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Archive for the ‘Y Contributors’ 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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Posted in Ai Weiwei, Ceramics, Chinese, Installation, London, Pippa Dennis, Sculpture | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2010


ART PROFESSIONALS HONG KONG ART INDONESIAN ART ART COLLECTING

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

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

Valerie Doran: Hong Kong curator and art critic

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

 

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Oei Hong Djien: Indonesian art specialist and collector

 

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reji Arackal is new kid on contemporary Indian art block

Posted by artradar on May 19, 2010


INDIAN ART EMERGING ARTISTS

Art Radar Asia is pleased to bring you a review of new kid on the block Reji Arackal’s “Sans Divine Machines” by guest contributor and veteran Indian art writer, Deepanjana Pal.

Reji Arackal is among the promising upcoming artists in the Indian contemporary art arena. Represented by one of Mumbai’s premier galleries, Sakshi, Arackal has shown all over India and Sakshi has previously shown his works at group shows held at Sakshi Gallery Taipei. “Sans Divine Machines” is his first major solo in Mumbai and will be on display till April 30, 2010.

 

Sharing the Concept of Abortion by Reji Arackal

Sharing the Concept of Abortion by Reji Arackal

 

Mumbai-based art critic Deepanjana Pal wrote about the show:

There is little colour in Arackal’s new show “Sans Divine Machines” and, judging from the titles, a generous dose of Roger Penrose was used in the making of these charcoal drawings. Arackal seems to agree with Penrose’s theory that human intelligence doesn’t have rationale. It’s a curious combination of illogic and the absurd. And despite the apparent chaos, it all works, but according to its own curious laws.

The human body is a strange machine in Arackal’s charcoals. His figures are bloated, almost like blimps, and yet there is no slackness to them. These aren’t fleshy bodies, as seen in Lucian Freud’s paintings, but enormous masses of humanity, like in Diego Rivera’s murals. Their immensity has something very solid about them, like the mammoth statues and drawings of peasants from Russia’s Communist years. However, unlike much of Communist art, Arackal also has a sense of humour and it surfaces unexpectedly in many of his works…

Read the complete post at Deepanjana Pal’s blog What They Got Away With.

Deepanjana Pal has been writing about art since 2006 and is the author of “The Painter: A Life of Ravi Varma“. In the past, she has written for Time Out Mumbai, where she edited the art section, and has also  contributed articles for publications like ArtIndia, NuktaArt, Time Out Beijing and Time Out London.

DP/KN

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Posted in Art spaces, Deepanjana Pal, Drawing, Emerging artists, Events, Gallery shows, India, Indian, Medium, Mumbai, Reviews, Shows, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Debbie Han first Korean artist to be awarded Sovereign Asian Art Prize

Posted by artradar on May 10, 2010


KOREAN ART ASIAN ART PRIZE

Art Radar Asia is pleased to bring you an article by guest contributor, Kate Bryan. Her article, Hybrid Graces, presents an in depth insight into the work of Debbie Han, the first Korean artist to be awarded the Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Han’s work is a useful starting point for exploring the status of contemporary art and culture in Korea today.

A Sovereign Winner

Earlier this year Debbie Han became the first Korean artist to be awarded the Sovereign Asian Art Prize, the biggest accolade of its kind in the region. The presentation of the award to Han can be seen in the context of a shift away from Korean art as an enigmatic, closed world to a thriving, open and accessible contemporary art market. That said, Korean artists are yet to penetrate mainstream consciousness, but if the quality of the work being produced by Han is anything to go by, it will not be long until they do.

Seated Three Graces

Han was awarded the Sovereign Asian Art Prize for Seated Three Graces, which subsequently entered the hallowed Sovereign Art Collection. The work is part of the Graces series which combine the typical body of a Korean woman with the face of an idealised Greek sculpture.

 

 

Debbie Han, Seated Three Graces

Debbie Han, Seated Three Graces

 

The composite form is painstakingly digitally rendered to look like marble, pixel by pixel for optimum realism. Subverting the practice of figurative sculpture and portrait photography, Han navigates the boundaries between illusion and reality and between western standards of ideal beauty and the reality of contemporary Asian women. Beyond the scrupulous technique and unexpected crossbreed form, the viewer is quickly drawn into the debate which Han instigates. “Beauty is a cultural conception and has long pervaded art history, what can be a better of way of understanding a given culture than through navigating this phenomenon?” Central to Han’s work is an enduring interest in how human experience is shaped and conditioned by contemporary culture, and as such the Graces series provides a sharp insight into the specifics of the world in which they were created.

A Korean artist?

Han’s interest in culturalisation makes her practice a useful starting point for a look at the developing status of both the contemporary Korean art market and Korean culture in the twenty first century more widely. That said, Han is actually an atypical Korean artist; in fact she resists the generalised label strongly. Han emigrated to the U.S. with her family as a child and went on to complete her art major at the University of California and her MA at the Pratt Institute in New York. Having begun her career in the U.S., she returned to Korea only in 2003 for an artist residency programme. Han was a stranger to Seoul and her unique perspective as a culturally disembodied artist propelled her to document what was happening in Korea and in Asia more widely. “I had a strong desire to interrogate what my Asian identity was and became overwhelmed by the inherent westernisation at all levels in both society and art.” Despite the ‘identity crisis’ that sparked her profound creative journey of the last decade, Han could not be described as an unsure woman. She is a strong intellect with a mind that constantly questions the world around her.

The Beauty Myth

Han was effectively an ‘outsider’ to the art world when she returned to Seoul and it is this objectivity that lends her work such strength. As an American-Korean woman navigating the city, Han was immediately struck by the forcefulness of the western beauty mantra. Korean women were spending billions on cosmetics and plastic surgery to conform to an ‘ideal’ type of beauty, specifically a eurocentric beauty. “The perversity of the situation became clear to me when I learnt that women would have cosmetic surgery to make their eyes more western before their first job interview, it was a new rite of passage.” More than 60% of women in Korea have undergone cosmetic surgery and the numbers are on the increase. The act is no longer a choice made by a liberated individual, but a survival tactic. A telling indication of the seriousness of the situation is found in language – the term for having your face done in Korea is literally ‘face correction.’

Sensation with Content

Navigating what the polemic feminist author Naomi Wolf described as ‘beauty myths’, is characteristic of an artist whose raison d’être is to understand the world around her and present complex issues to the viewer in order to raise debate. Han’s work has always been characterised by the dual forces of painstaking, diverse craftsmanship and pieces which demand attention, cause shock or surprise the viewer. These tactics are combined to address questions of personal identity and larger social patterns. An early example is the Hard Condom Series (2001-2003) where small bronzes take the form of soiled condoms, an object which arouses great discomfort. Han therefore interrogates the complexities of society’s reaction to something as innate as sex.

 

 

 

Debbie Han, Hard Condom Series (2001-2003)

Debbie Han, Hard Condom Series (2001-2003)

 

Han’s work is certainly conceptual, but is in many ways a direct rebuttal of the earlier conceptual artists she encountered as a student. “For me, ideas will always be important and central to my work. You cannot create things just to cause a sensation, they have to have content. But on the other hand when I first saw conceptual pieces at college I was disappointed that they were not visually compelling or creatively unique.” Han bridges this gap between ideas and form, producing works that make us stop in our tracks for one reason or another, marvel at the craftsmanship and then engage with the issue at hand.

Beauty as Sport

In 2008 the artist created a departure in her practice by beginning to employ Korean lacquer on wood inlaid with mother of pearl, a technique which demands over 20 processes to produce one work. Employing a medium which dates back thousands of years, Han’s challenge was to incorporate Korean inlaid lacquer into the contemporary arena, not only lending it a new relevance but having it underscore her subject matter. Sports Venus I is testament to the great success of the project. The life size lacquer bust is a rich dark brown, completely at odds with the classical white Venus.

 

 

Debbie Han, Sports Venus I, lacquer on wood inlaid with mother of pearl

Debbie Han, Sports Venus I, lacquer on wood inlaid with mother of pearl

 

As she puts it, “the reference to ancient Asian culture almost takes over, preventing a traditional appreciation of the classical Venus.” More startling still is the mother of pearl inlay which forms the pattern of a modern football, like an aggressive tattoo, across the face. Venus has entered the arena of sports, making explicit reference to the notion of ideal beauty as a new form of sports entertainment.  Han draws attention to the futility of the ideal beauty dogma, “it is just a game – in reality no one can conform to something which is a fabrication, an illusion.”

Food and Sensuality

The illusory nature of ideal beauty is deconstructed in a global series which Han has been working on since 2005. In Food and Sensuality Han collaborates with a regular woman from a given country, refashioning her into a model garnished with food from the culture in which she lives.

 

 

Debbie Han Food and Sensuality

Debbie Han, Food and Sensuality (since 2005)

 

In choosing non-professional models, Han unravels the myths about unattainable beauty by arguing that “any woman can look like a beautiful seductress given the right tools. As an artist I work to bring out to the outmost degree the unique beauty and style in each woman.” Her point is not about the benefits of a good makeover, but more about the breaking down persuasive myths and presenting a new reality. The combination of food – which is often draped over the woman to resemble clothing or jewellery – and female beauty makes explicit reference to the long held advertising mandate that sex sells. Further, in the face of a globalised world, Han rejects the homogeny of culture by identifying its distinctiveness, “food is like language, every culture has their own version and proudly supports it. This is at odds with our notions of beauty. The photographs aim to readdress the balance.”

A New Era

In all of her work Han champions the re-unification of concept and technique. Her philosophy and quest to understand the constructs of the human condition are deeply entrenched in her practice, but she does not allow herself to fall victim to her intellect. Moving between mediums – and never choosing a simple process – Han’s work demands attention not just for its subject matter but for its craftsmanship and distinct visual appeal. Han believes we are entering a new era, a movement without a name, “art must not any longer end with a concept. When I returned to Seoul I saw very thought provoking work in the context of a rapidly changing city, but I wanted to know where the form had gone.” The gravity of the themes in her work coupled with her exquisite dedication to mastering mediums makes Han a worthy prize winner, and for an audience new to Korean contemporary art, a fascinating starting point.

Kate Bryan is a contributing Editor for Asian art News, World Sculptures News and her work has been published in Kee Magazine, The Sentinel, Essence and West East. She received her BA in Fine Art from Warwick University and subsequently worked at the British Museum in London for four years. She recently completed her master’s degree at the University of Hong Kong and is the Deputy Director of The Cat Street Gallery.

Editorial disclaimer – The opinions and views expressed by guest writers  do not necessarily reflect those of Art Radar Asia, staff, sponsors and partners.
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Posted in American, Body, Debbie Han, Eyes, Female form, Food, Human Body, Kate Bryan, Korean, Lacquer, Mythical figures, Photography, Prizes, Sculpture, Sport | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Experimental art in Shanghai challenges recession – Carry On Items show review

Posted by artradar on June 9, 2009


EXPERIMENTAL ART CHINA

By Chris Moore

OV Gallery in Shanghai is displaying considerable chutzpah with its current exhibition, ‘Carry-on Items’.

In the wake of the financial crisis many galleries in Shanghai have retreated into more conservative and smaller shows. OV decided instead to run a series of highly experimental shows. Following on its earlier ‘Space Disoriented’ light-installations by Li Jing, the new show does something quite radical, converting the viewer’s experience into the art.

Walk into the exhibition and you will be confronted by a wall in the middle of the room, installed just for the exhibition. Upon it are displayed a table of numbers, 3 x 11 digits. And nothing else. What is going on here?

Phone numbers

If you live in China then eventually it will dawn upon you that perhaps they are phone numbers. Call them and you will find yourself speaking to a part of the exhibition, one of three ‘beauties’ who attended the opening night vernissage. Then everything looks utterly different.

For the opening night the artists decorated the gallery with a series of ambiguous clues. The first was the photographic and rather anodyne portrait of a young boy which appeared on the invitation but is also displayed as a huge poster covering the gallery’s shop-window. This remains. The second was a large potted orange tree with a neon ‘OV’ sign plonked precariously in its branches. The third was a measuring tape on a wall, possibly referring to other important works of Chinese contemporary art such as Xu Zhen’s 8848 – 1.86 (2005) and Wang Tiande’s recent ‘One Metre Seventy-Three’ exhibition at Contrasts gallery. The fourth was a half-crumpled disposable cup on a plinth. The fifth was a squawk-box (Doorbell) – you press the button and an obtuse announcement is made. All these things are in the first-half of the divided gallery.

Aircraft

Now, from behind the wall comes a juddering, frightening din, the sound of an aircraft taking off. So you take a peek and you see a film of an empty tarmac. The squeal of the engines begins to build, louder and louder, sending your heart racing and shredding your nerves until it is literally disorientating.

For an instant a person flashes by, launching into the sky. There is a moment’s respite but soon the engine whine begins again and another person takes off. These are post-Nietchean and supersonic versions of Bill Viola’s Five Angels.

Three Beauties

And all the while a photographer is snapping away at everyone and everything in the gallery. But some people more than others: the three ‘beauties’, women representing success, youth, vigour, modernity, and China, but also superficiality, consumerism, anti-art and – pause, wait for it – China.

After Duchamp, it is very hard to make a real anti-art exhibition. In one sense it was a great liberating moment in art but he set the bar very high. Manzoni did it and so did Beuys; Hirst also, before he became a brand. ‘Carry-on Items’ does it too, by subverting, ridiculing, and then re-appropriating the notion of ‘Found Items’.

As one of the artists, Gefei, said to me, the opening is not the exhibition. In fact, the exhibition is not the exhibition. Rather the exhibition is something that takes place when you walk in, and it goes with you when you leave, or when you call one of the numbers or make a ‘connection’. It is easiest to find it in the future as a possibility framed by preconceptions or in the past as a memory shaded by experience. Which sounds a bit pretentious. And it is too. After all, this isn’t an exhibition, it’s just pretending to be one. The artists themselves would just smile.

The final aspect of the exhibition, the catalogue, is yet to come. Prepare for take-off.

 

Another of the 'Three Beauties', Xiao Mi, with Xin Yunpeng's Doorbell (2009) installation - the 'squawk box'

Another of the 'Three Beauties', Xiao Mi, with Xin Yunpeng's Doorbell (2009) installation - the 'squawk box'

 

 

 

One of the 'Three Beauties', Doing, with other guests at OV Gallery's vernissage

One of the 'Three Beauties', Doing, with other guests at OV Gallery's vernissage

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Ge Fei, Boy (2009) with one of the exhibition's 'Three Beauties', the intriguingly named Doing

Ge Fei, Boy (2009) with one of the exhibition's 'Three Beauties', the intriguingly named Doing

Phone numbers of the 'Three Beauties'

Phone numbers of the ‘Three Beauties’
 

 

 

 

Chris Moore

Contributed by Chris Moore, a writer and a partner in the contemporary art investment firm mooreandmooreart.co.uk. He lives in Shanghai and specialises in contemporary Chinese art.

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Emerging Chinese conceptual artist Li Hui defies recession at Christies Hong Kong Asian art sale December 2008

Posted by artradar on December 6, 2008


Amber

Amber

EMERGING CHINESE ARTIST HONG KONG AUCTION

Christie’s Asian Contemporary Art sale on 1 December was surprisingly encouraging for the art market, at least the Asian contemporary art market, although perhaps not too much should be read into that just yet. Nevertheless it was successful.

Some commentators have moaned that only half the lots did anything and in any event that estimates were restrained. This is just silly. In the present financial environment it should have been a disastrous sale. Going by previous economic downturns, it would have been.

But for some reason it did ok, in fact more than just ok, and right now that “ok” is very impressive, even ‘encouraging’. Interpreting this is difficult but it probably has a lot to do with the massive expansion of the art market since the last major downturn in the late 80s (by comparison the Tech Crash was just a wobble) and the fact that the market has also matured enormously since then, becoming vastly more professional, transparent (yes, compared to where it used to be, it is now positively crystal) and its consumers more numerous and as a whole better educated. To see whether Christie’s sale was a one off or whether there is real significance to be gleaned from it, we’ll just have to wait for further similar sales around the world in the next 6 to 12 months.

One of the artists who made the sale successful was Li Hui, a conceptual artist who works in diverse mediums including transparent neon-lit perspex sculptures and laser beams. Born in 1977, he graduated from Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2003. Since then he’s been very busy and has gained a lot of attention, particularly from Taiwan and Korea, but not so much in the West. Until now.

On sale at Christies was Lot 912 Amber (2006), a transparent LED lamp, acrylic and stainless steel sculpture in the shape of a generic sports car and encasing the (also transparent) skeleton of a huge reptile. This work was previously shown at the 2006 Shanghai Biennial. It looks just stunning. As for its intellectual games, well for now I leave them to you. Christie’s estimate was HK$500,000 – $800,000 (USD $64,808 – $103,692). It’s sale price was HK$1,580,000 (USD$204,879), a sliver shy of double the highest estimate. And just to prove it wasn’t a mistake, a similar work Lot 913 went for HK$1,160,000 (USD $150,418 ) or almost 50% higher than the high estimate.

And this is not the first time he has done this. Li Hui’s work has been outdoing estimates for a while. See for instance Christie’s May November 2007 and May 2008 sales. The figures are impressive enough but that is only half the story. Remember that Li Hui is still quite young, only 31. Also remember that these works are not paintings, there is no Pop Realism or Political Pop to be seen. This is very refined conceptual art. It might look cool but it still demands that you think hard about it. In this context, the sale prices are event more impressive. By no means is Li Hui’s work easily affordable art but I have no doubt that its market price is headed in one direction only.

chrismoore24030549    Contributed by Chris Moore, a writer and a partner in the contemporary art investment firm mooreandmooreart.co.uk. He lives in Shanghai and specialises in contemporary Chinese art.

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