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Art Radar speaks with Para/Site curator, director Fominaya on November auction event

Posted by artradar on October 19, 2010


ART AUCTION FUNDRAISER HONG KONG CURATOR INTERVIEW

Para/Site Art Space, a non-profit organisation located in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, will hold its annual Para/Site Fundraising Auction in early November this year. It will take place in the Kee Club, who also support the event, and is one of the most important fund-generators for the space. Para/Site is devoted to the exhibition of local and international contemporary art. It is also a space where seminars, talks and workshops take place regularly.

We had the opportunity to talk with the Para/Site Director and Curator Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya who has been working for the space for one-and-a-half-years, half of his contracted commitment. We wanted to know more about him, Para/Site Art Space and what special surprises the upcoming auction will have for attendees.

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, director and curator of Hong Kong's non-profit Para/Site Art Space. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, director and curator of Hong Kong's non-profit Para/Site Art Space. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Fominaya and Para/Site: small scale projects with international interaction

How long has Para/Site Art Space been running for?

Para/Site was founded in 1996. It was one of the first organisations of its kind to be created in Hong Kong. In 1997, other organisations like 1Artspace were created. Para/Site started as an artists’ collective, providing a space for member artists to exhibit. Very soon it became a space for other artists coming from abroad to show their work. Para/Site started an international programme and this has continued until now. Para/Site, in a way, was a pioneer in inviting curators to work full time. I am the second curator who has joined the space. (Editor’s note: Before Fominaya, Para/Site employed Tobias Berger, a German curator who worked for the space for three years from 2006 to 2008.)

Why did you decide to join Para/Site Art Space?

Several reasons made me want to join this space: I wanted to distance myself somewhat from the European gallery/art space model. I wanted also to be able to curate all major parts of a project. In Europe, the scale of the projects I was working on was very different. I was used to working on big projects within a large team. I wanted to experiment with small scale projects, as they give me a much closer relationship with the artist. But, we also have a minor budget here! It is very challenging (smiles). The logic of culture working in a large scale organisation or in a small one is very different. I have to say that it was very shocking for me at first! I had to adapt to a different scale of project and to a different culture.

What has changed since you first joined Para/Site Art Space?

We have worked harder to develop our facilities for our Hong Kong artists and also to increase our public programme by developing some workshops…. [We are] promoting local art abroad and making dialogue between the art and artists possible in and outside Hong Kong. An example of a workshop has been the participation of the director of education at MoMA, Philip Yenawine, who talked about museums and education. [Past] workshops weren’t that much focused on artists but more on art administrators, curators, etc..

ZHANG-Dali, 'AK-47 (V.7)', 2010, acrylic on canvas, 102 x 82 cm, unique edition. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Zhang Dali, 'AK-47 (V.7)', 2010, acrylic on canvas, 102 x 82 cm, unique edition. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

What have you been doing before you joined Para/Site Art Space?

Before coming to Para/Site I worked in a very different type of environment. I was working as a curator in a contemporary and modern art museum in Spain for six years. It was a different type of organisation; it was much larger and we covered all the twentieth century. At Para/Site Art Space … it’s a totally different type of environment, being a micro non-profit organisation with only four people working on our projects. Most of those projects are commissioned works that the artists develop for us. We have a very active international programme, which is very different from [the programme we had in] my previous job. That’s one of the challenges.

How is it funded?

The money raised in the auction covers almost half of our annual budget. That’s why it’s a very important event for us. We want to fundraise approximately HKD1,000,000 during this event. [We have organised] this kind of event for almost ten years now and we always had a very successful response. The rest of the budget is covered by the government, a French petrol group and smaller sponsors like corporate entities.

Rem Khoolhaas, 'Lagos', 2007, photographic paper, 112 x 84 cm, special edition for Para/Site Art Space. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Rem Koolhaas, 'Lagos', 2007, photographic paper, 112 x 84 cm, special edition for Para/Site Art Space. Image courtesy of Para/Site Art Space.

Para/Site Fundraising Auction to sell one-off and special edition works

Can you explain the fundraising event to me in a few words. How do you get the artwork? What happens on the night? How did you select the artists?

The event is basically a fundraising auction. We are very cheeky and we ask the artists to donate their work to Para/Site. Some of the participating artists have worked with us and the others just want to support us in a generous way. During the event, the idea is to sell all the works in a pleasant atmosphere. From the 28 artists that participate in the events, around ten of them will attend the event. Those ten artists are based in Hong Kong. Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to fly all the artist here but we’ll have a very good representation of the selection we made. This night is very special, because it gathers different kinds of personalities together: curators, art gallery owners, artists and art lovers. Make sure to RSVP to attend to the auction as the event, with 100 people expected, will have limited places.

For this fundraising auction, 28 artists will participate. This selection of artists is a good representation of what we do. It is a mix of local Chinese, Asian and international artists. Some are very established and others not so. We’ll have secured the participation of a very established artist, Rem Koolhaas, who is donating a photograph titled Lagos. He has never sold his work before. You know what to do if you want to get it: Come to the Kee Club and it’s yours! We also have Ai Weiwei, a very interesting artist who we already exhibited last April and May. [We have] Zhang Dali, one of the pioneers of the Chinese avant-guarde and a very established artist. We have also a good representation of artists from Hong Kong. This event is a great opportunity to get artworks of a very good quality. I want to highlight also the big support from some galleries and foundations that have donated works to Para/Site, such as Cat Street Gallery. All the works that will be part of the auction will be shown here in Para/Site space.

It’s a big challenge as we curate a large number of art works and deal with artists from all over the world,… almost thirty artists, most of whom do not live in Hong Kong. The process is really like curating a show, the only difference is that the artists donate their work instead of selling it. Surprisingly, most of the artists we approached, even those who didn’t have any past relationship with Para/Site, had heard about this space and wanted to help and support us. It is a big responsibility; it has to go well for us, but it is at the same time a celebration.

Ai Wei Wei, 'Swatter', 2007, brass gilded, 0.5 x 50 x 7cm.

Ai Weiwei, 'Swatter', 2007, brass gilded, 0.5 x 50 x 7cm.

Fominaya on running a non-profit art organisation

How do you choose which artists to represent Para/Site Art Space’s regular exhibition?

For the most part I invite the artists I want to work with. I do review the portfolios that we receive but the process I follow is mostly by invitation. I generally focus in the region, working with Hong Kong artists on international projects as a mission. I’m really focussing on Chinese, Asian and South Asian artists. We use the fact that Hong Kong is a door between the West, China and the south of Asia to get our inspiration for creating our programme. We want to show what Hong Kong means in a political, geographical and economic sense. At the same time, I try to  stay away from what you can find in a commercial gallery. Actually, that’s one of the reasons why we don’t work that much with painters. Most of the work [we show] is installation and moving image. Personally, I’m very interested in moving image art.

Has the mission of Para/Site Art Space changed over time?

We continue with the same philosophy as before my arrival. In these two years, we have been developing more international projects with Hong Kong artists. We have also done a few projects with artists from outside Hong Kong, creating a dialogue between all of them. An example is the exhibition we curated with Joseph Kosuth and Tsang Kin Wah in 2009.

Has Para/Site Art Space always been in Po Yan Street? Or has the gallery been in another location before?

In April 1997, Para/Site Art Space was located in Kennedy Town before moving to its present location in Sheung Wan District, but it looks like we will have to emigrate. Sheung Wan is an area of Hong Kong that is getting very expensive. Next door, a luxurious apartment building is being built. The prices in the area are getting as expensive as the Peak. I think we need to move to a larger space to develop different types of projects with different scales. For the moment, the space that Para/Site has suits the type of exhibitions shown, but also the human resources and the budget we have available.

Sometimes you can find very famous artists in Para/Site. They don’t do the same kind of work they usually do in big museums as they have to adapt their work to the space. They also don’t have so much pressure and they tend to use this space to experiment, trying out different types of work.

How would you like to see Para/Site Art Space grow?

The artist community in Hong Kong is very active and developed. There are many commercial galleries but most of them are small and Hong Kong needs powerful galleries that can support its artists. What we would need in Hong Kong would be a larger number of non-commercial art spaces. A bit like Para/Site but on an even larger scale in order to allow the local art community to develop their projects.

The desire we have for Para/Site is to have a larger budget and a bigger venue that will help us achieve our larger goals. We want to make possible more dialogue with other art spaces around the world in order to develop projects. But this is not a short-term idea. This needs to be done over time to assure its sustainability.

SB/KN/HH

Related Topics: non-profit, art spaces, events, curators, Hong Kong venues

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Chinese art to move to conventional venue says Chairman Venice Biennale

Posted by artradar on July 9, 2009


CHINESE ART AT THE VENICE BIENNALE

This post gives an overview Chinese art on exhibit at the 53rd Venice Biennale until November 2009 with a blogs-eye round-up of images and reviews. We also take a look at how Chinese art has grown in prominence over the years and how proposals for the future, by the Chairman of the Biennale, promise further validation.

Chinese exhibiting artists

The seven contemporary Chinese artists on display in the Chinese Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale are:

  • He Jianwei
  • Liu Ding (read about his artwork at the Biennale Liu Ding’s Store)
  • He Sen
  • Fang Lijun
  • Zeng Fhanzi
  • Qiu Zhijie
  • Zeng Hao

This year, along with the seven artists who are participating at the Chinese pavilion, Chen Zhen, Chu Yun, Huang Yong Ping, Tian Tian Wang (interview with Tian Tian Wang) and Xu Tan are showing their works in the main exhibition ‘Making Words’.

He Sen, The World of Taiji

He Sen, The World of Taiji

According to AccessibleArtNY, at first glance the images in He Sen’s The World of Taiji appear to be simple with no perceivable details, but upon closer inspection, the brushstrokes are visible and Chinese characters are decipherable. The concept was to juxtapose what Sen considered a “weak” culture (China) with the strong Western cultural frames. He hoped that the viewer would take the time to look closely at the work.

He Sen The World of Taiji (detail)

He Sen The World of Taiji (detail)

Images of Chinese art at 53rd Venice Biennale

Review of the Chinese Pavilion

It has been ten years since the late Harald Szeemann’s 1999 Venice exhibition ‘APERTO Over All’ paved the way for the West’s understanding of contemporary art, aptly nicknamed the “China Biennale” due to its inclusion of nearly twenty Chinese artists, says Redbox Review

Yet the curatorial strategy behind this year’s Chinese Pavilion titled ‘What is to Come’, conceived by artist Lu Hao and curator Zhao Li, was unable to generate much buzz for China during the festival’s opening days.

The  Chinese artists provided highly individualized works. …And although each work may be considered a strong example of each artist’s conceptual prowess, the lack of immediate cohesion disengages a viewing audience that transcends the display’s symbolic ambitions. Note 1

History of Chinese art at the Venice Biennale

If this year is less successful than the past, who and what was on display in previous years? The Korean magazine Art in Asia has published a useful overview of the history of Japanese, Korean and Chinese art at the Venice Biennale. Below is an excerpt (including typos) covering Chinese art:

Harold Szeemann’s 1999 48th Venice Biennale exhibition, “dAPERTutto Over All,” included Chinese artists such as Ai Weiwei, Zhou Tiehai, Zhuang Hui, Wang Xingwei, Yang Shaobin, Fang Lijun, Qiu Shihua, Xie Nanxing, Zhang Peili, Yue Minjun, Zhao Bandi, Wang Jin, Zhang Huan, Liang Shaoji, Ma Liuming, Lu Hao, Chen Zhen, Cai Guoqiang and Wang Du.

Since the national Chinese pavilion was not yet built at the time, works by these nineteen Chinese artists chosen for the “d APERTutto” section were displayed both in the Giardini, specifically in the Italian pavilion, and in the Arsenale.

The Italian pavilion hosted no less than ten Chinese artists, and in the newly restored spaces of the Arsenale, dazzling installations by Cai Guo-Qiang were housed and shown. Szeemann, whose inclusion of Chinese artists at the Venice Biennale in 1999 and 2001, made a major contribution towards popularizing the Chinese avant-garde in the West.

In 2005, for the 51th Biennale, the first official Chinese pavilion was built by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, but it was temporary. Commissioners for the 2005 Chinese pavilion included Xu Jiang, the President of the China Academy of Art, Fan Di’an, the Vice President of the Central Academy of Art, Artist Cai Guo-Qiang, Wang Mingxian, the Vice Director of the Architecture Institute of China, and Pi Li, who was from the Central Academy of Art. Artists Yung Ho Chang, Liu Wei, Peng Yu & Sun Yuan, Wang Qiheng and Xu Zhen participated under the theme “Virgin Garden: Emersion.” This premier national pavilion of China marked a turning point in the cultural growth within Chinese contemporary art.

In 2007, having already curated the 2003 exhibition “Z.U.O.” in the context of the 50th Venice Biennale headed by Francesco Bonami, internationally renowned curator Hou Hanru highlighted the contributions of four women artists to Chinese contemporary art at the pavilion. These four female artists, Cao Fei, Kan Xuan, Shen Yuan and Yin Xiuzhen, created site-specific works in the building and at the Vergini Gardens, under the theme “Everyday Miracles.” Note 2

And the future for Chinese art?

According to a report in the Independent “at least one change to tradition has been signalled. The chairman of the Biennale is proposing that in future years the Chinese Pavilion moves in among the “conventional venues”. Recognition at last that the world order, even the cultural world order, has changed since 1895.” Note 3

About the Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale – the world’s oldest and most high-profile contemporary art exhibition –  opens its doors to the public from 6th June to 22nd November 2009.

It was founded in 1895 to celebrate new developments in international art.

National pavilions were built in the Giardini – or public gardens – to house exhibitions from each participating country’s chosen artists. But as more and more countries wish to take part, the Biennale has spread across the Italian city.

It has been described as the Olympic games of the art world – 77 countries from Armenia to Venezuela are showcasing the work of their leading artists. All are hoping to win the top prize – the Golden Lion. Note 4

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