Archive for March, 2010

This Is Hong Kong In Kunsthalle Wien

March 8, 2010

Finally, This Is Hong Kong has come to an end at Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna, Austria), where it will be on show at the Ursula Bickle VideoArchive until 31 of March. Here is the link:

The programme has proved hugely popular, and a terrific showcase for 15 artists working in video from or around Hong Kong. The venues where we have shown it have ranged from high profile venues like Kunsthalle Wien and ifa Gallery (Berlin) to alternative minded spaces like EastSide Projects (Birmingham) or LOOP Alternative Space (Seoul), and from festivals and forums like LOOP video festival (Barcelona) to academic environments like Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts (Taipei). It’s time to say goodbye to this project, and it’s about time after almost a year touring around the world. But we are working on a second part that will be announced shortly, following a similar strategy and scenario for visibility and cultural distribution.



March 4, 2010

Certainly, Asian buyers, especially those from mainland China, seemed to loosen their belts at last fall’s contemporary-art auctions here. At Sotheby’s on October 6, the 20th-Century Chinese Art session raked in $HK109,169,000 ($14 million), to which Sanyu’s circa 1955 Lotus et poissons rouges contributed a hefty $HK36.5 million ($4.7 million), the artist’s second-highest auction price, while the Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings sale grossed $HK50,021,000 ($6.4 million), 76 percent more than its spring sale in the category, with Indonesian painter Lee Man Fong’s Magnificent Horses, 1966, realizing an artist-record $HK8,180,000 ($1 million).

Christie’s saw similar success in November, taking in $HK1.65 billion ($213 million) over five days. Tellingly, a reported 47 percent of the buyers of contemporary Asian works were from mainland China, and favored pieces by more-established artists. In the November 29 sale of Asian Contemporary Art and Chinese 20th-Century Art, Zeng Fanzhi’s Untitled (Hospital Series), 1994, brought $HK19,140,000 ($2.5 million), while in its November 30 Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary sale, Indonesian painter I Nyoman Masriadi’s Master Yoga transcended its high estimate of $HK1 million ($130,000) to achieve $HK3,620,000 ($467,102).

Money flowed just as freely at the charity auction in December benefiting the Asia Art Archive (AAA), a repository of information about the region’s contemporary art with research posts in 10 Asian cities, including Beijing, New Delhi and Manila. The event raised $HK8.3 million ($1.1 million), up from last year’s total of $HK8 million ($1 million). That sum reflects the importance of the institution. “Hong Kong has always kept one eye on its local identity and the other on the West, without really recognizing itself as part of Asia,” says head of research Phoebe Wong, noting that the AAA has changed that attitude: The institution’s collection, publications and public programs have been instrumental in placing the city at the center of a continent-spanning dialogue.

Many Hong Kong galleries have taken it as their mission to connect to that larger creative community. For some, the conversation is mainly across the South China Sea. Hanart TZ was founded in 1983 by the local critic and curator Johnson Chang Tsong-zung, who helped bring global exposure to mainland artists during the 1990s, and has continued this service, most recently with a solo exhibition, on view through March 23, of new paintings and mixed-media work by the young Fo Tan artist Lam Tung-pang (who is also represented in a concurrent group show at the Hong Kong Museum of Art through April 25). Others seek a more pan-Asian discourse. The exhibition program at Osage focuses on East and Southeast Asian art, while 10 Chancery Lane Gallery mounts exhibitions of contemporary art from Vietnam and Cambodia. The Thai gallery Tang Contemporary Art — which has become an important player here since opening a space on Hollywood Road in 2008 — offers an eclectic mix; the artists represented in its booth at last year’s Hong Kong art fair included the Thai-Indian Navin Rawanchaikul, the Beijing-based Yan Lei and longtime Paris resident Wang Du.

Then there are the galleries that draw in voices from outside the region. Last November the London gallery Ben Brown Fine Arts opened a Hong Kong space showing works by leading Western artists Gerhard Richter, Thomas Ruff and Jeff Wall alongside those of established Asian artists like the Japanese Yayoi Kusama and the Calcutta-born, Brooklyn-based Rina Banerjee. Schoeni Art Gallery, which opened in 1993 with an exhibition of works by Chinese, Russian and Swiss artists, is still mixing things up, most saliently, perhaps, with the 2008 launch of Adapta, a collaboration with the U.K.-based Web magazine UKAdapta on projects involving urban artists like Banksy.

Certain noncommercial Hong Kong art institutions have also adopted this global perspective. Para/Site Art Space, the city’s most active nonprofit gallery, has transitioned under the leadership of Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya from exhibiting regional talent to partnering with similar spaces throughout Asia in linking Hong Kong artists with their overseas counterparts. In January it mounted a Hong Kong show pairing the text-based installations of the local Tsang Kin-Wah with the pioneering Conceptual work of the American Joseph Kosuth, while in Bangkok it teamed up with Gallery VER on the group exhibition “Grid Versus Chaos,” featuring the Hong Kong artist Amy Cheung, the mainland architects map Office and the Hong Kong photographer Wei Leng Tay. Later this year, Para/Site will present the mixed-media hyphenates of the Beijing-based Ai Weiwei together with those of Vito Acconci. Rodriguez  Fominaya has also organized “This Is Hong Kong,” a touring show of video works by local artists that premiered in May 2009 at the loop Festival in Barcelona, traveling from there to Seoul’s loop Alternative Space; Hamburg’s Subvision Festival; Eastside Projects, in Birmingham, England; Berlin’s IFA Gallery; and Taipei’s Kuandu Museum of Fine Arts before concluding this month at the Kunsthalle Wien.

Although local artists and art institutions seem to be flourishing, a giant question mark hangs over Hong Kong’s proposed West Kowloon Cultural District, the multidisciplinary arts zone, sited on a wedge of waterfront property, that the Hong Kong government initiated back in 1998 and endowed with $HK21.6 billion ($2.8 billion). The project is now in its final planning stages, but the art world here knows better than to wait on the bureaucracy for a hand up. Instead, it is continuing to move forward with industry and imagination, animated by a palpable sense of possibility.

“Letter from Hong Kong” originally appeared in the March issue of Art+Auction.