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Writer Steven Pettifor talks about the old and the new in Thai contemporary art – Art Radar interview

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


Steven Pettifor, author of 'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art'.

Steven Pettifor, author of 'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art'.

THAI ART BOOK WRITER INTERVIEW

Thailand has long had a small but very vibrant contemporary art scene. Compared with its recently-flourishing neighbours, however, contemporary Thai art hasn’t been getting much attention. Little has been written about it. Back in 2003, Bangkok based Briton Steven Pettifor decided to address this problem with his book Flavours – Thai Contemporary Art.

Flavours was listed on a reading list for newcomers interested in Southeast Asian art, as reported in an earlier Art Radar post. With 23 profiles of artists of different mediums (painting, sculpture, textile, costume, installa­tion, ceramics and photography), the author hoped to provide exposure of Thai artists outside their home country, and to give readers “a ‘taste’ of Thailand’s burgeoning contemporary visual arts.”

It’s now been seven years since the book was first published and much of Thailand’s contemporary art scene has changed. Art Radar Asia caught up with Steven Pettifor to find out more about his book, and to see what he thinks of the country’s current art movement.

Most importantly, this interview has revealed that there is now more non-Thai Asian art able to be viewed in Thailand. Local art galleries are teaming up with other Asian galleries to bring non-Thai Asian art into Thailand and foreign artists are now viewing Thailand as a place to set up professionally. He also identifies a number of important emerging Thai artists and names some of the top collectors of Thai contemporary art.

What prompted you to write Flavours?

I’d been writing about Thai art for about seven or eight years. I was starting to build up quite a body of artists that I’ve written about and covered. There was only one other book on Thai art written in English up until that point, and that was Modern Art in Thailand by Dr. Apinan Poshyananda. His book went up to 1992 and then after that it was nothing, and 1992 was the year I arrived in Thailand, so I felt like filling in the gap from that period onwards. That was my intention.

I was floating the idea for about a year or two before I actually found someone  who wanted to collaborate and publish it, and Thavibu Gallery said yeah okay, we’ll be interested in doing it, we might be able to find someone to back it financially, which they did. They found Liam Ayudhkij, who is the owner of Liam’s Gallery in Pattaya. He’s been collecting art here for thirty, forty years. So Liam kindly backed it. That’s how the book came about.

'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art', published by Thavibu Gallery.

'Flavours - Thai Contemporary Art', published by Thavibu Gallery.

What were the main issues and challenges for you when writing and researching Flavours?

I wanted the book to broaden the message about Thai art. I didn’t want to keep the book an academic book, purely for an already art-affiliated readership. I wanted to move beyond that and try and get more general public interest in Thai art. So one point was to keep it accessible in terms of language and to try and cover as broad a scope as possible within a coffee-table sort of format. That was one challenge.

Another was to try and cover as many different mediums as possible, so it was finding sculptures, paintings, installations, photography… I tried to cover as many mediums as possible, and that wasn’t easy, given that some of the less popular mediums… it was hard to find good quality artists working in that field.

Tell us more about your selection of artists in Flavours.

Medium was one big consideration. Also, their career point. I tried to get as many young artists or emerging artists or mid-career artists, so that the book would have relevance ten years on. It’s six years old now and most of the artists are still in their mid-careers. I didn’t want to pick artists that were in their twilight years or have passed away. People ask me why didn’t I include Montien Boonma, who’s considered the father of installation art here. I included him in the overview essay, but because he has passed away, I didn’t want to profile him, because there wasn’t so much currency. His career is not still being carried on, basically.

How did your interest in art, and in Thai art, evolve?

As early I could remember, I could draw and paint. Not self-taught as such, but it was there from an early age. I don’t come from an artistic family at all, so it was never really nurtured as such. But when I reached high school, I then got pushed toward art, just because they saw my natural talent or whatever. So the interest in art has always been there, but I’d say from high school onwards it was developed by teachers.

…It’s not so much as a passion for Thai art. The main art that was in view in Thailand was Thai art, and you just got into it. I got to meet a lot of the artists quite quickly and I found it quite interesting to be thrown in on that level. Back in 1997, there weren’t so many foreigners involved in the art scene and everyone was quite accommodating, inviting you to their studios and things like that. So it was interesting. You got to feel involved.

What makes Thai art different from other Asian art?

Buddhism is quite predominant here. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes that can kind of almost saturate the art that is produced here. If you look at Burmese art or what’s coming out of places like Laos, you’ll see a lot of Buddhist imagery as well. Places like Indonesia and Vietnam… the art being produced in those places is not so religious-focussed. Religion would be one aspect that defines a lot of the art that is made here. Not necessarily the art that is hitting international levels. They tend to deal with work that is more universal, or themes that would fit more into the international art interest. But across the board, a lot of them deal with Buddhist subject matter.

Santi Thongsuk, 'I'm Glad I'm Dead Year', 2000, oil on canvas.

Santi Thongsuk, 'I'm Glad I'm Dead Year', 2000, oil on canvas.

Another thing would be the craftsmanship. I do see it elsewhere in Asia, so it’s not necessarily different but there are different kinds of crafts that are brought into Thai art. Chusak Srikwan uses shadow puppetry, but he does things like modern politicians and symbols of corruption. Montri Toemsombat has used silk weaving and silk crafting in the past. There’s this attention to craft. A lot of technical training goes on here, so they get very good grounding in the technical aspects of art training, so that comes through very strongly as well.

Chusak Srikwan, 'Birth-Age-Ailment-Death', 2009-10, leather carving.

Chusak Srikwan, 'Birth-Age-Ailment-Death', 2009-10, leather carving.

Tell us about the artist training system in Thailand.

It’s pretty much similar to anywhere else. It’s art school, mainly. It’s an emerging thing. Art school is expanding constantly and courses are expanding constantly here, but it’s still largely focused in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, with a couple of provincial centers in the north-east and in the south. A lot of young wannabe artists, when they graduate here, will go through assisting a senior artist in a studio for a couple of years. Again, that’s comparable to anywhere else as well. But I find it quite good that artists get a lot of hands on training through working with the artists when they graduate.

Is the Thai art scene receiving greater external interest, as compared with before?

It was anticipated here around the early 2000s on that there would be a lot more interest on the back of the increased focus towards Asia, with China and India doing very well. Vietnamese art in the mid to late 90s kind of opened up a lot. And it was always expected that there would be more people coming in for Thai art, and for a while there was. There’s a lot more Thai artists now included in biennales and triennales and international thematic shows, but I would say that is comparable to just part of this larger focus on finding art in Asia. I would also say in the last couple of years it has slowed down a lot. Since the coup in 2006, and the financial recession in late 2008, the commercial aspect of art has slowed down quite a bit. But I don’t think it’s just here, I’d say it’s everywhere.

Do Thai artists see international acceptance as one of the criteria for success? How does that compare with domestic recognition?

There are artists here that are quite content to work on the domestic level, but they have to work within a fairly narrow framework in order to succeed there. And then there are those who desire and need the international exposure in order to continue making art of that kind of calibre.

You mentioned in Flavours about a gap between the public and the local art scene, citing insufficient education and exposure as a major problem. Has the situation improved?

Things like education are not going to improve overnight. There are more universities and higher education establishments offering art related courses. But for your average state sponsored school, like high school, there’s still going to be a very limited art practice beyond basic drawing techniques and painting.

But in terms of accessibility, they are trying to change things. They’ve opened the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) here in the last two years, which is a major art center in the heart of downtown. It was always the intention to put it in a very commercial area so that it would be on the consumers’ door step. So they’re hoping to draw in the public to look at art and find out what art is. And there’s another plan to build a national art center in Bangkok. But that’s all very Bangkok-focused.

…one way the void is being filled in the provinces is that some of the artists that have either come from different provinces or have gone there to settle or to set up a studio have built artist-gallery-public places – places to promote their own work, but also places to give something back to the community. Up in Chiang Rai, Thawan Duchanee is a good example of an artist that has made his work open to the public.

Montien Boonma, 'Drawing of the Mind Training and the Bowls of the Mind', 1992, held in the collection of Chongrux Chantaworasut.

Montien Boonma, 'Drawing of the Mind Training and the Bowls of the Mind', 1992, held in the collection of Chongrux Chantaworasut.

How has the local art scene changed since you published Flavours?

There are a lot of commercial galleries that have opened up in the last  five to ten years, but a lot of them have a less than five-year shelf-life. A lot of galleries are still set up here by people who have an interest in art, but I wouldn’t say that they are specifically trained in how to operate a gallery on a professional level. A lot of them have opened galleries because it’s their passion, but managing it on a professional level doesn’t always work out the way they expect. It’s still tough to make a profit here as a commercial gallery. There’s been a few more non-profit spaces opening as well, but they’re even harder to manage and sustain with no profits coming in and it’s hard to find sponsorship to back spaces like that.

One thing that I think is important to push is that there’s been more diversity of art that’s been on view in the last five years or so. When I first started looking at art thirteen years ago here, it was very Thai. Most of the galleries were showing Thai. Any foreign or overseas art would predominantly be at university spaces and would be by visiting lecturers or hookups with overseas institutions. But now, in commercial spaces, more regional art is certainly being seen. Thavibu Gallery bring in Vietnamese and Burmese art. Gallery SoulFlower, which just closed last year, brought in Indian art on a regular basis. Tang have a gallery in Bangkok, and they bring in a lot of good quality, high-profile Chinese art. And there’s a couple of galleries that bring in Japanese artists, and you’ll see Indonesian art here every now and then. So there’s been more exposure to regional and international art.

Another development is there’s been more foreign artists coming and spending time here, trying to work out of here. Some just setting up their own studios and still working with their galleries overseas… others coming here to make a goal out of it, trying to get involved with the Thai art scene. If I look at foreign artists based here thirteen years ago, it was more of people using art as hobby rather than a serious pursuit. But now I would say that there’s a lot more foreign artists here that are serious about art making and trying to make a career out of their art here as well.

What is the biggest problem facing the Thai art market at the moment?

There are probably only around fifty viewing spaces in Bangkok that attempt a regular or an occasional exhibition schedule, but not of huge amount of that translate into sales. I would say only a dozen or so galleries here manage themselves towards a sustainable and professional gallery that also tries to promote its artists beyond Thailand.

Can you name some interesting galleries and non-profit spaces for our readers to explore?

It’s a bit of a self promoting thing, but I initiated the Bangkok Art Map, which is a useful tool for people arriving in the city wanting to see art, or people living in the city wanting to see what’s happening on a monthly basis. It’s a map of the city’s galleries with the regular exhibition calendar plus highlights of what’s on, and a spotlight focus every month.

…obviously I have to say Thavibu Gallery, because they published my book, and I’m working with them this year on a curatorial project for the course of a year called “3D@Thavibu“. That is my conscious effort with the gallery to promote small-scale sculpture in Thailand towards more collecting base and to push emerging sculptors here that don’t get seen in so many galleries here.

There’s H Gallery, another professionally-run gallery. It’s run by an American, H. Ernest Lee, and it’s in a beautiful colonial-style building. One of the best galleries running in terms of putting their artists into biennales and working with some of the major Asian and Thai artists is 100 Tonson Gallery. Ardel Gallery is run by a Thai artist called Thavorn Ko-udomvit, who curated the Thai Pavilion for Venice last year. DOB Hualamphong brings in artists that are not necessarily commercially minded. Numthong Gallery has been a gallery that’s done very well over the years. [Mr. Numthong Sae-tang] runs a fairly small space out of a co-op building, but he attracts some of the big name Thai artists to work with him, because he tries to help them out and he’s a very good supporter of the artists when they come on board. Obviously the BACC is a place worthy of visiting.

Which artists have been doing interesting things recently in your opinion?

There are quite a few artists. The big names are already on the radar. People like Navin Rawanchaikul, Chatchai Puipia, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Sakarin Krue-on… these are all very good established artists.

Maitree Siriboon, ''Isarn Boy Dream" series, 2008, photography.

Maitree Siriboon, ''Isarn Boy Dream" series, 2008, photography.

On the younger front, I like Maitree Siriboon. He is an artist I think is worth watching. He’s been using photography to photograph himself to examine his identity as an openly gay guy from Isarn. He deals with the rural to urban migration, exploring on a sensory level what it means for him as an artist and as an openly-gay person to move from the provinces to Bangkok. Yuree Kensaku, a Thai-Japanese artist; I like her brand of painting. She’s also doing some sculptural work. I like Yuree’s work a lot. There’s Tawan Wattuya. He does watercolours, very loose watercolour paintings, all about conformity and uniformity in Thai society. He’s done a lot of paintings of groups of Thais in uniforms. There’s a strong sexual element to a lot of his works as well. Also Sudsiri Pui-Ock in Chiang Mai.

Yuree Kensaku, 'The Killer from electricity authority', 2009.

Yuree Kensaku, 'The Killer from electricity authority', 2009.

Are there any major collectors of Thai art?

There’s Narong Intanate. He has been collecting more conventional Thai art – modern Thai artists but not necessarily contemporary. But he’s recently started to branch out into contemporary. Disaphol Chansiri has a really interesting collection of Thai and international contemporary art. His collection is open by appointment, he’s housing it in an apartment space that he’s opened up as an art-viewing space on Sukhumvit Road. His collection is very contemporary, probably the most contemporary I’ve seen in terms of the artists he’s collecting. Jean Michel Beurdeley is a French collector who has lived here for decades. He has a collection that he opens up in quite a nice traditional Thai house where he lives. Again, viewable by appointment only. One more worth mentioning is Petch Osathanugrah. He’s collected contemporary domestic art. I don’t think his collection is housed in any permanent space at the moment. For awhile he was going to open a private museum, but I don’t think that has materialised.

Are there any books or websites you would recommend for learning more about Thai contemporary art?

I would say our website, the Bangkok Art Map, would be a site to mention. The Rama IX Foundation is very well supported. Until recently, they’ve focused more on senior conventional artists. I think there’s more diversity to their website, but there’s a lot of contemporary artists not on there. But it’s a good website. Several of the gallery websites have good listing info.

As I said before, there are only two books out there, Modern Art in Thailand and Flavours. They’re the only two English-language books that have been written on Thai art in the last fifteen years.

About Steven Pettifor

Born in 1968 in London, Steven Pettifor graduated with degrees in fine arts from both the Wimbledon School of Art and Liverpool Polytechnic. The writer-artist-curator has been living in Thailand since 1992, immersing himself in the local contemporary art scene. He is currently the Thailand Editor for Asian Art News and World Sculpture News.

VL/KN

Related Topics: Thai artists, promoting art, interviews

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The Power 100: curators up and artists down on ArtReview’s annual list

Posted by artradar on December 2, 2009


THE POWER STRUCTURES OF THE ART WORLD

ArtReview: The Power 100What a difference a year makes. Last month, ArtReview magazine released its annual list of the one hundred most powerful people in art (see list here). ArtReview’s introduction to the list outlines that the financial crisis of 2008 caused a lot of big shifts in the art world and the list is a reflection of these changes: a third of last year’s entries, both artists and collectors, have fallen off the list and been replaced by newcomers. For instance, Director of MoMA Glen Lowry was not even on the list last year, and this year he enters the chart at number two. The magazine praises the likes of Lowry for being part of a new generation in the art world that they describe as follows:

“…percolating up from the middle ranks is a new generation of highly networked, flexible, globetrotting curators – men and women at the very centre of a new way of working.”

Curators top the list while artists have less clout and websites have more

Overall, it was curators who had one of the strongest presence on the list, with Swiss curator and writer Hans Ulrich Obrist at the top of the list and Sir Nicholas Serto, the director of the Tate Gallery, at third. Artists, by contrast, did not have such a strong presence in the top ten: the first artist on the list was not until American Golden Lion Winner Bruce Nauman at number ten.

The Independent newspaper goes so far as to suggest it is “The Year of the Curator”, which suggests that curators have a stronger influence in shaping what we know about art than the artists who create it. A change in the system of endorsement was also reflected by the increase in webmasters included on the list. It seems that technology now also plays a significant part in disseminating notions of what “art” is.

Profession 2008 vs. 2009

Professions in the list: 2008 vs. 2009

Questions of power

So who gets to be on the list and how they do they get there? ArtReview explains that its entrants are ranked as follows:

” [It is] a combination of influence over the production of art internationally, sheer financial clout (although in these times that’s no longer such a big factor) and activity in the previous 12 months – criteria which encompass artists, of course, as well as collectors, gallerists and curators.”

That said, it still remains ambiguous as to what exactly it takes in order to get a mention in the Power 100. For example, how does ArtReview compare the merits of two entirely different professions? How do they rank success when success in the art world is often based solely on a system of endorsement? In other words: how is power in art defined? Perhaps future lists will provide us with more answers to such questions, or at least continue to prompt us to reflect on who really is in charge of the art world.

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Posted in Business of art, Collectors, Critic, Curators, Gallerists/dealers, Lists, Professionals, Recession | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Contemporary art market in Asia now bigger than US for first time says Artprice

Posted by artradar on November 11, 2009


ASIAN ART MARKET

Visitors enter a Sotheby's auction room in Hong Kong on October 6, 2008 of modern and contemporary art. MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images

Visitors enter a Sotheby's auction room in Hong Kong for a sale of modern and contemporary art on October 6, 2008.

For the first time ever, the total auction revenue from “contemporary art in Asia” is greater than the total of the United States artprice reports. The statistics are collected from a 12-month period spanning from July 2008 to June 2009. Asia generated €130 million versus the United States’ €123 million. China is the highest gainer out of this trend, having generated €95 million from contemporary art during the same period.  According to the report, this means China is continuing to “hold on to its third place global geographical art auction revenue ranking.”

The establishment of foreign auction houses such as Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Bonhams in Hong Kong, in combination with the financial strength of Hong Kong and Shanghai are to be accredited for China’s position. For those who are looking to begin collecting Asian art, this does not mean that the price of contemporary Chinese art is back up to its sky-high prices of a couple of years ago. Artprice’s report tell us that in the first half of 2008 the average price of contemporary works sold in China was $65,500, however, in the first half of 2009, this average dropped to $26,800.

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Posted in Asia expands, Auctions, Business of art, China, Chinese, Hong Kong, Market watch, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

New auction houses with new strategies open in Singapore art market

Posted by artradar on October 28, 2009


ASIAN ART MARKET TRENDS

Usually, to be a part of the bubbling Asian art market scene, buyers need to associate themselves with industry leaders Christie’s and Sotheby’s for lack of other options. In South East Asia, however, there’s a new way for collectors to discover their contemporary art. According to a recent article by the New York Times, a host of new and smaller auction houses—such as Borobudur, 33 Auction, and Larasati in Singapore—have successfully emerged to “fill in the gaps” of the market, which means they are opening their doors to a broader range of the market, from high-end collectors to first time buyers. So far, sales suggest this may be the right strategy to entice new buyers:

“Last week, sales by two auction houses in Singapore, Borobudur and 33 Auction, brought in a combined $10 million, with the larger sale, by Borobudur, easily beating its pre-sale estimate. Later this month another Singapore auctioneer, Larasati, will offer 160 lots of Asian modern and contemporary art with an estimated value of 2 million Singapore dollars, or $1.4 million.”

A.C. Andre Tananma, "Run Away" 2008. Part of Larasati's Asian Modern and Contemporary Art auction in Singapore on October 25th, 2009.

A.C. Andre Tananma, "Run Away" 2008. Part of Larasati's Asian Modern and Contemporary Art Auction, Singapore, 25 October 2009.

Many of the new auctions houses have developed as off springs from established galleries, such as 33 Auction (Singapore), Maestro Auction House (Jakarta, Singapore) and Kingsley Art Auction (Beijing), as a way of broadening their offerings to current clients, while also becoming accessible to new ones:

“Like everything else, the art market is not immune from the global recession and consequently sales at most galleries have been down for the past 12 months,” said Valentine Willie of Valentine Willie Fine Art, which has galleries in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and has in the past helped Borobudur curate its auctions. “Auctions may seem a good way of clearing gallery stock and they offer the possibility for collectors of bargain hunting, especially after the boom of two years ago.”New and smaller auction houses would naturally try to fill in the gaps with more adventurous offerings and lower entry price points because, “the industry leaders, Christie’s and Sotheby’s have a somewhat limited and conservative offering of Southeast Asian art,” Mr. Willie added.”

Some auction houses are targeting the middle class crowd in particular, a demographic rarely cornered by larger and more established auction houses like Christie’s or Sotheby’s. To entice the middle class market, Singapore’s Ziani Fine Art Auction House tactic was to award cash prizes, serve wine, and even offer whiskey tastings at their September 20 debut auction:

“‘When you launch a new business you need to attract new people,” said Frank Veyder, a banker and partner in Ziani, before the auction. “We are very conscious there is a risk that people might think it’s just a fly-by-night, gimmicky house, but we’re holding this auction in a five-star location and we’re offering quality art.

“The pieces are not of the level you would see at Christie’s or Sotheby’s, but we’re not trying to play in that space,” Mr. Veyder added. “Our marketing is targeting to a wider, middle-class crowd.”‘

Though it can be said that the competition between auction houses is good for business, there are some auctioneers that are concerned that the market may have a hard time absorbing everything on offer.  Daniel Komala, chief executive of Larasati Auctioneers, explains:

“‘The art market has bottomed out; in fact, it’s fair to say that it has picked up some speed of late,” Mr. Komala said. “Having said that, the real capacity to absorb, over all, especially in Singapore, is only going to increase by 20-30 percent maximum from its rock bottom level. So, it’s wishful thinking to expect that the market will double up in capacity compared to how it performed six months ago.”

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Posted in Auctions, Business of art, Events, Market watch, Overviews, Recession, Singapore | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Marina Abramović to perform at MOMA 2010 – video interview at Armory

Posted by artradar on August 6, 2009


SERBIAN PHOTOGRAPHY PERFORMANCE ART

Ahead of her performance piece “The artist is present” due to take place at MoMA in 2010, Abramovic talks about her photography, seen on display at the Armory Show in New York. To view click

The Art Newspaper Digital- Video Interview- Marina Abramović at the Armory Show– 03:48 min – April 2009

Happy Christmas, by Marina Abramovic, 2008. Silver Gelatin Print. Serbian. h: 53.9 x w: 53.9 in

Happy Christmas, by Marina Abramovic, 2008. Silver Gelatin Print. Serbian. h: 53.9 x w: 53.9 in.

In this video interview, Abramovic discusses her unique performance-style art, and her technique of featuring herself in her powerful visual artworks.

The key featured piece of the show ‘Happy Christmas,’ pictured at right, she says was inspired by her current tumultuous divorce.

Of the recession, she remarks “For an artist it is good to have a recession, because then you come to the real values. Recession is the best thing that can happen. For an artist, the worst is the best. Now is the good time.”

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Posted in Events, Fairs, Family, Human Body, Interviews, Marina Abramovic, Medium, New York, Performance, Serbian, Social, USA, Videos | 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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Posted in Chinese, Gallery shows, Shanghai, Y Contributors | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Excitement at Asian Contemporary Art Week despite recession – interview Leez Ahmady director ACAW

Posted by artradar on May 12, 2009


ASIAN CONTEMPORARY ART WEEK NEW YORK 2009

Director Leeza Ahmady talks to Art Radar about some of the highlights of the Asian Contemporary Art Week in New York 2009 and tells us how excited she is that it has come together so well despite the recession.

This is the third part of a 3 part interview:

 

Back Seung Woo, Utopia #007, C print, 2008

Back Seung Woo, Utopia #007, C print, 2008

 

AR: Tell us a little about the specifics of the event.

LA: It is scheduled May 10 to May 18th for 8 days.

AR: Why did you choose 8 days in May? Any reasons?

LA: Usually we try to skip a year because we need that time to produce it but 2008 was such a big success in every way. We surpassed expectations. I was prepared to have about 30 institutions but we ended up with 47 and immediately after there was such a high and so many inquiries about whether we would do it again in 2009.

Because of the huge amount of work the team and participants had put into the event, we felt that we should continue the momentum even though the economic situation was just beginning to change. Some were beginning to be scared but everyone signed up. But since October things of course have changed dramatically and some venues did pull out.

But incredibly enough we have over 30 organisations  this year with many new and emerging participants. They are excited because of the history of the event and they want to be a part of it.

For example this year Tyler Rollins, which specialises in art from Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia is presenting an exhibition and Tyler is also organising a panel discussion to give some perspective on what is going on in Southeast Asia.

AR: Do you work with artists who are not represented by galleries?

LA: Yes we do. In 2006 we did a video programme in which 85 artists were nominated by experts from all around Asia and after a jury selection 30 were chosen and screened in different participating venues.

 In 2008 we created a programme called Artists in Conversation and artists went through the same process but this time they had the opportunity to pair up with a curator or critic. It was called ”up close and personal with the best of the best in Asian art”. That was our slogan.

This year we have a programme called Open Portfolios. About 20 artists or more are part of it, two are from Central Asia. Kyrgryz artists Muratbek Djumaliev and Gulnara Kasmalieva will have a screening and discussion of their video work at MOMA on May 18th.

We have an event in which Qiu Zhijie, one of China’s leading artists, talks with Alexandra Munroe, senior curator of Asian Art at the Guggenheim Museum, at the China Institute May 12.

I am very excited about the Payal Choudhri event as she and her husband have one of the best modern art collections. They have agreed to hold a VIP event hosting one of our artists  Huma Bhabha from Pakistan in their home on May 12th.

We have all these exciting new venues and the question is how are they doing this? I am in disbelief about how this is coming together. I do end up talking a lot more about money than programming of course. Consortium members that participate and support the ACAW initiative include: Japan Society, China Institute, the Guggenheim Museum, Ethan Cohen Gallery, Bose Pacia, Art Projects International, and Sepia International. Other participants with wonderful programs this year are the Marlborough Gallery and MOMA. The Rubin Museum is hosting a special installation of art from Thailand.

AR: How are the events allocated over the days?

Usually the week is divided into locations. On Monday night we hold our signature event at the Asia Society. Melissa Chiu will be talking about the future of Asian art with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Documenta 13 Artistic Director.

Tuesday is dedicated to uptown galleries and museum, Wednesday midtown  and Thursday is Hot Chelsea Night… I sayhot because there are so many participants that day. Friday will be downtown and Tribeca and on Saturday and Sunday we go to different boroughs.

The idea is to create a circle of people who hop from one place to another. It is a powerful way to share audiences as normally venues are naturally very protective. In this way everyone’s programme is broadcast through the website and printed pamphlets and we ask everyone to promote this to their own audiences and it ends up being a wonderful way to connect.

AR: So what do you have to say to people in these gloomy economic times?

LA: Well I love what has been coming out of the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong….these incredible public programming events like the performance of Raqs Media Collective. It is so incredible. Instead of stopping and staying quiet at this time they are forging on. And that is a message I would love to get out. We can curl up and say times are so bad and what are we going to do and it is going to get worse. Many people are doing that and  it is one option and the other option is to do even better with what you have.

AR: Do you find that you can reach out in another way in a recession because art has so many facets? It is different things to different people. Therapy, entertainment, education, sensory stimulation, distraction, spirtual connection, activism…all of these things come to the fore when you take out the investment and speculation buzz.

LA: Absolutely Absolutely. I feel the recession is going to change things dramatically. I don’t think that the recession will be the worst thing that can happen. I think it will help us all reflect on our relationship with art and its practice, and that is a really good thing.

This is the third part of a 3 part interview:

  • Part 1: How art from half of Asia has been missed
  • Part 2: Pockets of change in Asian art infrastructure
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    Posted in Interviews, Leeza Ahmady, Nonprofit | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Three recession strategies for selling art in Shanghai – Shanghai Daily

    Posted by artradar on April 20, 2009


    CHINESE ART MARKET

    Art galleries are hooking up with hotels, art projects are on hold, and artists are printing fine art onto silk scarves. Just about everyone in the art world is compromising in the economic downturn, reports Wang Jie for the Shangai Daily.

    ShContemporary art fair

    There’s speculation that ShContemporary will take a break this year but this has not yet been confirmed and the fair began active media promotion last month.

    “No comments, but more details will be given later,” says Gu Zhihua, director of the organizing committee of Shanghai Art Fair, and the Chinese partner of ShContemporary.

    Last month, Gu and his team began media promotion and planning for the 2009 Shanghai Art Fair scheduled for September at ShanghaiMart – a half year earlier than usual.

    “We will try to find buyers for galleries coming to our fair,” says Gu tersely. “The size of the fair won’t be reduced, it still covers 24,000 square meters.”

     Galleries partner with hotels

    Dealers are making moves to show their works in hotels including the Hilton, Renaissance and 5 star Shanghai Xijiao State Guest House to broaden exposure to their works and attract new buyers.

    “A five-star hotel could be a helpful venue,” says Zhang of Simply Noble Gallery. “I want to give more exposure to the art in my gallery instead of locking them in the warehouse” due to hard times.

     He might be onto something. Hotel guests are mainly businessmen and tourists who aren’t visiting to satisfy their aesthetic sense, but a picture might just catch their fancy.

    At the Hilton, enquiries have already been made about some of the works on show from their local gallery partner.

    Cheaper products

    The Hilton Shanghai has also developed some art side-products, such as postcards and albums. Other art products being sold by artists in Shanghai include art dolls, limited edition silk screen prints and scarves.  

    For full article read Shanghai Daily: Can’t afford a multi-million yuan canvas? How about a silk scarf? Apr 2009

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    Posted in Fairs, Galleries, Market watch, Recession | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

    Russian billionaire collector Mikhelson continues support for art despite downturn – Bloomberg

    Posted by artradar on February 16, 2009


    RUSSIAN ART COLLECTOR

    Varoli reports on Bloomberg that Leonid Mikhelson is sponsoring a display of 30 works by 20th-century Russian master artist Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, many of which are well known to the public.

    Billionaire Leonid Mikhelson’s company OAO Novatek is sponsoring Russia’s first exhibition of a state museum’s works by a private gallery, with a display of 30 masterpieces by the 20th-century master Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.

    Russia’s second-biggest gas producer is making history 534 miles southeast of Moscow at the Victoria Gallery in the Volga city of Samara. Patronage is aiding Russian culture despite the decline in economic growth, stocks and the ruble.

    Some of the paintings, known to many Russians since childhood, show a Bolshevik leader dying on the battlefield and a peasant riding a red horse which sails off into the sky.

    “Novatek doesn’t abandon friends in hard times,” Vladimir Smirnov, Novatek’s vice-chairman, said in an interview. “We will continue to finance exhibitions at leading Russian museums.” The pieces are on loan from St. Petersburg’s State Russian Museum.

    Novatek’s  is also financing the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in June 2009.

    The company is the main sponsor and has pledged 300,000 euros ($385,700). Mastercard Worldwide is another leading sponsor of the pavilion, while the Russian government pays about 10 percent of the costs.

    “Without Novatek’s support, it wouldn’t have been possible to pull this off,” said Olga Sviblova, chairwoman of the Russian Pavilion. “Most Russian companies prefer to support classical art, not contemporary art.”

    About Mikhelson:

    Novatek Chief Executive Officer Mikhelson is a collector of Russian fine art. While he declined to comment about his collection, art dealers say he prefers 19th-century and early 20th-century Russian art.

    Born in a town on the Caspian Sea in Russia’s republic of Dagestan, Mikhelson graduated in 1977 from Samara’s Civil Engineering Institute. Before helping to create Novatek in 1994, he spent most of his career building gas pipelines.

    In April 2008, Forbes estimated Mikhelson’s fortune at $5.9 billion, and ranked him as Russia’s 27th richest person.

    Source: Bloomberg

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    Posted in Biennials, Recession, Russia, Russian | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    ARCO Madrid 2009 international art fair news round-up – galleries drop out, public funding prop, Indian art

    Posted by artradar on February 12, 2009


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    INTERNATIONAL ART FAIRS

    ARCO Madrid, one of the largest and most important international art fairs holds its 28th edition from 11 February to 16 February 2009  in a new location:  Halls 6, 8 & 10 at Feria de Madrid, Spain. 238 galleries from 32 countries are participating.

    Financial downturn hits art worldBBC – 16 Feb 209 – video clip – An insubstantial very brief video story about how the crisis is affecting the art fair: some artists are using the crisis as inspiration for their art: interview with art fair director Lourdes Fernandez who says it is more difficult for some dealers this year.

    Dealers reported mixed results at Spain’s monster contemporary art fair ArcoFinancial Times – 14 Feb 2009 – Georgina Adam reports that Spanish museums budgets have melted and prices of artworks have been reduced. Artists attracting interest/buyers included Georg Baselitz, Amaya Gonzalez Reyes, Eugenio Merino’s take off of Damien Hirst ‘For The Love of Gold’.

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    Click to buy

    Arco Beep New Media Art Award  – We Make Money Not Art  – 13 Feb 2009 – Post written by a member of the jury about the award, the entries and the winner. The award was won by Ubermorgen.com for its EKMRZ Trilogy, a fascinating triptych about the three kings of ecommerce Google, Amazon and ebay. The Google art work ‘Google will eat itself’ involves the artists raising money with google text ads and using the money to buy Google shares.

    Panorama India Artslant provides a list of artists and galleries from India, Arco’s special guest country 2009.

    Tatsumi Orimoto performs Punishment at Arco 2009 video – Vernissage TV

    Hirst statue stars at Madrid show as dealers aim to defy slumpBloomberg – 13 Feb 2009 – A Florida collector bought Merino’s sculpture of Hirst committing suicide “Hirst is always trying to think of ways to make his art the most expensive. If he killed himself, then the value of his art would increase a lot.” Despite India being guest country only 13 galleries from there. US galleries dropped from 26 last year to 7 this year. Plenty of bargains. Russian GMG Gallery sold 2 photographs by Anatoly Zhuravlev to a prominent Swiss collector of Chinese art.

    Image carousel Telegraph – 19 images of artists: Isaac Montoya, Filomena Soares, Jose Batista Marques, Enrique Marty, Madeleine Berkhemer, Vivek Vilasini  (India), Jitish Kallat (India), Valay Shende, Eugenio Merino, Yi Hwan-Kon, Samuel Salcedo, Bernardi Roig.

    Indian art draws Europeans IANS via Zee News – 13 Feb 2009 – New trend in Indian art away from works on canvas towards installation and new media apparent in gallery shows and  Panorama, the show of Indian art curated by Bose Krishnamachari. Dayanita Singh in solo show, Shilpa Gupta work finds European buyer.

    Gloom at major European art fair as boom in sales seen over  – AFP  – 12 Feb 2009 – This is a prediction story about the mood prior to the event. Galleries predict  limited cash, prices down 25% for contemporary art, buyers will take time over purchases. Artist view: lower prices an opportunity for young. Includes image carousel.

    Arco Madrid 2009 opens – calm forecast  – Art Daily – 12 Feb 2009 – This is a facts piece with a promotional tone. It covers details of the move to the new location and the fair’s programmes and projects: India is showcased, three curated shows cover performance art, contemporary art and technology in art, there is a list of talk forums by experts and a description of the section showcasing capsule collections from private museums.

    Recession triggers improvement in Indian art qualitySindhToday via IANS – 11 February 2009 – This is a views piece about how the collector base for Indian art is changing and broadening particularly in Europe and is based on interviews with Bose Krishnamachari curator of the special Indian Panorama section and Peter Nagy of Nature Morte, an exhibitor.

    Fine Art Publicity - click to buy

    Fine Art Publicity - click to buy

    Galleries drop out of ARCOArtinfo – 5 Feb 2009 – Edited version of Der Standard story below.

    ARCO hit by crisis– Artforum via APAvia Der Standard – 3 Feb 2009 – 20 galleries of 270 cancelled – dropouts include 2 from South America, one from Spain and Lisson Gallery London. Portugese Ministry of Culture provided funding to prevent more.

    Related links: ARCO website

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    Posted in Acquisitions, Bose Krishnamachari, Collectors, Dayanita Singh, Electronic art, Fairs, Indian, Interactive art, Madrid, Market watch, New Media, Participatory, Shilpa Gupta, Spain, Virtual | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »