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Posts Tagged ‘digital photography’

Photography in contemporary Russia – Art Radar speaks with curator Olga Sviblova, AES+F and Igor Moukhin

Posted by artradar on August 18, 2010


MOSCOW PARIS CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION MUSEUM SHOWS

With France-Russia Year 2010 in full swing, Maison Européene de la Photographie (MEP) and the Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (MAMM), formerly the Moscow House of Photography, partnered for the photo exhibition “Photography in Contemporary Russia, 1990-2010, currently on display in Paris. Art Radar Asia spoke with Olga Sviblova, curator and director of the MAMM, along with reknowed photographer Igor Moukhin and artist Tatiana Arzamasova of AES+F.

Vlad Loktev, '1:0', photograph, 1999. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Vlad Loktev, '1:0', photograph, 1999. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Olga Sviblova has achieved almost superstar status in the art world for her documentary filmwork, numerous curatorial endeavors and tireless dedication to the arts, especially Russian photography. Art Radar Asia managed to catch up with the busy Sviblova who answered questions about the state of contemporary Russian photography, it’s growth since the early 1990’s and the pervasive misperceptions of Russian contemporary art.

“Russian photography, like Russian contemporary art, is quite unknown in the world,” Sviblova says frankly. “It is much less present when you compare it with photography or contemporary art from another country like America, from European countries like France, like Germany, like Britain.” Such statements seem to contradict the international fame that some Russian artists have achieved such as rising stars AES+F and established names like Oleg Kulik and Igor Mukhin. For Sviblova, however, widespread acclaim for Russian artists is still the exception, not the rule. The curator elaborates further on the effects of the economic downturn on Russian art:

“Russian art was forgotten. And also for Russian art and photography, there were not institutions that could support it … there was also the question that the Russian market inside the country was not constructed.”

It was in this climate that Sviblova founded the Moscow House of Photography, now know as the Multimedia Centre for Contemporary Art, in 1996. That same year Sviblova organised Russia’s first photobiennale, followed by the first Moscow International Photography Festival in 1999. Efforts such as these changed the climate of the art scene.

“So now we have in Russia a completely different situation … we have instutions for art and photography, we have our museums. In another sense photography has started to be open in the Russian region, photography started to be popular and contemporary art started, in the beginning, to be popular.”

Exploring the popularity of photography

For Sviblova, there is no boundary between art and photography, they are part of one another, and photography has always been art. However, photography as a medium has exploded in popularity and is, according to Sviblova, one of the “most important arts today”.

Igor Moukhin, "Moscou", photograph, 1988. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie

Igor Moukhin, 'Moscou', photograph, 1988. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Factoring into the success of photography in Russia are the new freedoms afforded to artists. This new freedom which allows photojournalistic, “street” photography to “show the face of Russia”, a truthful representation of the people, society and Russian life.

“You really can tell that today photography is an extremely popular media. Today nobody asks me if photography is art or is not art; it’s really extremely popular in Russia.”

Russian photographer Igor Moukhin echoed the same ideas when we asked him if photography was being embraced within Russia.

“People have ceased and to look [at] and trust the TV. There is no independent press. And on the Internet  [there are] a lot of photos, photos about today, yesterday, about life, and these photos discuss.”

Moukhin uses the term “direct photo” in reference to his photographs of Soviet youths and comments on the subjectiveness of his photography, saying that it is not universal since context is necessary. To artists such as Moukhin, context and knowledge of Russian history are necessary to grasp the messgae of his “direct” photography. Yet not all Russian photography is specific to Russian experiences. Communication between countries is another factor when examining the popularity of Russian photography. Acknowledging a lack of communication between Russia and other countries, Sviblova highlights the importance of photography as a method to dispel misconcenptions, and to speak about what has happened in Russia in the past and what is happening now.

Nikolai Polissky, La Tour, photograph, 2000. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

Nikolai Polissky, 'La Tour', photograph, 2000. Image courtesy of Maison Européene de la Photographie.

As Olga Sviblova states, the MEP exhibition in Paris presents yet another chance “to show what kind of new photography was born in that time [1990-2010] … we can show what has happened in Russia: on a social level, emotional level, economic level, and political level”. Images of revolution from the first and second Chechen wars also make up an important part of the exhibition and Sviblova stresses how photographers began to tackle issues outside of Russia, on an international level.

“We tried to show history … we tried to show the first and second Chechen wars, what was the Russian strategy … we tried to show the best photographers working at the time … At the same time, we tried to show what happens in the country, we tried to show the youth generation, the old people.”

While some artists use documentary photography to focus on Russian experiences, others use documentary photography to create ties to the rest of the world.  As the birth of “new Russia” took place, contemporary street photography captured it from every angle.

Russian photography, international issues

Although it is one of the most popular types of photography in Russia, the exhibition includes much more than just documentary-style images. What Sviblova calls classical art photography and fashion photography make up the remainder of the show and include names such as Oleg Kulik and Arsen Savadov.

AES+F, 'The Islamic Project: New Liberty', 2003, lambda print. Image courtesy of the AES+F website.

AES+F, 'The Islamic Project: New Liberty', 2003, lambda print. Image courtesy of the AES+F website.

Sviblova also speaks in length about the popular artist collective AES+F, a group that uses photography as a tool to address universal, and often controversial, concepts.  In reference to images from “The Islamic Project” series Sviblova remarks:

“After September 11 their images started to be so famous, distributed through the Internet and often given out without the signature of the artist because it was like popular art. It was not the mirror of reality, but also the magic mirror of the future … AES+F is one of the most sophisticated, one of the most complicated, and at the same time one fo the most magic artist [groups].”

In a brief Art Radar interview with AES+F’s Tatiana Arzamasova, the artist sheds some light on the collective’s use of photography in recent series such as “The Last Riot” and ‘”The Feast of Trimalchio”. “We use photography as a tool,” she remarks.

On the artists’ website they make no attempt to hide their process, showing how they use assorted images as a starting point for the final product. As a collective,the artists of AES, with the exception of Vladmir Fridkes, do not consider themselves “traditional” photographers. When asked if the international community still had misperceptions about Russian art and Russian photography, Arzamasova indicated that the idea of Russian photography as socialist media is still present. “[People] think of Russia as poor…they still think of the Cold War” Arzamasova states. Undaunted by such stereotypes, AES+F continues to stretch the boundaries of what Russian art and photography is considered to be. Olga Sviblova concludes:

“Great photography is not just image and document of reality, it’s much more metaphoric. If you know the language of the artist, you can read the message and through this message you can see not just today, or the past, you can see our future”

Other stand-out artists featured in the exhibition, which will run until 29 August this year, include the Fenso group, Sergui Tchilikov, Vladmir KupriyanovGeorgy Pervov, and Vladmir Fridkes.

EH/KN

Related Topics: Russian artists, photography, curators

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27 contemporary Southeast Asian artists featured in ASEAN-Korea photo exhibition

Posted by artradar on July 28, 2010


KOREAN ASEAN CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBITION

Created to showcase the range of dynamic contemporary photography coming from Korean and Southeast Asian artists, Emerging Wave“, currently on view at the GoEun Museum of Photography in Busan (South Korea), features works from 27 artists ranging from emerging creators to established veterans.

Established in March 2009, the ASEAN-Korea Centre promotes both cultural and economic cooperation between Korea and the ten ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) member countries. The organisation  recently partnered with Seoul Art Centre’s Hangaram Art Museum to open their 2010 photo exhibition which features 27 artists from 11 countries.

The exhibition, which is the second since ASEAN-Korea Centre’s launch, exposes the international community to new work by some of Southeast Asia’s brightest contemporary photographers. While many of the participants are veterans, the exhibition gives younger artists exposure to the contemporary art scene of a major city such as Seoul.

“Emerging Wave” attracts artists from all over ASEAN region

For example, for emerging Bruneian photographers Hirfian Hussain and Akmal Benangsutera, the exhibition is an opportunity to showcase the budding photography scene in their home country, as well as a chance to connect with dedicated artists from outside of Brunei.

Artists well-established in other media also make up this year’s selected names such as Burmese performance and installation artist Po Po. While not considered a prolific artist – he has had only two solo exhibitions since 1987 – his work is thoughtful and full of depth. As an artist who works with different media there is much crossover within his work. With his photography he employs elements of cubism, a movement he considers to be painting’s “highest state of intellectual approach.”

Po Po, Searching for Identity: Bottle # 1, 2002-2007, C-print, 167 x 305 cm

Po Po, 'Searching for Identity: Bottle # 1', 2002-2007, C-print, 167 x 305 cm.

“How can I make cubist photos which present every aspect of a thing? These works are not objects of material.  They are objects of mind”.

Although in an article on the Myanmar Times website Po Po states his distinterest in “flashy technology or visual hype”, his selected photos demonstrate his willingness to experiment with newer media to create complex, visually stimulating images without losing the sincerity of his message.

Like Po Po, Singaporean artist Mintio incorporates multiple overlapping angles in photos from her “Concrete Euphoria” series (2008-2009).

Mintio, Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 2008, D-print, 152 x 122 cm

Mintio, 'Kuala Lumpur City Centre', 2008, D-print, 152 x 122 cm.

In spite of being relatively young Mintio, who got her start at a major commercial studio at age 16, has already created a stir with her documentation of Asia’s largest cities using long-exposure techniques. For Mintio, the process is about both rediscovery and finding the unknown in familiar things.

“At the end of the day, no matter how familiar we think we are with a person or a place, there always will be jewels left undiscovered. Perhaps the answer of what a place or city means might just be a continuous journey of finding those jewels.”

Also on display is work by fellow Singaporean Zhao Renhui, a resident artist and member of the Institute of Critical Zoologists. Zhao channels his fascination with man’s perception of animals into photos sometimes depicting live or taxidermy creatures, and other times depicting man’s often futile attempts to be at one with nature. In an interview with Asian Photography Blog, Zhao expresses the idea that photography is a medium through which people “relate to animals and the world”. At the same time it is a medium which “blurs the distinction between fact and fiction”. In one particular image he presents a zoologist who appears nearly invisible with the aid of a camoflague cloak and photo manipulation.

Zhao Renhui, Tottori Sand Dunes, 2009, archieval piezographic print, 84 x 121 cm

Zhao Renhui, 'Tottori Sand Dunes', 2009, archieval piezographic print, 84 x 121 cm.

In doing so, Zhao presents a surreal image as reality and challenges the validity of photography as a medium for depiciting truth. For the artist, reality in photography is illusory and constantly in flux. Viewers must try to make sense of the natural, scientic world through a manipulated, and possibly false, image.

A fascination with perceptions of truth also permeates the photographs of Thai artist Dow Wasiksiri and Vietnamese artist Richard Streitmatter-Tran. While Streitmatter-Tran makes no attempt to hide the artifice of his composite images, Wasiksiri’s saturated photos capture a side of Thai culture that he feels foreigners are not exposed to when viewing the “styled and staged” images of Thailand. According to the artist’s statement on his website:

“Visitors are presented with contrived, idealized images of Thainess by Thais ourselves … countless published views of Thailand are staged and styled. The contrivance and the reality rarely match, leading to startling juxtapositions”.

In presenting what he calls the “unexpected moments”, Dow aims to show unabashed ‘Thainess’ with humor and unself-consciousness.

Indonesian photographer Angki Purbandono makes use of what he calls a “freestyle” approach which allows him to employ methods ranging from collage to the scannography technique used in “Avocado Horse” (2010). Even so, Purbandono doesn’t separate himself from other photographers too much.

“Just like other people working with photography, I play with objects, considering light as important and employing a dark room to print my work.”

Angki Purbandono, Avocado Horse, 2010, Scannography, 100 x 100 cm

Angki Purbandono, 'Avocado Horse', 2010, scannography, 100 x 100 cm.

Korean artists well represented in “Emerging Wave”

Although most of the eleven countries are represented by two artists, organisers made sure to give Korean artists plenty of additional exposure. Bright candied flora populate the work of Koo Seong Youn while Hyun Mi Yoo seems to suspend falling objects in time with skillful compositions. The warped perspectives of Zu Do YangWawi Navarroza’s impersonation of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and “real vs. unreal” themes explored by artist Lee Yeleen add to the diversity of subject matter and style. Given that they were chosen for their talent and thoughtful innovation, it comes as no surprise that “Emerging Wave” participants turn the idea of photography on its head. With their photos they call on viewers to question the factual nature not just of the images they view but also the experiences which they have come to accept as normal and routine.

Koo Seong Youn Ht01 (+ Ht02), C-Prints, 2009, 120 x 150 cm

Koo Seong Youn, 'Ht01 (+ Ht02), C-Prints, 2009, 120 x 150 cm.

Other artists included in the show are Koreans Choi Jung Won, Lee Won Chul, and Nanda; Laotians Manichanh Pansivongsay and Phonephet Sitthivong; Indonesian artist Arya Pandjalu; Filipina artist Bea Camacho; Malaysian artists Liew Kung Yu and Tan Nan See; Burmese artist Thit Lwin Soe; Tanapol Kaewpring; Vietnamese artist Le Kinh Tai; and Cambodians Sok Sophal and Tralong Borin.

The exhibition has moved from the Hangaram Art Museum to the GoEun Museum of Photography in Busan and will close on 8 August.

EH/KN

Related Topics: Southeast Asian, photography, museum shows

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Posted in Asian, Connecting Asia to itself, Emerging artists, Indonesian, Korea, Korean, Laoation, Malaysian, Museum shows, Museums, Myanmar/Burmese, Photography, Singaporean, Southeast Asian, Thai, Vietnamese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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

Posted by artradar on June 9, 2010


INTERNATIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY MARKET INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

Why did you choose to become a dealer?

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

Your current gallery spaces are all in London?

Yes, all in London.

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

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

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

Why did you choose to attend Art HK last year?

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

What other art fairs do you attend?

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

How does Art HK compare to other fairs?

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

So you find Art HK to be very organised?

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

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

Did you have high expectations this year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What style has been most sought after?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do dealers know what the other galleries will bring?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you represent digital photographers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A wider audience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EW/KN

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