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Posts Tagged ‘independent art spaces’

Hong Kong Street Art Series: Above Second imports new energies and aesthetics to local art scene

Posted by artradar on October 14, 2010


HONG KONG STREET ART URBAN ART SERIES

In this first feature in our Hong Kong Street Art Series, Art Radar Asia will introduce you to one of the newest art spaces in Hong Kong to show street and urban art, Above Second. In this post, co-owners Jasper Wong and May Wong discuss the importance of supporting the local art community and encouraging people to consider creative career options, as well as explain their choice of location and their first-time buyer appeal.

In a steep lane in Sai Ying Pun, Above Second stands aloof from busy streets and is a fifteen minute walk from the gallery-saturated Central district. This glass-fronted art space with a graffiti wall on the side was founded and is run by Jasper Wong and May Wong.

 

Above Second, one of Hong Kong's newest art spaces dedicated to street and urban art.

Above Second, one of Hong Kong's newest art spaces dedicated to street and urban art. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

Before Above Second came into being, May dedicated most of her time to a nomadic gallery called Apostrophe which travelled to different spaces to do shows for artists from predominantly Denmark, the US and the UK. She found out about Jasper a year and a half ago after discovering his works on the blog of hip hop artist Kanye West and then inviting him to do a show at G.O.D, a Hong Kong-based lifestyle store. After some talking over a gallery plan in Hong Kong they ended up opening Above Second together earlier this year.

Half a gallery and half an art space

Above Second is very different from other mainstream galleries in the Central district in many ways. To begin with, Jasper won’t even consider it a gallery.

“It’s not a gallery in the strictest sense in what people usually perceive galleries to be. People see galleries to be like blank white walls… but we decided to turn it into more like a, I guess you can call it a creative club? That’s why we leave the word gallery in front of the name, ‘cause we don’t want to be specifically one thing.”

Above gallery is special in a way that it is a combination of a gallery and an art space. Jasper uses the gallery space at the front for painting and exhibition while May uses the art space at the back for art classes in the weekend.

 

Children drawing in the Above Second art space on Saturday. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

 

Adults painting in the Above Second art space. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

May elaborates on this concept:

“I think the main reason [for teaching art classes] is to generate more people to come into the gallery to see art. In a way, we enjoy teaching and we enjoy people coming in to share what art is and just be creative.”

“Basically when we teach (I’m talking about [teaching] three-year-olds to adults; everybody can come), we’re just giving them the materials, and then they can do whatever they want, usually. But we kind of try to give them a concept or give them some kind of inspiration for arts. For instance, we did a class that was based on Mondrian paintings, so we kind of restrict the colors to red, yellow, blue, and black, very Mondrian. Then we just let the students do what they want with it.”

 

Hong Kong street art gallery Above Second held exhibition "King for a Day" in July this year.

Hong Kong street art gallery Above Second held exhibition "King for a Day" in July this year. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

Mission to support local art and promote art as career

Jasper also hopes that, through the art classes for children, the young generation in Hong Kong will come to consider art creation as a career path rather than just a hobby. He says,

“A lot of times I feel, from what I’ve experienced here, is that a lot of the parents tend to steal their kids away from creative pursuits. Their tendency [is] that if their kids are interested in music or art or dance or something creative, then it is seen more as a hobby, rather than something that they can dedicate their life to.”

Unlike many mainstream galleries in Hong Kong, Above Second is also less business-oriented and more driven by the goal to improve the creative environment in Hong Kong. Jasper states,

“Most galleries in Central, you probably see, they are all very commercial. They are all pretty much paint stores. They are trying to sell what’s hot, what’s the hot trend, and what people will buy at the time. They tend to show all the same kind of art. So when you go to one gallery it’s pretty much all the same. And it’s not very accessible to a lot of local people and they don’t tend to promote emerging artists or even to try to make the creative scene better in Hong Kong. So we started our gallery … there’s an altruistic mission to it: to try to make [the Hong Kong art scene] better, to try to bring in the emerging artists that have never been shown in Hong Kong or to try to promote local artists…. There’s a goal to try in a small way to make Hong Kong’s creative community better.”

Above Second doesn’t formally represent any artists as most of the traditional galleries do. Instead, it continually organises shows for different artists from around the world with intriguing “energies” and “aesthetics”. “We are showing the creative energy all around the world [by] supporting young and emerging artists from all around the world,” says Jasper.

Price range attracts young first-time buyers

As May points out, works in most of the Above Second shows are for sale at affordable prices and because of this the gallery has attracted a number of first time buyers.

“For the show King for a Day, we had three prints there and they all sold. Most of (our buyers) are under thirty years old or around thirty and they are all first time buyers. It’s really great to see, because the prints themselves are pretty reasonably [priced], and when people come in they are like ‘Wow! This is the first time that I have gone into a gallery where I can afford to buy something.’ So we kind of encourage that trend…. [In] some galleries the price ranges are at least 10,00 dollars. We [are] like a couple of hundred, four digits, five digits.”

 

 

Visitors and guests crowd outside Above Second at an exhibition opening.

Visitors and guests crowd outside Above Second at an exhibition opening. Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

Currently, Above Second is showing Nebula, an exhibition of paper-cut and stencil works by Danish artist Mathias and illustrations of another Danish artist Michael. This Friday, Above Second will open Primary, an exhibition of work by Hong Kong street artist group Graphicairlines. Says May of her hopes for the space,

“For me, in five years, I hope that the gallery will grow, have a couple more staff…. For us it’s still difficult to pay for all the expenses, the shipping and stuff, to get artists here, but we’re trying….”

CBKM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Hong Kong venuesstreet artinterviews

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Art Radar Asia launches Hong Kong Street Art Series: interview with co-owner of Above Second

Posted by artradar on October 6, 2010


HONG KONG STREET ART URBAN ART SERIES

While the street art gallery scene in Europe has been pushed into maturity by world-renowned and highly sought after urban artists such as Banksy, it is only in recent years that it has started to emerge in Hong Kong. In response to the burgeoning street art scene in the city, Art Radar Asia is launching a Hong Kong Street Art Series to introduce to you Hong Kong galleries which show urban art. With the prominence of a number of local street artists and the founding of at least three urban art galleries in the city in the past couple of years, we will observe how street art is being taken into new contemporary art galleries in Hong Kong.

We introduce this series with a brief interview with Jasper Wong, co-owner of Above Second art space, in which he presents his views on Hong Kong street art and the urban art business, and how the Hong Kong scene compares with other more established communities.

Jasper Wong wouldn’t call himself a street artist, as he doesn’t like being restricted to any particular form of art. After studying graphic design in Portland, illustration at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco and manga (Japanese comic books) in Kyoto Seika University, he returned to Hong Kong to work on various art projects. Earlier this year, he started Above Second with his partner May Wong.

 

Jasper Wong (middle) at Above Second's September show "Nebula". Image courtesy of Above Second.

Jasper Wong (middle) at Above Second's September show "Nebula". Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

 

This collaborative work by Jasper Wong and his half-brother Wu Yue was shown in Above Second at the March show "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am". Image courtesy of Above Second.

This collaborative work by Jasper Wong and his half-brother Wu Yue was shown in Above Second at the March show "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am". Image courtesy of Above Second.

 

What do you think of street art in Hong Kong? How is it different from the street art in Europe?

I know a lot of street artists in Hong Kong. They are all doing their own thing in this city, so I really respect that. They get up all over the city and also pursue other creative outlets such as apparel, etc. They have their own styles. It’s not that much different from the rest of the world. The ones in Hong Kong are influenced by their own cultures growing up in Hong Kong, and [they] respond to it. Other artists around the world do the same and respond to their own individual cultures. Hong Kong is very small though. There needs to be more artists out there pushing like SFZ (Start from zero) and Graphicairlines, Invasion guys like Sinic and Xeme. (I meant the Invasion Magazine crew. Invasion Magazine was started by Sinic. They’re one of the few graffiti magazines in Asia and the only one in Hong Kong.)

What about the sticker culture here? Is it a global culture?

Sticker culture is global. It’s an aspect of street art. People do pieces with spraycans, wheatpaste, stickers, and sometimes even create installations by knitting. It’s about taking art to the streets. There are no rules. Look at Invader – he creates art with ceramic tile.

We have been told that in Hong Kong there are lots of limitations for street art. Do you agree with this statement?

The only limitation is yourself. You can do whatever you want, thanks to the Internet. You can get your art to people all over the world. So I don’t agree. I just agree on the point that people in Hong Kong don’t care about art as much, they think of it as useless. But they don’t see that they are surrounded by art from the clothes they wear to the movies they watch and the chairs they sit on.

But shouldn’t street art be in the street rather than the Internet? Or is it changing now?

I’m not talking about art being on the Internet persay. I’m talking about getting people to know about your art. You use the Internet as a tool to get the word out so people can learn about Hong Kong street art through the use of the Internet. The Internet changed the game  for everything.

How would you describe the status of street art in Hong Kong?

Street art is up and coming out here. There is a small group of individuals seeking to get the word out about it and they get up strong around the city. It’ll take some time for it to be[come] bigger but it’s definitely happening.

What do you think about the street art business in Hong Kong?

Street art can’t be thought of as a business. The words together are an oxymoron. Street art is for the people. That’s why it’s on the street; you can view it for free. Some artist segway their art into products and that is a way to get the word out, an additional channel to inform people about your art. In that case, the business plays a role in supporting the art.

So apart from the street, street art business and the Internet, can you identify other channels for showing or promoting street art?

Everything can be a channel if you’re creative. Of course, there are the traditional ones like magazines and television, but there are no rules.

Who are the important street artists in Hong Kong?

Start from zero and Graphicairlines. Those are the two I know personally and they work hard here in Hong Kong.

Over the coming weeks we will be presenting a number of interviews with urban art gallery owners in Hong Kong. With these we hope to provide an in-depth study of the current and future aims of this constantly evolving community.

CBKM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Hong Kong venues, street art, interviews

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Curator Tobias Berger talks about Korean contemporary art scene in 4 questions

Posted by artradar on September 20, 2010


SOUTH KOREA CONTEMPORARY ART INTERVIEW CURATOR

Art Radar Asia recently spoke with German-born curator Tobias Berger, who currently holds the position of Chief Curator at the Nam June Paik Art Center, about the Center’s exhibition “The Penguin that goes to the Mountain“. During this interview, Berger also revealed a few of his observations on living and working in the Korean art environment.

Korean art has always been in the shadow of Japanese and Chinese artistic success, often “dismissed as a mere conduit between the two mega cultures.” This may be because few of the local magazines, exhibition catalogues and other art texts produced on Korean contemporary art are available in English. As Berger states, “There are none. They’re all in Korean. There’s nothing really good in English.” And while the local art scene is perhaps not on par with what can be experienced in these neighbouring countries, Berger notes that the art that is being produced in Korea is of a very high quality, due to good art schools, a diversity of art spaces, talented pioneers and governmental support.

This Korean contemporary art sculpture was shown at "Korean Eye: Moon Generation".

'Shamoralta Shamoratha' (2007) by Inbai Kim was shown at "Korean Eye: Moon Generation" in 2009. Korean Eye was founded in 2009 as a way to support emerging Korean artists by providing international exhibition opportunities.

As a European who formerly lived and worked in the Hong Kong art scene, how do you find the South Korean art scene compares?

“The Seoul art scene is probably the most sophisticated art scene in Asia. It has really good independent spaces, good commercial galleries, interesting art schools and good museums. It has this whole pyramid of different art spaces, exhibition possibilities, and it has a lot of really good and wonderful artists. That level of depth and the level of different kinds of art spaces is incomparable. Certainly in Beijing [you] have galleries, but you don’t have any independent spaces, and in Tokyo it’s also very different.”

How do you keep up to date with the Korean art scene?

That is a problem because it’s all in Korean and it’s very difficult to keep up [with]. I mean, you just go to the 10-15 [art] spaces once a month … and you talk to your friends and your colleagues that go to the big exhibitions…. You just have to look at how it is. There was a [recent] survey show called “Bright Future” but it only had twelve artists.

Tell us about the art school system in Korea? How does it differ from other places?

It’s the most sophisticated [system] because it had some good pioneers [and] a lot of governmental help. [South Korea] has some good art schools and it has a lot of good artists that have studied overseas and come back. This allowed a lot of critical discourse and [there were] a lot of magazines. That allowed the art scene to grow well and in the right way.

Korean art is becoming popular with international collectors. “Korean Eye, for example, was shown at The Saatchi Gallery in London earlier this year. Can you tell us why you think this is happening now?

“Here in South Korea you don’t feel that there’s much happening. The Korean scene is nothing compared to what’s happening in China…. On the one side, these shows, where this is popular or that is popular, don’t really mean a thing. There is a lot of good art in South Korea and the quality of the art is really on a high level, because art education has been good for 15-20 years. A lot of people are educated in Europe and America and have very good support and certainly output good quality art…. I mean, you don’t want to buy or you don’t want to show an artist because he’s Korean, you want to show an artist because he’s a good artist.”

JAS/KN/HH

Related topics: Korean artists, interviews, Tobias Berger, curators

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