetical order.)

98 Weeks – Beirut

Initiated in 2007 as an artist organisation devoted to research on one topic in depth for 98 weeks, 98 Weeks has also become a non-profit project space since 2009 and has been organising workshops, seminars, reading groups and other art activities in Beirut. The project space is committed to providing a gallery for artists to research and develop ideas, exhibitions and artworks; a platform where artists, cultural practitioners and neighbors are welcome to propose ideas and a space to enhance self organised initiatives and the sharing of artistic resources.

Arthub Asia – China

Arthub Asia

'Crazy English', a performance by the Shanghai-based Chinese artist Zhou Xiaohu, was staged in No Soul For Sale 2010

Being a multi-disciplinary organisation dedicated to creating arts in China and the rest of Asia, Arthub Asia is devoted to initiating and delivering ambitious projects through a sustained dialogue with visual, performance and new media artists as well as collaborations with museums and public/private spaces and institutions. It is a collaborative production lab, a creative think tank and  a curatorial research platform. Initially conceived to support the non-profit BizArt Art Centre through structural funding in 2007, Arthub Asia has facilitated more than 110 activities in China and the rest of Asia and has become the major provider of structural support not only for artists working in China and across Asia, but also for a global community of leading curators, art professionals and producers.

Alternative Space LOOP – Korea

Devoted to defining alternative Asian art and culture by confronting Western-oriented globalisation, Alternative Space LOOP is committed to the search for young defiant emerging artists, promotion of connections between visual arts and other genres, establishment of international networks of alternative spaces, support for creative activities and better environments for exhibition. The art space, which was established in 1999, has been planning to expand its size since 2005.

Arrow Factory – Beijing

Located in a small hutong alley in Beijing’s city center, Arrow Factory is self-funded, independently run art space that can be visited 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. It is committed to presenting works that are highly contingent upon the immediate environment and responsive to the diverse economic, political and social conditions of the locality. Founded in 2008, Arrow Factory was initiated as a response to commercially defined contemporary art in Beijing, which is also increasingly confined to purpose-built art districts in the remote outskirts of the city.

Artis – Israel

With the firm belief that artists are cultural emissaries and agents of social change, Artis aims at expanding the innovative practices of Israeli artists around the world and aiding them to reach global audiences by holding cultural exhibitions and events. Since its establishment in 2004, it has been running numerous art-related programs including curatorial research trips to Israel, a grant program for international exhibitions and events, international commissions, performances, events, talks and an active website with artist profiles, articles, videos, news, and events.

Barbur - Jerusalem

Barbur - Jerusalem

Barbur – Jerusalem

Founded in 2005 at the heart of Jerusalem, Barbur is an independent nonprofit space for art and artists with the aim of being a platform for critical debate that deals with social issues while developing projects with local communities through monthly exhibitions and weekly screenings, lectures, workshops, music performances and other events.

Collective Parasol – Japan

Founded in January 2010, Collective Parasol is a private organisation for art and social-cultural activity. It is run by its artists, curators, a filmmaker, an art law specialist and an art student. It provides an open-ended platform for a wide range of projects and aims to establish a new form of “collective” that questions the solidarity, essentiality and possibility of artist collectives/communities and alternative spaces. Each member organises his or her own projects, puts together an idea with other members and collaborates with guests from a wide range of fields who are working within creative projects. The platform can take the form of a café, gallery, theater, studio, residency, meeting place for local people… the list is essentially endless. Collective Parasol is open to non-members who can use the space, equipment, and technical support.

Green Papaya Art Projects – the Phillipines

Founded in 2000, Green Papaya Art Projects is the longest running independently run creative multidisciplinary platform in the Philippines which specialises in exploring tactical approaches to the production, dissemination, research and presentation of contemporary practices in various artistic and scholarly fields. It tries to be a platform for critical intellectual exchanges and creative-practical collaboration among the artistic community.

PiST///Interdisciplinary Project Space - Istanbul

PiST///Interdisciplinary Project Space - Istanbul

Para/Site Art Space – Hong Kong

Founded in 1996 in Hong Kong, Para/Site Art Space is devoted to bringing leading international practitioners to Asia, increasing the visibility of Hong Kong artists and facilitating East-West dialogues through an ambitious program of exhibitions, screenings, talks and events.  It is a platform for artists and other art practitioners to realise their vision in relation to their immediate and extended communities with the aim of nurturing a thoughtful and creative society.

PiST///Interdisciplinary Project Space – Istanbul

PiST///Interdisciplinary Project Space is a non-profit art space in Istanbul that produces new and experimental works which explore urban environments, everyday life and public/private space conflicts through collaborative experimental work with local and international art professionals. The art space acts as a runway for local and international art professionals to land on and take off from.

Post-Museum – Singapore

Founded in Singapore in 2007, Post-Museum is an independent cultural and social space dedicated to encouraging and supporting a thinking and pro-active community through providing an open platform for examining contemporary life, promoting the arts and connecting people.

Sala-Manca + Mamuta – Jerusalem

Sala-Manca is a group of independent Jerusalem-based artists who stage performances and create videos, installations and new media works which deal with the poetics of translation (cultural, mediatic and social), with textual, urban and net contexts and with the tensions between low tech and high tech aesthetics, as well as social and political issues. Having produced and curated Heara (comment) events, it has also published the art journal (H)Earat Shulaym without any external official, political or economic support.  It founded and directs Mamuta, a platform that promotes artistic experimentation as well as social and political engagement through providing studios, a residency program and production labs that facilitate exchange and dialogue between artists.

Sàn Art – Vietnam

Sàn Art is an independent, artist-run exhibition space and reading room in Ho Chi Minh City that supports the country’s thriving artist community by providing an exhibition space, residency programs for young artists, lecture series and an exchange program that invites international artists and curators to organise or collaborate on exhibitions.

CBKM/KN

Related Topics: Asian artists, non-profit arts, art events

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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 »

Cause and Effect: London solo for Macau-Russian artist Konstantin Bessmertny

Posted by artradar on May 11, 2010


Konstantin Bessmertny Causarum Cognitio Philosophicus

Bessmertny's Causarum Cognitio Philosophicus

Courtesy Rossi & Rossi

RUSSIAN ARTIST TALK EXHIBITION

A technical impresario who underwent rigorous formal training, Konstantin Bessmertny has risen to become one of Macau’s foremost artistic ambassadors.

Raised in Far Eastern Russia on the Chinese border, Bessmertny learned the traditions of European painting while studying under Russian dissidents exiled eastward by the Soviets. Later moving to Macau, a city of Chinese and Portuguese history, perpetually shadowed by the bustling Hong Kong, Bessmertny is a creature of boundaries between times, cultures and places. He represented the Chinese enclave at the Venice Biennale in 2007.

Konstantin Bessmertny

Konstantin Bessmertny, La Battaglia di Anghiari dell'Opera Perduta di Leonardo (Copy after Leonardo No. 2) 2009

Bessmertny’s works address the many absurdities of contemporary living and our understanding of history. The paintings are lush, thick with coded allusions to high and low culture. They gleefully portray challenges of basic, almost universally accepted understanding of zeitgeist and history.

Rossi & Rossi, in association with Amelia Johnson Contemporary, is holding an exhibition of much anticipated new paintings and sculpture by Bessmertny — Causarum Cognitio or Knowledge of Causes.

The exhibition is to be held from May 7 to June 3 at Rossi and Rossi www.rossirossi.com. An artist’s talk was held on May 8  with Pamela Kember, a director of the Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong.  Kember is a curator and historian of art. She has lectured at the Hong Kong Arts School and the Academy of Visual Arts in Hong Kong. She has contributed to Asian Art News, World Sculpture News and Art Asia Pacific.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue 52 pages in length.

Konstantin Bessmertny

Konstantin Bessmertny

Courtesy Museu de Arte de Macau

Pamela Kember

Pamela Kember

Courtesy Chelsea College of Art & Design

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AD/KCE

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Anish Kapoor given sculptural commission in London’s Olympic Park

Posted by artradar on April 14, 2010


ANISH KAPOOR TO DESIGN SCULPTURE FOR LONDON’S OLYMPIC PARK

Anish Kapoor’s new work, to be titled The ArcelorMittal Orbit, will commemorate the London 2012 Olympics in Olympic Park.

 

Anish Kapoor, Proposed ArcelorMittal Orbit

Anish Kapoor, Proposed ArcelorMittal Orbit

Anish Kapoor has 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.

The sculpture will be made of tubular steel and will be the tallest in the UK, rising to a height of 115 m- 22m taller than New York’s Statue of Liberty. There will be a special viewing platform near the top, allowing tourists to see spectacular views of all of London. It is already being considered the monument of the Games for the East End.

AL/KCE

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Mark your diary – Chinese art seminar April 2010 London

Posted by artradar on April 7, 2010


ART COURSE CHINESE ART

A half day seminar “State of the Art – China 2010: Trends and Developments in Chinese Contemporary Art” will be hosted by ArtInsight and the University of Westminster – Asian Studies department on 12 April 2010. 

State of the Art - China 2010

State of the Art - China 2010

This symposium includes leading figures in the Chinese art scene, like Simon Kirby, director of Chambers Fine Art, Beijing, artist Sheng Qi, and other well-known industry professionals who will analyse the future of Chinese contemporary art. It will consider the development of art spaces, the fluctuating art market, and Asia’s growing importance in the international art scene.

Though the seminar fee is £95 for attendees, there is a student rate of £25. It will be held in Central London at the University of Westminster.

AL/KCE

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