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Posts Tagged ‘installation art’

Rise of the celebrity artist: Vietnamese artist Trong Nguyen featured on Bravo TV reality series

Posted by artradar on July 27, 2010


CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS CELEBRITIES REALITY TV

From dance competitions to rehab, it seems that no subject is left untouched by reality television producers. Even the act of finding a spouse has been successfully commercialised for audience entertainment. Now, with Bravo TV’s new series, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, viewers can get a glimpse inside of the often misunderstood world of contemporary art. But at what cost?

Reality TV and contemporary art finally meet

While some shows bank on the star appeal of celebrities and athletes, others take virtual unknowns and catapult them to instant, albeit usually shortlived, fame. Some shows evoke groans of annoyance as others reign in viewers eager for enterainment or curious about the show’s focus. Bravo TV has churned out a string of successful competitive series in several disciplines including fashion, cooking, and modeling just to name a few.

As of June 2010, Bravo branched out into art with the premiere of it’s new series, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. For executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker, the show is about making art accessible to audiences who may consider it to be a “rarefied” world. In addition to giving the fourteen featured contestants a shot at a substantial amount of cash, USD100,000 to be exact, the winner also wins an opportunity to exhibit their works at the Brooklyn Museum. Such high profile spaces are rarely made available to emerging artists.

Cast of Bravo TV's Work of Art: The Next Great Artist

The cast of Bravo TV's 'Work of Art: The Next Great Artist'.

But could all of this backfire? Some argue that reality TV oversimplifies certain disciplines or even presents a distorted idea of what it’s actually like to be a successful artist, dancer or model. There is also the question of whether critics and other artists will take the show’s contestants seriously. Even so, the series aims to show, in an entertaining manner, that art is not exclusive or elitist. It is something that everyone can experience, even on a daily basis. In an article published by Zap2It, Parker states:

I want to express that we all have art in our home, whether you save a postcard from a friend or put your son’s or daughter’s drawings up on the wall. That’s art, and you are part of it … and it shouldn’t be any less accessible to you than to anyone else.

As for contestants, there are those who view the competition as merely a starting point, regardless of whether they win or not. Reality stars are made quickly and can fizzle just as fast if their careers prove to be lackluster. Such possibilities don’t seem to daunt most of the artists on the show, many of whom seek to at least stand out and generate some buzz around their name. Most of the fourteen selected artists are in their twenties, few are experienced, and all are hoping that this chance of a lifetime is worth the risk of failure in front of thousands, if not millions, of viewers.

Profiles of the judges can be found here.

Vietnamese artist Trong eliminated in second round

Artist Trong Nguyen

Artist Trong Nguyen.

Brooklyn based artist and curator Trong Nguyen falls into the small category of contestants who have already achieved success. It was not enough, however, to guarantee him a spot in the third round. At only 38, he has had several international solo and group exhibitions, received numerous grants and is currently an editor for ArtSlant.

We’ve summarised below an interview with ARTINFO in which Trong discusses the artists’ attitudes towards the show, issues with judges and why he joined the cast.

When asked if he feels animosity towards reality programming, Trong expresses amibivalence, a sentiment that was reflected in his second-round installation, What Would Tom Freidman Do? (2010).

The piece itself was about my ambivalence … I thought that any serious artist,  when they’re talking about making a reality show about art, has to have subversive reasons for doing the show.

In regards to the anti-reality TV phrases written on the television sets, Trong states “… the truth kind of hurts sometimes”. The judges eliminated Trong in the second round; his truthful remarks may have indeed struck a nerve. That is not to say that the judges fawned over Trong from the start. Some snapped back with what Trong hinted were unhelpful critiques.

The judges are so defensive that they end up ignoring what you have to say, which I feel is so unconstructive … I think they actually dote on certain works and certain people on the show for whatever reason, and it hasn’t felt constructive to me.

As a more seasoned artist, Trong questions the usefulness of critiques especially when aimed at the younger contestants whom he “feels protective of”. Equally so, Trong questions the ability of these artists, many of whom are fresh from undergraduate studies, to make work with depth at such a young age.

At that age, no matter how talented you are, you just haven’t experienced life enough to really make art that has substance to it … An art career is such a long thing — you have emerging artists out there who are still in their 50s, it’s not like any other profession.

Not only does Trong feel that many of the artists are too young, but they are also putting themselves in a vulnerable position too early. The possibility of ruining ones’ career before it starts is all too real for these young unknowns, although Trong has the immunity of experience and reputation.

One of my main things I said to myself: ‘There’s no way this is going to affect my career negatively.’

Trong's piece from his eliminating round, "What Would Tom Friedman Do?", 2010, Installation

Trong's piece from his eliminating round, 'What Would Tom Friedman Do?' (2010, installation).

With all this, one may wonder why join the cast in the first place? But for Trong, the answer is simple.

If someone asked you to do the show, would you do it? … you have this great opportunity to experience this, why wouldn’t you do it? It’s the difference between living an active life and living a passive life. So I always go for the route of active.

Seems like an easy choice but becoming a great artist is never that simple.  Mega-artists and art superstars are nothing new, but can one be made on television? The show’s intentions of giving aspiring artists a chance while exposing audiences to the art world are noble, yet using reality TV as a medium could be problematic.

Do you think the series can live up to its name and purpose or will it fall flat? Post your comments below.

EH/KN

Related Topics: celebrity art, crossover art, Vietnamese artists

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Posted in Artists as celebrities, Asian, Celebrity art, Crossover art, Emerging artists, Installation, New York, USA, Vietnamese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nindityo Adipurnomo talks with Art Radar on “+Road” collaboration with Myanmar artists, “gambling spirit” of Indonesian collectors

Posted by artradar on July 21, 2010


ART PROFESSIONAL INTERVIEW INDONESIAN ART EVENTS

In an Art Radar Asia exclusive interview with Cemeti founder Nindityo Adipurnomo, we hear the fascinating story of their latest venture working collaboratively with artists from Myanmar.  Read on to learn how cultural conflicts and artistic disappointments were eventually resolved.

New Zero Art Space in Myanmar and Cemeti Art House in Indonesia joined hands in June this year to present the collaborative project and exhibition “+Road|5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists in Yogyakarta.

Within a tight schedule of two weeks, five Burmese artists and five Indonesian artists interacted and produced performances, videos and installations.

These creations acted as a language through which the two distinctive cultures could communicate their differences, resolve conflicts and move closer to mutual understanding.

The five participating Myanmar artists included Aye Ko, (Executive Director of New Zero Art Space), May Moe Thu, Htoo Aung Kyaw, Nwe (Thin Lei Nwe) and Zoncy (Zon Sapal Phyu). The five Indonesian artists were Doger Panorsa, Ikhsan Syahirul Alim (Ican), Restu Ratnaningtyas, Ristyanto Cahyo Wibowo and Wibowo Adi Utama.

To understand more about how the collaborative project came into being, how the event was viewed by the local art community, and to gain some insight into the Indonesian art scene, Art Radar Asia spoke with Nindityo Adipurnomo, one of the executive directors of Cemeti Art House.

+Road| 5 Myanmar Artists + 5 Jogja Artists, a collaborative exhibition currently being held at Indonesian art gallery, Cemeti Art House.

From a commercial art promotion to a cross-cultural art exchange project

Nindityo Adipurnomo explained that the idea of collaboration between the two art spaces was initiated by Aye Ko, Myanmar artist and director of New Zero Art Space and Community New Zero Art Space. Ko thought that, by hosting a project of this kind, New Zero Art Space might land an exchange grant from the Asian Cultural Council in New York. With this in mind, Ko proposed the idea to Mella Jaarsma and Nindityo Adipurnomo, co-owners/coordinators of the renowned Indonesian gallery Cemeti Art House and winners of the 2006 John D. Rockefeller 3rd Awards, who expressed a keen interest.

Art censored in Burma

The couple saw “+Road” as an excellent opportunity to develop networks within regions such as Myanmar. They had learnt much from New Zero Art Space and they had been seeking opportunities to cooperate with them since attending the New Zero Art Space organised 2007 ASEAN Contemporary Art Exchange Program, an event open only to members of the space. Of the programme, Adipurnomo recalled how each of the artists, gallery owners and art activists who participated had to bring along a single painting of a limited size with no political message. The night before the event, the Burmese police came and censored the art works on display, and removed the works of four Burmese artists. Despite this horrific episode, the programme was fruitful; each of the art activists present conducted informative talks.

In addition, “+Road”‘s aims were in line with the project-based platform Cemeti Art House has been working under since the beginning of 2010. This new platform focuses on an alternative approach to art and society in Indonesia. They have a successful model to follow; Landing Soon (2006-2009) was a three year exchange program in which one Dutch artist and one Indonesian artist resided in Yogyakarta and received assistance, guidance, and support from the studio manager through weekly progress reports.

“The reason [for launching the new platform] was because we were fed up with all the exhibition models, art fairs, auctions in Indonesia; [these events] never pay attention to invest in a kind of  healthy regeneration of the art scene. No, I’m one hundred percent sure that they do not realise this. The Indonesian commercial art scene has been investing in promotion only.” Nindityo Adipurnom

Conflicting goals of Burmese and Indonesians

However, it turned out Aye Ko wasn’t thinking about the kind of collaborative exhibition Adipurnomo had in mind. Basically, he just wanted to use Cemeti’s exhibition space for a group exhibition of five Myanmar artists and five Indonesian artists, where published catalogues could distributed. His commercial approach to the collaboration, which did not aim to provide any platform for meaningful interactions among artists, was certainly not what Cemeti Art House wanted.

“We did not want to only organise a promotional exhibition that has no interesting curatorial subject, not being involved in how artists go through their process before presenting their works in exhibition. And so we, in the end, asked [the artists] to just come to Yogyakarta; not bring any paintings with them. Instead, each of [the artists] should be well prepared with an individual artwork presentation in Power Point to see what we can do together.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Jaarsma and Adipurnomo tried carefully to intervene and transform the  cooperation into a “mutual exchange project” instead: a program involving short events such as artists’ talks, discussions, workshops and master classes, allowing both groups of artists to understand each other better and create possibilities for a deeper collaboration, with an exhibition as the end goal. And in Jaarsma and Adipurnomo’s eyes, it was a success. “+Road” became a truly collaborative project for the ten artists involved, where they could engage themselves in intensive cultural exchanges and meaningful interactions.

Mix of talents strongly affects resulting artwork

The choice of the five Burmese artists and the five Indonesian artists was made separately by New Zero Art Space and Cemeti Art House respectively. Adipurnomo launched an open application, attracting nearly seventy artists, and selected five from this group. He admits to being disappointed with the choice made by New Zero Art Space. Among the five Burmese artists, only two were professional artists, while the rest of them were new members of New Zero Art Space and were very amateur beginners. In contrast, the Yogyakarta artists selected by Cemeti Art House had a lot professional experience.

Disappointment at Cemeti

“[The Burmese artists] are bad painters: they cannot draw, have no sense of colour and have, in fact, a very superficial sense of  exploring materials… While our local Yogyakarta artists you can see, … that they were very well trained academically, strong and skillfull in model drawings, sketches, colours, well experienced in treating materials with good sense.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Burmese artists favour performance art, political art

Although the Burmese artists were generally inexperienced painters, their strength lay in performance art, an artistic skill which the Yogyakarta artists were either still developing or not interested in exploring.

“My very personal observation was that the artists from Yangoon were very much into performance art. They are very direct, expressive and always fulled of political intentions in their performance. They really use their body as the most direct tool and medium…. It often becomes a physical movement that is very close to a dance performance. One of our local artists participating in this project was [hesitant] to join the workshop on performance!” Nindityo Adipurnomo

This mix of opposing artistic strengths, differences which became very apparent during the workshops, influenced what was produced for the exhibition finale. “+Road” showcased a lot of video works and photographs, and a smaller number of installation and performance pieces, with no paintings at all.

Zon Sapal Phyu's 'Revolution of Own Space' (mixed media).

Aye Ko's 'No Money, Hungry, Hard Eating' (photography, video).

Wibowo Adi Utama's 'Art-NARCHY' (video).

Ikhsan Syahirul Alim's 'Commando Dance' (video, karaoke).

More opportunities open up future collaboration

Overall, Cemeti Art House viewed the collaboration as a successful pilot project, achieving its aim of engaging artists from two cultures in interactions that led to a gradual mutual understanding.

“[The] major understanding [the artists] did have was cultural dialogues. This is something that I find you can not just improvise in an Internet facilitation. You really need to [be] facing each other. Building up your assumptions, making a lot of missunderstandings and opening up conflicts, so that in the end you will understand each other better. We did ask every Indonesian artist to be a partner everyday by sitting on the same motorcycle – one motorcycle for two artists – during the two week intensive dialogue…. The time was just too short for so many reasons. But now we know better how to handle and open up more networks with young artists, who are really willing to continue in a deeper context.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

Working towards a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene

Adipurnomo considers Cemeti Art House to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the Indonesian contemporary art scene, which has grown largely commercially up to this point. From “rumours and a very quick-glimpse analyzation and observation”, he suggests that banks have been gaining control of the Indonesian art market.

Banking money makes a mark in the Indonesian art market

“In the beginning, [art] was dominated by rich people around the tobacco industry. Of course, Dr. Oei Hong Djien was the respected ‘pioneer’ of the Indonesian collectors, among many others who were more nationally known; Dr. Oei Hong Djien is going international quickly. He was also very generous in educating and influencing many other rich Chinese people in the tobacco industry to invest their capital in art. Starting from that mile stone, Indonesian art dealers and collectors [were] growing fast. Most of [these collectors] were hunting names instead of, you know, a ‘quality’. They created many kinds of tricks in order to get as many ‘big names’ as possible, which they could easily call ‘masterpiece’ makers. Auctions and art fairs were becoming a medium for them to gamble in so many tricky ways. This rapid growth of gambling spirit stimulated many other rich people, out of this tobacco industry, to borrow money from banks to join this gambling. That is the way banks are now getting involved. A lot of bankers started to invest their capital in the arts.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

New Jogyakarta Art Fair attracts outside collectors

With the opening of the Jogyakarta Art Fair recently, art dealers and bankers, many of whom had never visited the region before, flocked to Cemeti Art House to see what was happening. This is, perhaps, further evidence that the Indonesian arts scene is commercialising.

“Cemeti Art House is considered to be ground-breaking in promoting a healthy regeneration of the art scene. We have only been ‘fighting’ for that faith for so long. Of course, we are not the only ones. There are many others, such us Ruang Rupa in Jakarta, and the new comers like JARF (Jatiwangi Artists in Residence Festival), Forum Lenteng, and many other smaller scale [organisations] who come up and disappear and come up with different formulas [only] to dissappear again.” Nindityo Adipurnomo

CBKM/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Myanmar artists, Indonesian artists, art spaces, collaborative art

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Ai Weiwei and Vito Acconci wrap up major collaboration at Hong Kong’s Para/Site art space

Posted by artradar on July 6, 2010


AI WEIWEI CHINESE ART HONG KONG ART SPACES ARTIST COLLABORATIONS

With a new project, Chinese art all-rounder Ai Weiwei, in cooperation with American artist Vito Acconci, has brought fresh dialogues between the East and West to Hong Kong, a monumental event in Ai Weiwei’s career and for the Hong Kong and the Asian art scenes.

installation view at para:site art space

A view of "Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project", an installation work recently shown at Para/Site art space in Hong Kong.

Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project“, held at Hong Kong’s Para/Site art space, has provided the opportunity for Ai Weiwei to meet and work for the first time with Vito Acconci, an American artist whom he admires.

Vito Acconci

Like Ai Weiwei, Acconci shifts between performance art and architecture, and has gained a global reputation for his bold art stunts.

In his 1971 performance entitled Seedbed, Acconci engaged his visitors in restrained sexual intimacy by masturbating continuously under a wooden platform in a gallery.

recent article published on Time Out Hong Kong describes the artist as someone who “works not as a singular artist but as an architect and ‘collaborator’ for Acconci Studios. The controversial questioning of his earlier career has been replaced with an intellegent whimsy in design. Structures roam, twist and fold within their sites. Each edifice constantly contemplating the function of space and the understanding of linear time and form.”

Ai Weiwei

Having been involved in design, architecture, curating, writing and publishing, Ai Weiwei is one of the most controversial contemporary artists of his generation. Asked to describe his art by the Financial Times, Ai Weiwei gave the following reply:

“That question makes me almost speechless, because I wonder how much do I know about it, even though it was me that did it? What part is conscious and is that consciousness important? And what part has come out only because of the public’s sentiment? And is that important?”

An article recently published in the Guardian noted that Ai Weiwei’s work “has become overtly political, blurring the boundary between art and activism”, referring to the artist’s Remembering installation. This artwork was comprised of 9,000 children’s backpacks, in reminiscence of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake casualties.

In recollection of Ai Weiwei’s past performances, an article published in the Financial Times discussed both Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), “a triptych of photographs in which he is seen casually dropping a 2,000-year-old vase to shatter on the ground”, and an exhibition of 46 avant-garde artists including himself called Fuck Off (2000), which was closed down by authorities. The artwork’s Chinese title was the milder Uncooperative Approach. Despite his strong defiance against the Beijing government, Ai Weiwei was the designer of the Bird’s Nest at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

vito acconci and ai weiwei discussing their collaboration

Vito Acconci and Ai Weiwei in discussion regarding "Acconti Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project", an installation work recently shown at Para/Site art space in Hong Kong.

Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project

For “Acconci Studio + Ai Weiwei: A Collaborative Project”, Para/Site was transformed into a three-dimensional grid where Ai and Acconci developed their work “in constant mutation and accumulation during the two months that it [was] open to the public.” The end product was an unorthodox, multilayered installation with an accumulated collection of new works, models, drawings and various materials that were accumulated as a result of ongoing discussions between Ai Weiwei, Vito Acconci and their studios.

“The collaboration with Vito Acconci at Para/Site art space is an effort in figuring out ways to collaborate, ways [of] defining the actual process of working together. Through the development of a gallery project we are to think [of] the formation of a city.” Ai Weiwei (as quoted on the Para/Site website)

“I would never have imagined that today I could become active in art and have a chance to meet Vito…I was a young man just come from China. I was trying to be part of art history, but then it was impossible…Neither of us have any nostalgia towards the past, but we are both ready to think about today. That is our common ground.” Ai Weiwei (as quoted by the Financial Times)

The project is not just an interesting addition to Ai’s collection of stunning works. As Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, the Executive Director and Curator of Para/Site, told Art Radar Asia, it has also created a platform for dialogues about the arts in Hong Kong and, on a larger scale, throughout Asia.

“This project reflects the complex production system that surrounds the creation of new works of art/projects in the 21st century. Dialogue is an important element of this project, which is as much about exchange of ideas as it is about production. Until now most exhibitions in this part of Asia focused on exhibiting a relevant Western artist or showcasing a leading artist from Asia. But the dialogue between what is happening in different parts of the world is lacking. This conversation is conducive to new ideas and it opens new paths of research. Then, there is also the challenge to put together practitioners from different generations, that also operate within different studio cultures. It proves Hong Kong can be a platform for leading international projects, and positions this city as a destination for art lovers, and not just a stopover. It is also a picture of what Hong Kong could be in the international scene if we had some rigorous planning and more opportunities to engage with current discourses around the world. This project is about taking curatorial risks, to start a journey without knowing the final destination.”

According to the art space’s website, Para/Site was chosen as the base for the project because of its autonomy from large organisations, enabling it to accommodate the innovativeness of the project.

CBKM/KN

Related topics: Ai Weiwei, collaborative art, venues – Hong Kong, Chinese artists

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

Posted by artradar on June 30, 2010


ART PROFESSIONALS HONG KONG ART INDONESIAN ART ART COLLECTING

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

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

Valerie Doran: Hong Kong curator and art critic

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

 

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

Art curator and critic Valerie Doran.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Oei Hong Djien: Indonesian art specialist and collector

 

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

Indonesian art specialist and collector Dr. Oei Hong Djien.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unapologetically political Burmese artist Chaw Ei Thein discusses her country and her art: Asia Art Archive interview

Posted by artradar on June 29, 2010


MYANMAR ART BURMESE ART ASIA ART ARCHIVE ARTIST INTERVIEW

After growing up under Myanmar‘s military junta, Burmese artist Chaw Ei Thein‘s works is unapologetically political. In a recent interview with Asia Art Archive the artist speaks about the connection between her art and the politics in Myanmar as well as her hopes for the future of Burmese art.

Although she received several art awards as a child, Thein did not pursue art as a career until after graduating university with a law degree in 1994.  Thein became interested in performace art in the late 1990’s and began to create her own works with encouragement from more experienced performance artists.

Artists Chaw Ei Thein and Htein Lin at Lin's London exhibition

Artists Chaw Ei Thein and Htein Lin at Lin's London exhibition.

In 2004, Thein took part in the Nippon International Performance Art Festival (NIPAF) which she credits as opening the door for her involvement in the performance art community. During the interview with Asia Art Archive she does not hesitate to humbly thank her mentors for such opportunities.

“I did my very first street performance in Tokyo – and I still thank Seiji Shimoda and Aye Ko for giving me this great opportunity… Seiji Shimoda and NIPAF have played an important role in engaging Asian and international artists, to work together and create more networks. This was how I got the chance to network and make contacts with many Asian and western artists”

From this point, her career as a performance artist took off. She participated in several other major art festivals such as Open in Beijing in 2007. In addition to performance, Thein maintained an interest in several other mediums ranging from painting to installation.

Regardless of the medium she chooses, the political nature of her work remains a constant. At times, Thein even feels limited by her drive to reflect on the current climate in her homeland.

Thein's performance piece at NARS Open Studios event, May 15, 2010

Thein's performance piece at NARS Open Studios event in May 2010.

“Whenever I try to create something, it just appears in my mind as relating to my country’s current situation – my friends who are still in prison, and the people in Burma… I cannot get away from this issue, even today. I don’t know how to change the subject to create something else. That is my own problem, and the conflict within me”

The politcally minded Thein also elaborates on her struggles with automatic self-censorship even when working outside of Myanmar. For those artists who grew up in Myanmar and now have the chance to work abroad, concern for friends and family back home affects the kind of art they create. Fear of retaliation against loved ones living in Myanmar leads Thein to think carefully about what kind of art she she displays in public in any location.

Chaw Ei Thein, MEs, Performance, 2003

Chaw Ei Thein in a 2003 performance piece.

” I am a Burmese artist living under a military junta, I am used to being limited with what I can and cannot create inside Burma… There is a problem now whenever I want to create something: I have controlled myself already, automatically. …These “fears” and “worries” control me even when I am creating art outside of Burma.”

Being faced with the task of connecting the creative and political aspects of her art, Thein has developed ways to show subtle but powerful connections between the two. Though the artist worries that some of these connections may be lost on Western audiences, the conditions in Mayanmar are on her mind daily and show up in her art just as often.

“How can I help do something for the people who cannot speak out about what is happening in my country? I cannot escape these thoughts – that is why all of my paintings and performances are mostly about this.”

It is clear that the artist also has a passion for art education, a field that she feels is underdeveloped in Myanmar, especially in rural areas. In addition to preparing for upcoming shows, including a collaborative show with Htein Lin in November, Thein’s current activities include readying her second children’s’ book on art.

When asked by Asia Art Archive what she would improve in Myanmar’s art scene Thein’s answers reflect her desire to bring art to the people.

“Most people think about having art activities in cities like Rangoon (Yangon). I am more interested in doing it in other regions and places. It could be anywhere…”

Chaw Ei Thein, HeShe I, Acrylic on Paper, 2007

Chaw Ei Thein, 'HeShe I', acrylic on paper, 2007.

Even with all of this, Thein doesn’t take herself too seriously. She is constantly moving from city to city, still unsure of where to settle down and seemingly not too anxious to make this decision. For her, art is not about formality or rules, it is simply about making the art that she wants to create.  Whether people applaud her or not, she continues to create powerful and moving pieces on her own terms.

Read the full article on Asia Art Archive

EH/KN

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Posted in Collage, Human Body, Installation, Myanmar/Burmese, Oil, Painting, Performance, Political, Prison, Public art, Sculpture, Social, Southeast Asian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Xu Zhen takes on Middle Eastern identities and cultures as the new artists’ collective alias Madeln at the Ikon Gallery, UK

Posted by artradar on June 16, 2010


MADEIN ARTIST COLLECTIVE CHINESE ART UK GALLERY SHOW

Seeing One’s Own Eyes is the first European exhibition by MadeIn, a new artists’ collective founded in 2009 in Shanghai by Xu Zhen (b. 1977, Shanghai), often heralded as one of the most important and renowned conceptual artists to have emerged from China since the 1990s.

While the work is all made in China, Madeln impersonates a fictional group of Middle Eastern artists, creating a kind of exhibition in disguise, “an exhibition of an exhibition.”  The use of this technique enables Xu to play down his personal identity.

Derived from “Made In”, two words that refer to manufacturing (with country of origin not specified), the name Madeln also phonetically translates into Chinese for “without a roof ” (‘méi d˘ı∙ng’), suggesting an openness to the collective’s work.

Through a range of media including sculpture, video and mixed-media installation, Madeln presents clichéd images of the Middle East, as a war-torn part of the world, associated with the oil industry, death, violence, human suffering and religious conflict. By raising issues of cultural perception, the exhibition encourages us to take a clearer view of current affairs in that region of the world.

The most recent work titled Hey, are you ready? (2009–2010) comprises of three large white sculptures made from polystyrene, one of the many by-products derived from the distillation of oil. These objects form neat, crisp packaging for the protection of loaded symbols including mosques, crescents, oil barrels and Kalashnikov rifles, revealed by negative space.

Spread (2009), a series of wall hangings covered with cartoon imagery, deal explicitly with the geographical politics of Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, China, Europe and the USA. Key political figures and scenarios are starkly drawn and exaggerated to billboard proportions, provoking and highlighting the often unconstructive and negative debates that are encountered in this area.

'Spread' by Madeln (2009) Mixed Media on Canvas, Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery

'Spread' by Madeln (2009), mixed media on canvas. Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

In Perfect Volume (2009) the toe-ends of combat desert boots create a circle on the floor representing a row of absent soldiers as imagined casualties. This references the eternity and infinity of the circle, and is further depicted in the piece Machine for Perpetual Motion (2009), a model of an oil pump, constructed meccano-style but made from razor wire. The energy needed for its movement is blatantly taken from an electrical socket.

The illusionary installation Calm (2009) is made of building debris, a carpet of bits of brick and rubble that is still at first glance. Slowly it reveals itself as animated, gently moving up and down as if it were breathing like the survivor of a bomb blast, trapped and awaiting rescue. This notion of destructive power also features in the low-level floor-based installationThe Colour of Heaven (2009), where mushroom clouds from atomic bomb explosions are placed under assorted glasses.

'The Colour of Heaven' by Madeln (2009) Glasses, painting Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery

'The Colour of Heaven' by Madeln (2009), glasses, painting. Courtesy the artist and ShanghART Gallery.

The title of this exhibition refers to a verse in the Koran, “My way, and that of my followers, is to call you to God, on evidence as clear as seeing with one’s own eyes” (Sura 12, verse 108). Freely translated it is an opportunity for to reflect, a consideration of how we see – by “seeing one’s own eyes” – as much as what we see.

Seeing One’s Own Eyes” is a collaboration with S.M.A.K. (Belgium) and is on display at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, until 11 July, 2010.

Two other articles regarding Xu Zhen’s Madeln and “Seeing One’s Own Eyes”, when the show was on display in other international locations, are:

RM/KN

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Posted in Art as meditation, Cartoon, Chinese, Conceptual, Consumerism, Events, Fact and fiction blur, Found object, Gallery shows, Illustration, Installation, Middle Eastern, Political, Sculpture, Shows, UK, Video, War | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Visual culture of Shanghai on show at San Francisco Asian Art Museum

Posted by artradar on June 9, 2010


SHANGHAI ART SAN FRANCISCO MUSEUM SHOW

For a long time in the West, the image of Asia has relied on popular, and almost always Western, media imagery. From medieval travel literature to films in today’s time, the tropes of the orient repeat itself with every kung fu movie. At Shanghai, at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the image of China comes from the subject itself.

Taking a cue from the 30th anniversary of the San Francisco-Shanghai sister-city relationship, “Shanghai” presents a portrait of a city evolving over 160 years. Accompanying the exhibition are year-long festivals, concerts, workshops, film screenings, talks and discussions. The exhibition features more than 130 artworks including China Trade oil paintings, Shanghai deco furniture and rugs, movie clips, revolutionary posters, and video and contemporary art installations.

Nanjing Road – From Series of Views of Shanghai, after 1937. By Zhao Weimin (dates unknown). Chromolithograph on paper. Collection of the Shanghai History Museum.

Mirroring the life pulse of Shanghai over a century and half are its art and art objects. Neatly divided into four time periods, “Beginnings” (1850–1911), “High Times” (1912–1949), “Revolution” (1920–1976), and “Shanghai Today” (1980–present), the exhibition presents a rare glimpse of Shanghai’s visual culture in transition from a modest Chinese port town to a bustling cosmopolitan city.

The success as well as the challenge of this exhibition lies in presenting a complex and multi-layered visual culture within the framework of a linear narrative. Beginning with China Trade paintings from the 1850s, painted in large numbers to document the world of European colonialists, the exhibition moves forward to highlight artists from the Shanghai School who broke away from the traditional mode of landscape painting and created expressive and dramatic works for wealthy Chinese patrons. The later arrival of print technology lead to mass production and there are a number of posters and other graphic art on display, including the infamous large-format colorful government propaganda posters.

Landscape-Commemorating Huang Binhong-Scroll, 2007. By Shen Fan (b. 1952). Installation with lights and sound. Courtesy of the artist.

Landscape-Commemorating Huang Binhong-Scroll, 2007. By Shen Fan (b. 1952). Installation with lights and sound. Courtesy of the artist.

Shanghai Todaypresents a rare opportunity to interact with works produced exclusively by artists based in Shanghai. Embracing installation and video art, this section features some important Shanghai artists. A highlight of the show is Shen Fans 2007 installation Landscape-Commemorating Huang Binhong-Scroll, an homage to one of China’s great artists of the twentieth century. This installation piece utilizes computer-operated neon lights and music.

The city as a direct subject is very much present in the works of installation artists Zhang Jianjun (b. 1955) and Liu Jianhua (b. 1962). Both artists deal with the contemporary realities of Shanghai and its city space.

Zhang Jianjun’s work Vestiges of a Process: Shanghai Garden is an installation composed of two silicone rubber Taihu rocks, manufactured from molds of real Taihu rocks that are prized in traditional garden culture for providing city dwellers with symbolic access to nature. The rocks are accompanied by a silicone rubber vase and both are arranged on a pavement of gray antique bricks which have been acquired from the demolition of Shanghai houses constructed between 1923 and 1926. Visitors are invited to walk through the installation.

Shadow in the Water (detail), 2002-2008. By Liu Jianhua (b. 1962). Installation with porcelain and light. Collection of the artist.

Shadow in the Water (detail), 2002-2008. By Liu Jianhua (b. 1962). Installation with porcelain and light. Collection of the artist.

Liu Jianhua’s Can You Tell Me? consists of a series of stainless steel books suspended from a vertical wall. Each book presents two questions about Shanghai’s future, one on each page, that are translated into five languages: Chinese, English, French, German and Japanese. Ever-changing, propelled by its role as an economic powerhouse, the city suggests endless possibilities, some of which Liu asks visitors to contemplate.

For sometime now, the video format has been the preferred medium for many contemporary Shanghai artists and the exhibition closes with contemporary video art, one of the mediums in which Shanghai artists are taking a worldwide lead. Yang Fudong (b. 1971) is a contemporary video artist who features prominently in this section with three video works: City Light (2000), Liu Lan (2003) and Honey (2003). A celebrated photographer, videographer, and film maker, Fudong frequently explores feelings of longing and displacement. His works often focus on the lives of young urbanites who, despite possessing admirable qualities such as education or beauty, may not be well-adjusted to the environment in which they live.

Shanghaiis on at the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco) until September 2010. It has been co-organized by the Shanghai Museum and the Asian Art Museum, with assistance from the Shanghai International Culture Association.

AM/KN

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Posted in Chinese, Museum shows, Museums | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

New York gallery Tyler Rollins holds rare showing of Thai artist Jakkai Siributr

Posted by artradar on May 13, 2010


THAI ARTIST NEW YORK RELIGIOUS ART

Showing at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, a New York gallery which specializes in Asian art, Jakkai Siributr’s Karma Cash and Carry features a series of textile compositions alongside installation and video works.

Karma Cash and Carry installation view

Not a first for Siributr, the theme of materialism and Thai cultural heritage, a significant part of which is the Buddhist religion, resurfaces with Karma Cash and Carry. In 2008, Tyler Rollins featured an installation by the artist called Temple Fair, challenging notions of religion, society and politics in the Thai context.

Red Buddha at Karma Cash and Carry

Siributr’s current exhibition extrapolates the concept of everyday materialism in religion as a Karmic convenience store, where merit can be bought and sold. Making use of daily objects and ritual practices, his work puts forth powerful visual stimulus to encourage an understanding of the growing consumerism that afflicts every social practice.

Buddhist shrine- part of the installation at Karma Cash and Carry

Drawing from an ancient legacy of Thai textile art, the artist’s work primarily uses the textile medium with a contemporary sensibility. Maintaining a crucial relationship with the legacy of Thai textile, Siributr’s use of fabric in Karma Cash and Carry pushes the boundaries of the medium.

Additionally, Siributr uses the video format for the first time here.  Evoking a cosmopolitan space where popular culture mixes freely with ancient faith, the installation presents the loss of the sanctity of the essentially non-materialistic Buddhist faith. Siributr himself is a practicing Buddhist and has often articulated deep concerns about the commercialization of the Buddhist faith. In Thailand however, such articulations are unwelcome by the Government and the largely Buddhist polity. To battle this, Siributr tactfully appoints irony and satire to veil his dissent.

Jakkai Siributr is considered one of Southeast Asia’s pre-eminent textile based artists and his work is often politically charged. He also featured in Viewpoints and Viewing Points – 2009 Asian Art Biennial in Taiwan.

Karma Cash and Carry is on at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, New York, until 5 June, 2010.

AM/KN

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Posted in Art spaces, Buddhist art, Events, Gallery shows, New York, Religious art, Thai, USA, Venues | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The ones to watch: four young Taiwanese artists in Taipei Arts Awards

Posted by artradar on January 27, 2010


Taipei Arts Awards celebrates works of talented up-and-comers

Four winners have been selected from 380 submitted works in the Taipei Arts Awards 2009. Ni Xiang, Chang Li-ren, Chang Huei-ming and Tao Mei-yu won with large-scale mixed-media installation pieces.

The judging panel was comprised of renowned Taiwanese art professionals Wang Jun-Jieh, Wu Ma-li, Manray Hsu, Kao Chung-li, Rita Chang, Lu Hsien-ming and Wu Chao-ying.

The four winners

Ni Xiang’s Compensation Soon uses handmade cardboard to form the shape of the body of a car and this has been placed over an old style red motorcycle. Both the paper car and the graffiti on the walls show the effort to restore missing parts by drawing in a way often seen on TV screens.

Compensation Soon, Ni Xiang

image courtesy of TFAM

Chang Li-ren’s Model Community is a hand made white-walled apartment community. When the crosshairs of the sniper’s scope fall on residents and the sound of a gun being fired is heard, bullet holes appear in the white walls and the people inside the apartment are destroyed, a scene that is projected onto five screens and can be viewed live from different angles.

Model Community, Chang Li-ren

image courtesy of TFAM

Chang Huei-ming’s Watching Dust In the Sunlight 14:05 portrays afternoon sunlight shining onto a corner of life in which an everyday spilled cup vibrates quickly, the ripples making the inverted reflection of the multicolored curtains in the center of the spilled water hazy.

Watching Dust In the Sunlight, Chang Huei-ming

image courtesy of TFAM

In Tao Mei-yu’s Language, ten LCD screens have been hung in a cylindrical space and people from different countries mimic the call of the same animal, using a picture of a single animal to contrast the linguistic modes of different countries. The artist has attempted to use anthropological observational and measuring methods to investigate the differences in the process of communication in different language systems.

Language, Tao Mei-yu

image courtesy of TFAM

The Taipei Art Awards

Established in 2001 and organised by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, the Taipei Arts Awards aim to reward works that have unique artistic style and reflect contemporary culture, providing a stage on which new artists can show their talent. Uniquely, the competition does not divide works by medium nor does it limit size.

“The winning works in previous years have been displayed to widespread acclaim, showing that the holding of this competition injects a burst of vitality into contemporary art in Taiwan,” said Hsiao-yun Hsieh, Director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

KN/KCE

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Posted in Emerging artists, Events, Installation, Museums, Prizes, Professionals, Taiwan, Taiwanese | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A common man uncommonly direct – Indian contemporary sculptor Subodh Gupta in conversation in Hong Kong

Posted by artradar on December 6, 2009


CONVERSATION SUBODH GUPTA INDIAN CONTEMPORARY ART

New Delhi-based contemporary artist Subodh Gupta is not backward in coming forward with his views. Smiling firmly, he chose not to respond to introductory remarks made by moderator William Pym, Managing Editor of Art Asia Pacific magazine at a talk hosted as a side-event of the Christie’s Hong Kong autumn 2009 auctions .

Instead he turned to face the audience: “Let me tell you all clearly why I am here today. Originally this was supposed to be a one-on-one talk with Art Asia Pacific. I was happy about that. But then it turned into a group talk hosted by Christies. I prefer to work with curators, writers and critics rather than auction houses”. Christie’s Hugo Weihe, International Director of Asian Art who was sitting in the front row looked slightly startled.

So Subodh Gupta is a man who is not afraid to say what he thinks….this talk was shaping up to be interesting.

Subodh Gupta

Subodh Gupta

Moving attention swiftly to the art, Pym invited Gupta to discuss a series of slides of his works many of which were featured in his Hauser and Wirth solo show “Common Man” which ended October 2009.

Subodh Gupta, A Penny for Belief II

One set of works comprised three over-sized thalis (thali is a Hindi word meaning plate on which a series of small bowls of food are placed) each featuring its own grouping of like items: used sandals, kitchen utensils and coins in oil.
Gupta explained that a primary source of inspiration is what he sees and has seen in his everyday environment, the objects which surround him. His trademark references to Indian kitchen utensils reference his earliest experiences:

He was born (one of six children) in the northeastern state of Bihar, which he describes as the Wild West of India. His father, a railway guard, was a drinker and died in his early forties, when Gupta was 12. His mother, who came from a farming family, sent him off to live with her brother for a few years in a remote village — “Not a single school kid wore shoes, and there is no road to go to school. Sometimes we stop in the field and we sit down and eat green chickpea before we go to school. (Times)

Today however Gupta sporting international urban grunge-style clothing complete with goatee, only haltingly accepted the  proposal suggested by Pym that he might be a cultural ambassador for India, someone who plays a role in teaching the world about his native country. “My inspiration comes from everyday life. Yes I suppose you can say I am an ambassador but only by chance because I am from India. Every artist reflects their own cultural environment. Nowadays I live in the world, I see more of the world. My art expresses that.”

The assemblage of local and global influences is evident in Penny for Belief II in which a large thali is filled with oil and coins. He explained that his globe-trotting lifestyle led him to notice that many cultures share behaviourse for expample the belief in the value of throwing coins for blessings. Local rites have underlying universal themes.  “In the United Kingdom, China and India, they throw coins into different things: oil, water and empty pots. But they all believe in throwing coins”.

Observant pattern-seeking Gupta is an artist who believes that art is a conceptual endeavour. Ever direct, he looked straight at the audience as he said: “If you still believe  that artists today make art themselves, you are romanticising.   My job as an artist is to think, conceive the ideas. My art is made up for me by expert artisans all over the world, the thali works were made in America. The Jeff Koons boxes were cast in Zurich.”

After leaving school, Gupta joined a small theatre group in Khagaul and worked as an actor for five years. This has informed his view of his role as an artist. “As an artist I have to adapt myself to the subject of my art. An artist is like an actor, he also has to adapt himself”.

Gupta clearly relishes art-making as a participatory and flexible endeavour and  he is comfortable allowing viewers of his work to join in too. He explained that he let visitors throw their own coins into his thali artwork. “Didn’t the guards at the Hauser and Wirth gallery stop people from doing that, they are usually very protective of the art” asked Pym looking surprised. “No we told the guards to let visitors throw their own coins. It is part of the art and, you know what, we had coins from all over the world”.

Subodh Gupta, I Believe You

Subodh Gupta, I Believe You

Despite his willingness to farm out the manual process of art-making, Gupta’s has a deep respect for labour and hard toil. He described how the sandals in “I Believe You” were sourced: “I noticed that  the labourers in India wear sandals and each bears the mark, the footprint of its owner. Unique marks, like fingerprints. I bought some new sandals and swapped them for the workers’ used slippers. They symbolise these people in India – and of course all over the world – who work day to day for their bread and butter. These hard-working honest labourers. In this piece I am saying: I honour you, worship you, believe you. It is almost like a prayer. Thalis have associations not only with food but also with prayer.”

Subodh Gupta

Labourers and travel remained the focus of the conversation as it turned to slides of his renowned luggage trolley series which included one of Subodh Gupta’s sculpture of a gilded bronze luggage trolley and three pieces of aluminium luggage called Vehicle for the Seven Seas (2004). According to Artcurial, this work posted an auction record price for the Indian artist when it fetched €502,330 ($785,243), more than triple its €140,000-180,000 estimate, under the gavel on April 3 2008.

Though he must have recounted the story behind this series many times before, Gupta’s explanation was engaging and articulate. “I had not travelled outside India until 1993. After that I often flew between Europe and India and because I bought cheap tickets, there was usually a stopover in Dubai or Kuwait. I noticed that on the return journey to India the plane was often empty for the first leg of the journey and then in the Middle East stopover the plane was filled with Indians, my people, migrant workers from India.”

He noticed that they had a particular and unique way of wrapping up their belongings for the journey. He became more and more intrigued by these packages and pieces of luggage which were so tightly and securely wrapped. ” I began to get talking to the passengers who were tailors and taxi drivers and construction labourers … I asked them what was inside. It turned out that the contents were quite ordinary, their everyday belongings plus a few clothes for their children, perhaps a little jewellery for their wives. But these parcels seemed to me to be themselves like jewellery and so I started working on them”.

Wrappings as a source of inspiration and of value in their own right is a motif which recurs in his work. In his ‘Jeff the Koons’ installation, Gupta has cast in aluminum copies of the cardboard boxes that Koons’ mailorder ‘Puppy’ sculptures come in.

Subodh Gupta, Jeff The Koons, installation Hauser and Wirth

Subodh Gupta, Jeff The Koons, installation Hauser and Wirth

In this work, Gupta shows us his playful side. Packaging materials rather than the contents become the focus of attention, the new and greater source of interest. And Gupta is not afraid to have a little fun, be a little cheeky: he distracts us and leads our attention away from the art (even though this art is made by world-famous artist Jeff Koons) and towards the packaging of it as if it were just as or more important. But Gupta’s irony is only employed with permission. “I first saw the boxes in Saint Tropez. When I was told that they were the boxes in which Koons’ sculptures had travelled there I was inspired. I wanted to cast them. I was told that maybe Jeff Koons would sue me unless I asked permission. So I waited 3 years until mutual friends finally introduced us and Koons gave me permission.”

“Jeff the Koons” is a work reminiscent of Warhol’s pivotal 1964 work Brillo Boxes too. These days Gupta likes to riff on iconic Western artworks. This has earned him well-worn monikers such as the “Damien Hirst of Delhi” and “Marcel Duchamp of the Subcontinent”.  What does he think of these tags wondered Pym. “These titles seem to follow you from one press article to another. How do you feel about that?” “Well I find that it is usually the journalists who know the least about art who like to use them. I like Damien Hirst as an artist but I don’t see myself as him. Anyway what is written about me is not in my control. I just make art”

The son of a railway guard who arrived penniless in Delhi in 1988, Gupta who produced conventional canvases for many years before making sculpture,  has clearly come a long way. Now Gupta’s everyday, his immediate sphere, his source of inspiration is no longer a rural world of steel buckets and tiffin boxes. Instead his environment is one of international travel, world-class art and well-deserved prominence.

Yet despite all this, Subodh Gupta is a man who remembers and honours the “common man”. Pym recounted how Gupta’s bronze sculpture of hand-painted mangos Aam Aadmi was his mother’s favourite work in the show. Gupta laughed. “I am glad about that because it is my favourite work too. I named the show after this work. Aam is a reference to mango fruit and to the common man. It is the King of Fruit in India. It is grown everywhere unlike other fruit so everyone can eat mango.”

Subodh Gupta Aam Aadmi

Subodh Gupta, Aam Aadmi, 2009

Although he can be disconcertingly direct, sometimes to the point of being dismissive, it is hard not to like Subodh Gupta for his integrity, his humility and his fearlessness. Gupta may not be happy with Christie’s but the audience was thrilled by their up-close encounter with this complex engaging artist which Christie’s helped to host and promote.

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KCE


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Posted in China, Collaborative, Conceptual, Hong Kong, Indian, Interviews, Journey art, Large art, Migration, Participatory, Subodh Gupta | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »