30 years of Australian artist Lindy Lee – in pictures



The University of Queensland Art Museum presents a stunning 3-decade survey of Australian artist Lindy Lee’s practice. 

Entitled “Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom”, the first major survey of Lindy Lee’s work reveals a meditative, fluid oeuvre that transforms along with the artist’s philosophical pursuits. 

Lindy Lee working in studio. Photo by Lee Nutter. Image courtesy the University of Queensland Museum.

Lindy Lee working in her studio. Photo by Lee Nutter. Image courtesy the University of Queensland Museum.

Australian artist Lindy Lee came to prominence in the mid-1980s. Critically praised since her early years, Lee continuously reinvented and developed her art over three decades. A stunning retrospective comprising 48 works from public and private collections showcases a diverse and profoundly philosophical practice.

Entitled “Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom”, the exhibition follows Lee’s ongoing pursuit of identity, authenticity and selfhood. Her Buddhist faith and Chinese heritage are interwoven with meditative ruminations on spirituality, life and the universe. The show is curated by University of Queensland Art Museum Associate Director Michele Helmrich and runs until 22 February 2015. 

Click here to watch “Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom” from UQ Art Museum on Vimeo

Fire in darkness

Curator Helmrich chose to portray Lee’s works in a backward chronology: viewers encounter the artist’s most recent works first, as they enter the gallery. These remarkable compositions utilise fire, pyrographic techniques and flung bronze to evoke the infinity of the universe. Helmrich remarks poetically in the exhibition press release (PDF download): 

To step into a room filled with Lindy Lee’s recent artworks – those works of metal or paper whose surfaces have been ruptured so many times by fire – is to step into a world of night in which every surface glints light from fresh rain, and stars radiate in their thousands overhead.

Lindy Lee, 'Cosmos - A Life of Fire', 2014, bronze, 300 cm diameter. Collection of the artist. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Cosmos – A Life of Fire’, 2014, bronze, 300 cm diameter. Collection of the artist. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

In these works, cut metal is burned to create different patterns. The resulting pieces are comprised of fragments of glinting bronze, empty space and introspective shadows. The variety of forms and patterns pays tribute to the all-powerful might of nature, a force the artist is well aware of and celebrates through her art.

Portraits of history

The second room switches from fire to waxed canvas, dimming into rich, atmospheric colours. As a development from the earlier carbon photocopies she was first known for, showcased in the third room, Lee uses existing images of ancient figures and makes them her own. The reinvented waxed portraits feature grid formations, introspective repetition and a masterful handling of stark, minimal colours. 

Lindy Lee, 'Fire and Water', 2006, synthetic polymer paint and wax on board, archival inks on paper mounted on board, 17 panels: one 81 x 60 cm; 16 panels 40.6 x 30.2 cm each; overall 162.5 x 150.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Lindy Lee through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program, 2013. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Fire and Water’, 2006, synthetic polymer paint and wax on board, archival inks on paper mounted on board, 17 panels: one 81 x 60 cm; 16 panels 40.6 x 30.2 cm each; overall 162.5 x 150.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Lindy Lee through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2013. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lee states in the press release that the colours call out to her. Speaking of the transformation of her work, Lee says:

The materials, especially the colours, are a kind of autobiography. Black is the constant. I started my artistic career using only black. At that time, it was the colour of loss and mourning and now it is the colour of cosmos and mystery. The most personal and poignant colour for me is the green [...] It evokes tradition on one hand, but I knew instantly when I started to use it that it was the colour of ‘the ocean of birth and death’.

Lindy Lee, 'First Principle', 2001, synthetic polymer paint, oil, wax and ink on board, 20 parts: each 41.5 x 29.5 cm; overall 166 x 147.5 cm. Private collection, Sydney. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘First Principle’, 2001, synthetic polymer paint, oil, wax and ink on board, 20 parts: each 41.5 x 29.5 cm; overall 166 x 147.5 cm. Private collection, Sydney. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

The flawed and the beautiful

The third room of the exhibition showcases Lee’s earliest works. The artist photocopied existing found images and printed them on different materials. She then proceeded to leave her own mark using paint, shading, gridding and repetition. Referring to these early works, which defined the artist’s artistic vision, Lee says:

I loved the flawed copy, because it was a representation of what I was; I felt split and divided, and it was supremely painful.

Lindy Lee, 'Philosophy of the Parvenu' (detail), 1990, photocopy and synthetic polymer paint on Stonehenge paper mounted on board, 14 parts: each sheet 30 x 24.5 cm; overall 68 x 170.8 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2011. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Philosophy of the Parvenu’ (detail), 1990, photocopy and synthetic polymer paint on Stonehenge paper mounted on board, 14 parts: each sheet 30 x 24.5 cm; overall 68 x 170.8 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2011. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Helmrich explains that Lee suffered from racism as a Chinese born in Brisbane in 1954. She was forced to assimilate when she felt lost and exiled, deprived of an identity. The curator recalls Lee telling her that “being an artist had not been a choice as much as an ongoing need or desire to find belonging and completeness.”

Lindy Lee, ''Untitled (After Jan Van Eyck)', 1988, photocopy and synthetic polymer paint on Stonehenge paper on foamcore, 15 part: each sheet 42 x 29.7 cm; overall 146 x 183.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Mary Dwyer in memory of Paul Dane Tilley, 1995. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ”Untitled (After Jan Van Eyck)’, 1988, photocopy and synthetic polymer paint on Stonehenge paper on foamcore, 15 part: each sheet 42 x 29.7 cm; overall 146 x 183.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland. Gift of Mary Dwyer in memory of Paul Dane Tilley, 1995. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

The press release quotes the artist:

The defining experience of my life is one of being fractured [...] Everything I do is related to my longing to heal the split [...] I think the fundamental and persistent question in my work is not ‘who’ am I, but ‘what’ am I – what is real?

Lindy Lee, 'Spirit of Eternal Place', 1985, photocopy and ink on paper, 34.4 x 27.7 cm (sheet). Collection of the artist. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Spirit of Eternal Place’, 1985, photocopy and ink on paper, 34.4 x 27.7 cm (sheet). Collection of the artist. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Family and heritage

The last room of the exhibition is the most immersive and dramatic. Propped up cards of Lee’s family portraits create a rich red glow in a darkened room. The repeating, duplicated images and subtle shades of red and black evoke a haunting, yet calm and reverent atmosphere. The artist is at peace and protected among her family; finally, she belongs. 

Lindy Lee, 'Birth and Death' (installation view), 2004. Image courtesy the University of Queensland Museum.

Lindy Lee, ‘Birth and Death’ (installation view), 2004. Image courtesy the University of Queensland Museum.

Helmrich remarks about the continuity within Lee’s wide-ranging media, including carbon photocopy, wax, fire and metal:

Despite the transformative moments that punctuate Lee’s works, currents of continuity can also be observed: repetition and the grid; obsessive approaches to image making; darkness and light; form and the formless (in Buddhist terms, emptiness); and images that unfold endlessly [...] a deep current underpins the work.

From darkness to light

Apart from showcasing Lee’s diverse media and techniques, the thirty-year survey provides an insight into the artist’s life, influence and philosophical pursuits, which include Zen Buddhism. Helmrich muses that perhaps “[t]he darkness and pathos of the early works has [...] evolved into a sense of light and transcendence.” She says in the press release:

Today, Lee’s quest is for a cosmos that continually unfolds and a darkness that is, at once, light [...] While it may be too simplistic a reading, one could say that Lee began with blackness and now finds herself in a search for light; in her flung-bronze works and firestones, shiny formless forms stand in for an energy of existence, just as the faces that stared out from her earlier repeated photocopies stood for lives once lived.

Lindy Lee, 'Terrace of the Immortals', 2012, black mild steel and fire, 120 x 214.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2013. Reproduced courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Lindy Lee, ‘Terrace of the Immortals’, 2012, black mild steel and fire, 120 x 214.5 cm. Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2013. Reproduced image courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong.

Helmrich also declares that Lee’s work developed almost in tandem with shifts in Australia’s psyche, reflecting “the postmodern cultural debates of the 1980s, the turn to Asia and multiculturalism in the 1990s, and an increasing openness to ideas such as those offered by Buddhism.”

Michele Chan

520

Related Topics: Australian artists, fire art, metal, wax, museum shows, events in Australia

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FIELD MEETING at Asia Contemporary Art Week 2014, New York – interview (part 2)



Asian Contemporary Art Week’s Director Leeza Ahmady and Associate Curator Xin Wang speak to Art Radar about their new forum.

Returning to New York from 22 October to 2 November 2014 is the 9th edition of a city-wide event on Asian contemporary art organised by Asian Contemporary Art Week’s (ACAW) Consortium members. In the second part of Art Radar’s interview, Leeza Ahmady and Xin Wang speak about their new signature program for ACAW, the FIELD MEETING.

Korakrit Arunanondchai, Letters to Chantri #1:The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving, 2014, Installation view, video 2. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

Korakrit Arunanondchai, ‘Letters to Chantri #1:The lady at the door/The gift that keeps on giving’, 2014, installation view, video 2. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

Click here to read part 1 of this interview.

Communal studio visits

FIELD MEETING is a two-day forum hosted by the Asia Society Museum in New York on 26 and 27 October 2014. The forum was conceived and organised by Leeza Ahmady with contributions by Xin Wang. It aims to create the experience of a studio visit on a communal scale, where artists, curators and art professionals can present recent works and initiatives through lectures, performances and discussions.

Leeza Ahmady is the Director of ACAW and AhmadyArts. She is also a curator and an educator known for her work on art practices in Central Asia. Associate Curator Xin Wang is a curator and writer and has worked as a research assistant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Ahmady and Xin speak to Art Radar about their inspiration for FIELD MEETING, its structure, and some of the artists participating in this programme.

Manal Al Dowayan, research file for the Crash Project, 2014, mixed-media. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

Manal Al Dowayan, research file for the Crash Project, 2014, mixed-media. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

You are introducing FIELD MEETING – a two-day forum bringing together artists, curators, scholars and institutional leaders active in Asian art – at ACAW this year. Could you tell us how it came about?

Leeza Ahmady (LA): Much of my curatorial work over the years has dealt with contemporary art and its history, and Xin has been trained as an art historian and has worked on museum exhibitions of contemporary Asian art. Essentially, what artists are working on now and what they’ve done in the last two to three years is a part of history.

There has been a constant chatter in the field, which I call an East-West superiority-inferiority complex, due to the lack of more world focused scholarship. More work is necessary in this area, but the fact is that there are other types of history-making that we must make room for. Art history has typically been written from the perspective of a collective of artists in a particular place engaged in one style, in a mass movement.

What about individual artists and their work in different parts of the world made in isolation from other artists? How do such artists enter history? One of our objectives with FIELD MEETING is to shift how we read artworks and what we insert into art history. For example, one general criticism Asian countries (China, India and Indonesia) are subject to is the commercial orientation of their art venues, particularly the proliferation of private museums and galleries. While this may be true, we cannot dismiss the specificities of such venues as possible grounds for the sprouting of new institutional models effective in their own right.

In terms of new models and institutional history, FIELD MEETING, in a way, is an acknowledgment of a successful model in the Middle East – in Sharjah, one of the Emirates States about 45 minutes away from another great new art hub, Dubai. I was invited to attend a programme called “The March Meeting” in 2011, which is instituted annually by the Sharjah Biennial Foundation as a quasi-public, government-founded private entity that has managed to launch a successful series of regional gatherings for art professionals.

In-Habit Project, Another Country, 2012. Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, Australia. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

In-Habit Project, ‘Another Country’, 2012, at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, Australia. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

How is FIELD MEETING structured?

Xin Wang (XW): FIELD MEETING will be hosted at Asia Society on 26 to 27 October 2014. We currently have 35 confirmed participants for the FIELD MEETING: roughly 45 individuals, as there are collectives and collaborative projects. We’ve invested a lot of efforts in communicating with the FIELD MEETING participants to encourage alternative ways of introducing their practices, not necessarily elaborating on specific projects but grounding the narrative in their creative processes, or issues and ideas they’ve been tackling.

During these two days, we will strive to have a diverse group of voices and formats, such as performances, performative-lectures, and group discussions. We are also involving New York-based art professionals to lead discussion in the Q&A sessions, so the entire experience will indeed have the dynamic structure of a studio visit.

LA: In a sense, we are also curating the audience. The idea is to fill the room with art-professionals not only from New York but also from other cities in the United States, which is very ambitious. We are very conscious of who will be attending, who is going to be in the room, do they want to be there? How can they benefit from this? Instead of passively inviting an audience, we have been busy looking at our contacts to consider all the people we know and those we don’t, drafting individual invitations to have them join the FIELD MEETING. A great percentage of the audience will be art professionals, scholars and art practitioners, because our vision has been to create opportunities for these individuals to energise and rethink their future programmes and collections.

Many institutions in the United States are beginning to show and collect art from various regions of Asia. The question is, who are they collecting? And how are they accessing such works? Mostly through biennials and art fairs, I think, which are just fine entry points where surface connections are made – but curators and museum directors generally build their collections through long-term exchanges, research and engagement with artists’ overall practice. That’s how careers are nurtured, and great art becomes part of the public realm.

Haig Aivazian, To Neither Confirm Nor Deny that the Matter Neither Reflected Nor Absorbed Light, 2013, Lecture performance. Courtesy the artist.

Haig Aivazian, ‘To Neither Confirm Nor Deny that the Matter Neither Reflected Nor Absorbed Light’, 2013, lecture performance. Image courtesy the artist.

How did you select the artists for ACAW 2014? You mentioned that you’ve known many of these artists previously. Were there specific regions you were looking at or any specific criteria?

LA: For me, the selection has been through my research travels to various parts of Asia, or when I have launched an exhibition or participated in conferences and biennials, even art fairs. Colleagues and venues that I approached, knowing they are doing great work, have recommended some of the presenters.

One of our keynote presenters, Haig Aivazian, is based in Lebanon. I first met him when he was one of the curators of the Sharjah Biennial in 2011. Then I saw his works in different settings and realised that he was an artist too. When I researched his work further, I discovered that he often presents performance-lectures incorporating very elaborate research and speculations about a particular event at a specific time. We are very excited that he will present a one-hour iteration of his piece To Neither Confirm Nor Deny that the Matter Neither Reflected Nor Absorbed Light for the first time in New York, as a commission for the FIELD MEETING.

Sun Xun, A Footnote to Time, 2012, Installation: wall painting, ink and color on paper, mixed media. Supported by Edouard Malingue Gallery. Courtesy the artist.

Sun Xun, A Footnote to Time, 2012, Installation: wall painting, ink and color on paper, mixed media. Supported by Edouard Malingue Gallery. Courtesy the artist.

So the selection is more organic?

LA: Oh absolutely. The criteria are very open and representational of what is actually going on in the scene. Many of the FIELD MEETING participants only live in Asia part-time, some live in multiple continents and many are based in New York or elsewhere in the world. This is why we are listing the cities where each participant is living next to their names; it is telling a story all on its own.

XW: There are multiple elements at play that inform our selection. Some we already talked about, such as this discontentment with the clichés and skewed representation. There is also this tendency, when it comes to interpreting works of art from unfamiliar areas, to contextualise them in related political and cultural contexts – a very constructive method that can also reduce artists to mere footnotes. In fact, artists can and do challenge how those political and cultural situations are understood in the first place.

A good example would be Sun Xun, an artist still relatively young but extremely prolific and already a fixture in important international exhibitions, who makes use of animation videos, mural paintings and installations to create his own narratives of China’s recent history and, more abstractly, the fabrication of history. In a recent conversation, he came up with this provocative proposition: how does an artist make use of the Cultural Revolution as material without being political, or without the typical associative connotations? I won’t give away more than this, but what he will share at the FIELD MEETING will surely inspire alternative ways in thinking not only about his practice, but also about the contemporary situation in China with all kinds of ideological residuals and anachronistic properties.

Li Shurui, Sharp (detail), 2014, mixed-media installation. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

Li Shurui, ‘Sharp’ (detail), 2014, mixed-media installation. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

Could you tell us more about the artists in FIELD MEETING, and why you find them interesting or relevant?

LA: We’ve invited Umer Butt, a gallery owner whom I met a few years ago in New York for a show he was curating at Thomas Erben Gallery. At the same time, there was a high profile exhibition on modern and contemporary Pakistani art at Asia Society. He shared his views and criticism of that exhibition openly. His cause is to look at other kinds of work that are not necessarily political or culturally relevant by artists in Pakistan: artists who are essentially formalists.

I am interested in why and from what aspect of the local culture this is embedded in. It’s time for all of us to ask what is specific about this – why is it relevant? How is it framed within the global practice of art history, modern and contemporary?

FIELD MEETING is also an opportunity for institutions and professionals to delve beyond the business-as-usual and to encounter artists whose works involve ongoing processes that challenge typical modules of exhibition making. Complex, research-based art projects may require new forms of representation and engagement beyond institutional settings. For example, one of the FIELD MEETING artists, Tintin Wulia, investigates the concept of borders in her practice, creating a series of installations, performances, and residencies involving the passport: passport making, collecting, distribution and restrictions. In her latest iteration, the passport is distributed in the form of an arcade game to be installed in a mall.

XW: Through the physical and symbolic constructs of the passport, she contemplates related concepts such as border control and nation-building policies.

I also would like to contextualise the selection a little bit in conjunction with the limitations of showing contemporary art from Asia in New York, or more broadly in the United States and “the West” in general. New York is already an incredibly cosmopolitan place, yet we continue to have quite skewed representations and entrenched ways of interpreting creative energies from this vast and often problematically-defined region. Many exhibitions provided seminal scholarship that broke the ground for further research, yet most of the time they seem to be playing — rightfully so — this catch-up role to update the audience here about what has happened years or decades ago. These historical retrospectives are enormously important, but there is also the recognisable void of making visible the happenings—not just individual practices—that are constantly evolving and often quite actively in dialogue already with global contemporary art.

In addition to this problem, we have uninspired commercial art filtered through the market that continues to cause real damage. I have had friends and mentors from the academia, intellectuals who don’t specialise in contemporary Asian art or follow the scene as closely but are nevertheless informed and curious enough, gradually losing interest, because too often they run into terrible, derivative “contemporary Asian art” in New York. These people aren’t the globe-trotting types that jet-set from private collections to biennials to major art fairs, nor can they afford to do the “field work” such as visiting artists’ studios on a regular basis, but their critical voice and response are undeniably valuable for the discourse.

Many artists are consciously evading dichotomies, such as Asia versus the rest of the world, particularly the West; yet clichéd frameworks like that are still being imposed on them as interpretive devices, as if Asian art has to be compartmentalised in a politically-correct, well-defined manner so that people won’t worry about saying the wrong things or not picking up on certain references. This, unfortunately, limits the way we think about not only contemporary art and culture from Asia but also global contemporaneity.

Patty Chang, Invocation of a Wandering Lake, 2014, video still. Image courtesy ACAW and artist.

Patty Chang, ‘Invocation of a Wandering Lake’, 2014, video still. Image courtesy ACAW and the artist.

Could you give us an example of how interpretive devices placed on contemporary Asian art and culture affect what and how the works are being shown in United States and in Europe?

XW: Throughout this year, there have been panels after panels organised by influential platforms—such as Frieze—that discuss the quarter-centennial of the internet and its lasting impact on art-making. Of course there’s the Net Art to post-internet art narrative largely confined to what took place in Europe and the United States.

In all these discussions, what’s routinely ignored is that the “world wide web” hasn’t been world-wide at all for all those 25 years, and it’s equally naïve to consider the platform as perfectly free, democratic and flat. Different regions in Asia came on board at different times, and when the internet interacts with the local vernacular, politics, or interesting issues such as censorship, there are very different implications and coping strategies, and these factors play certain roles in the way artists engage with new media and this sense of connectedness. Are late comers necessarily at a disadvantage? The IT adventurers will show you it’s quite the contrary, and the art world should take notes from that.

Related to this, we also have artists working with a variety of subcultural currents and phenomena. The practice of Lu Yang, a Shanghai-based artist born in the 1980s, has been heavily informed by anime, video games, and other Japanese cultural imports that left indelible marks on the collective memory of my generation, the so-called millennials, if you will. She’s not just appropriating elements but her entire practice is immersed in these fascinating virtual realms full of quirky specificities. So some of her pieces are actual video games from larger installation series that have the same polish as industry products, but at the same time feature highly provocative content and social critique. Works like these easily fall into the cracks between established narratives and categorisations.

Subculture is simply too elusive and volatile for “serious” scholarly investigations, yet artists are increasingly free to respond to specific strands in the cultural fabric, which should be differentiated from “pop” in the abstract and already historicised sense. We have also invited Cao Fei, an already established artist working with moving images, who took intriguing turns in recent works that are born of a fascination with the thriving genre of zombie apocalypse in films and TV series. Existing as or among the walking dead seems eerily relevant to certain aspects of reality in today’s China, which can easily be dramatised into a post-apocalyptic land as a result of pollution and apathy.

Click here to read part 1 of this interview.

Christine Lee

516

Related topics: curatorial practiceAsia expandsinterviews with directorsinterviews with art curators

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Is African art the next big thing in Hong Kong?



Art Radar spots a new trend in the Hong Kong art scene: African contemporary art. 

A few exhibitions on African contemporary art have cropped up recently in Hong Kong. Art Radar speaks to three Hong Kong gallerists and art critic John Batten on a possible new trend.  

Nic Crooks, 'Face Out', 2014, mixed media painting on board, 94 x 94 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Nic Crooks, ‘Face Out’, 2014, mixed media painting on board, 94 x 94cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Hong Kong has quickly become a top global art hub: its auction market is the third largest by sales after New York and London. As the art scene matures, gallerists venture into braver territories, introducing Hong Kong audiences to a wider range of material. Art Radar has spotted three recent exhibitions on African contemporary art, presented by Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong, Axel Vervoordt and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery, respectively.

Is African art the next big thing in Hong Kong? John Batten, a veteran Hong Kong arts scene watcher, says that interest would still likely be “market-driven rather than aesthetic-driven”. Gallerists are optimistic, however, and will continue to introduce African artists to an eager Hong Kong audience. Art Radar spoke to three gallerists in Hong Kong on their recent exhibitions on African contemporary art.

Raja Oshi, 'Untitled', 2014, oil on canvas, 87 x 87 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Raja Oshi, ‘Untitled’, 2014, oil on canvas, 87 x 87cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery - Lee Garakara, Founder and Creative Director

Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery was originally based in Durban, South Africa. What made you decide to relocate and bring African art to Hong Kong?

Most of my personal influence and inspiration stems from the need to expose African contemporary art to a greater audience. I strive to tell the African story via art and their makers.

The reason for coming to Hong Kong would be the idea of showcasing African art on what is or has become a world stage. As I was researching locations to use as a platform for exposure, Hong Kong stood out in numerous ways – its biggest attraction being the rise in activity in the local art market in the form of art fairs, auction houses and international galleries.

Through further observation, however, I noticed that most Hong Kong galleries predominantly show Asian and European art. The little African art that has been shown is from well-established artists represented by major American and European galleries. This trend has created an obvious void which has positively opened up new possibilities and opportunities in promoting African art.

What African artists has Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery showcased in Hong Kong so far? How has the response been?

So far, we have shown Nic Crooks, Raja Oshi, Grace Kotze and Jessica Draper. The responses have been fantastic. Through formal and informal talks, I would ask people if they had any idea what African contemporary art looked like. Most people admitted to not being aware of African contemporary art at all. After introducing them to artists such as Nic Crooks and Raja Oshi, their responses have been overwhelming. I have since been invited to present in various talks in Hong Kong.

Grace Kotze, 'Thoughts of flight', 2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

Grace Kotze, ‘Thoughts of flight’, 2014, oil on canvas, 120 x 80cm. Image courtesy the artist and Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery.

What’s up next for Mwimbi Fine Art Gallery?

The next exhibition, “URBAN A:”, is scheduled for May 2015. On this project, I am collaborating with a Cape Town-based gallery and will feature a group of 12 African contemporary artists from South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

Do you think African art is likely to become a trend in Hong Kong?

Yes, I think over the next few years the market in Hong Kong will become well accustomed to African art, as well as various African galleries and curators from the continent. I hope to be part of the process of forging a healthy relationship with collectors, institutions and engaging with the general public in Hong Kong.

Robin Rhode, 'Birdman', 2014, mounted c-print, 75 x 115 cm. Edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Robin Rhode, ‘Birdman’, 2014, mounted c-print, 75 x 115 cm. Edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong - Ms. Li Yan, Director

Congratulations on the current exhibition – we are loving the captivating work of Robin Rhode. Could you tell us a little about him?

Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong is currently presenting “having been there”, a solo exhibition by South African artist Robin Rhode. Rhode’s works have also been showcased in our summer group shows and New York galleries. He is a multidisciplinary artist who has received extensive critical acclaim and is a rising young talent in the contemporary art market. His work reflects not only his mixed identity, but also gives insight into post-Apartheid South Africa.

What other African artists has your gallery showcased?

Kader Attia just joined our gallery this year. He is an artist who grew up between Algeria and the suburbs of Paris. He has taken his experience of living as part of two cultures as a starting point and developed a dynamic practice exploring the wide-ranging influence and impact of Western colonialism on non-Western cultures.

Robin Rhode, 'Fountain' (detail), 2014, mounted c-print 15 parts, each 19.69 x 19.69 inches, 50 x 50 cm 20.5 x 20.5 x 1.5 inches (framed), 52.1 x 52.1 x 3.8 cm. Overall Dimensions 108.86 x 108.86 x 1.5 inches, 276.5 x 276.5 x 3.8 cm. Edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

Robin Rhode, ‘Fountain’ (detail), 2014, mounted c-print 15 parts, each 19.69 x 19.69 inches, 50 x 50 cm 20.5 x 20.5 x 1.5 inches (framed), 52.1 x 52.1 x 3.8 cm. Overall Dimensions 108.86 x 108.86 x 1.5 inches, 276.5 x 276.5 x 3.8 cm. Edition of 5. Image courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

How has the response been to African contemporary art?

The response to the Rhode exhibition has been resoundingly positive, as reflected by strong media attention and public attendance for the show. We have seen that the audience is very interested in the ways Rhode blurs the line between performance and visual arts, creating a theatrical experience, the pinnacle of which was the artist’s live performance at the gallery during the exhibition’s opening. The audience is also drawn to the artist’s clever use of photography as an art form as well as a tool to capture motion and to present an investigation of time and motion.

Do you think African art is likely to become a trend in Hong Kong?

We witnessed a tremendously positive response to the Robin Rhode exhibition, which is open until 1 November 2014. This is a strong indication that the Hong Kong audience is eager to welcome artists from around the world. We will continue to seek and support global talents to promote their work to an international audience, utilising our Hong Kong space as an important link between collectors and artists around the world.

El Anatsui, 'Intimation', 2014, aluminum and cooper wire, 261 x 332 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Dio@Dio Workshop and Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

El Anatsui, ‘Intimation’, 2014, aluminum and cooper wire, 261 x 332 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Dio@Dio Workshop and Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Axel Vervoordt Gallery - Mi Jeong Kim, Gallery Manager

Axel Vervoordt Gallery represents a wide range of contemporary artists from all over the globe. What prompted you to showcase the work of Ghanaian artist El Anatsui?

We brought works by El Anatsui for the inaugural exhibition entitled “El Anatsui: Theory of Se” at our newly opened space in Hong Kong in May 2014. He is one of the most celebrated contemporary artists from Ghana. Although his work is lesser known to Hong Kong and Asia in general than in the United States and European countries, it is important for us to introduce such a significant artist to broader audiences.

In what ways did Anatsui’s work catch your eye?

Anatsui’s work is rich in interpretation touching upon the history of colonialism and consumerism. It is environmentally conscious and constantly challenges the conventional notions between sculpture and painting – critical matters speaking to global audiences.

Installation view of "Theory of Se". Image courtesy the artist, Dio@Dio Workshop and Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Installation view of “Theory of Se”. Image courtesy the artist, Dio@Dio Workshop and Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

How has the response been? 

We have held two solo exhibitions for the artist so far: the first in our gallery in Antwerp, Belgium and the second in Hong Kong this year. We received a great deal of media attention from all over the world; there has been growing interest in and outside of Hong Kong.

Do you think African art is likely to become a trend in Hong Kong?

The Hong Kong art market is becoming no less international than New York and London. It is possible for African art to become a trend, considering the diversity of galleries and collector groups in Hong Kong.

Michele Chan

518

Related Topics: African contemporary art, events in Hong Kong, gallery shows

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National Gallery of Australia gets new director, art space



Gerard Vaughan is appointed Director less than a month after the opening of a new NGA space.

As the National Gallery of Australia opens a new contemporary art space, changes also take place at the leadership level, with the appointment of Professor Gerard Vaughan as the institution’s new Director.

Ramingining Artists, '
The Aboriginal Memorial 1987–88
', National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (New Australian Indigenous galleries). 
Purchased with the assistance of funds from National Gallery admission charges and commissioned in 1987. Image courtesy NGA.

Ramingining Artists, ‘
The Aboriginal Memorial 1987–88
’, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (New Australian Indigenous galleries). 
Purchased with the assistance of funds from National Gallery admission charges and commissioned in 1987. Image courtesy NGA.

Australia’s Minister for the Arts George Brandis officially announced on 16 October 2014 the appointment of Professor Gerard Vaughan as the new director of the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra. Vaughan will commence his post on 10 November 2014 for an initial period of three years.

Senator Brandis praised Professor Vaughan in the announcement press release (PDF download):

Professor Vaughan is a recognised international scholar and has had a distinguished career in the museum and galleries sector. He has an outstanding record of leadership, stakeholder engagement, fundraising and cultural diplomacy. […] I welcome Professor Vaughan’s vision and enthusiasm for the Gallery, which includes further strengthening the Gallery’s role as a leader in scholarship and research, forging stronger diplomatic ties in the South East Asia and Pacific region, and increasing access to the nation’s major art collection.

Professor Gerard Vaughan was previously Director of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) for 13 years until 2012, when he was given a specially created Professorial Fellow role at the University of Melbourne’s Australian Institute of Art History. Previously, he was also Director of the British Museum‘s Development Trust and also worked at Oxford University and with the Felton Bequest.

Professor Vaughan is on the Board of the University of Melbourne Humanities Foundation and has previously served as a member of the Council of Australian Art Museum Directors. In 2011, he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the arts and was awarded the Légion d’honneur in 2013.

Dale Frank, 'I am a genius', 2013, polyurethane with dues and pigment on canvas, 236.5 x 316.5 cm, framed 237 x 316.5 x 5 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased with the assistance of Penelope Seidler AM and Wayne Kratzmann 2013. 100 works for 100 years. Image courtesy NGA.

Dale Frank, ‘I am a genius’, 2013, polyurethane with dues and pigment on canvas, 236.5 x 316.5 cm, framed 237 x 316.5 x 5 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (NGA Contemporary launch exhibition). Purchased with the assistance of Penelope Seidler AM and Wayne Kratzmann 2013. 100 works for 100 years. Image courtesy NGA.

Rebuilding the NGA’s reputation

The appointment of Professor Vaughan took place after a seven-month search for the right candidate, a period of time that saw the NGA’s reputation falter after an acquisition controversy that eventually resulted in previous Director Dr Ron Radford’s retirement on 30 September 2014.

Radford’s tenure was marred by a scandal over the acquisition of a looted artifact of Indian origin. The bronze Shiva statue, purchased by the NGA in 2008 for AUD5.6 million, put the NGA at the centre of media attention. The 900-year-old artefact – which was said to have been stolen and resold by a disgraced New York dealer now facing criminal charges in India – was finally returned to India in September by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

In this present situation, where the NGA needs to regain widespread support and rebuild its strong reputation, Professor Vaughan has pledged that his tenure will usher a new era of best practice for the NGA:

The NGA should be a leader when it comes to museological practice. Making sure the NGA is admired through the country and around the world for the collection, its exhibitions, the way it shares its collections around the country and best practice in terms of process and procedures when it comes to ­acquisitions (is a priority).

Bill Henson, 'Untitled 2011/2012', 2011-12, archival inkjet pigment print, printed image 127 x 180 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (NGA Contemporary lauch exhibition). Purchased 2013. Image courtesy NGA.

Bill Henson, ‘Untitled 2011/2012′, 2011-12, archival inkjet pigment print, printed image 127 x 180 cm. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (NGA Contemporary launch exhibition). Purchased 2013. Image courtesy NGA.

The NGA’s new contemporary art space

Senator Brandis praised former Director Radford for his contributions to the NGA, as he left “an impressive legacy for the National Gallery.” During his tenure as Director, the Gallery inaugurated a new space, NGA Contemporary, on 26 September 2014. The space is located on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin and will be entirely dedicated to Australian contemporary art, including an Indigenous Art wing. The project is the first stage of a broader development that will next see the creation of the Centre For Australian Art, to be supervised by Professor Vaughan.

Dr Radford was quoted in the NGA Contemporary launch press release as saying:

Our vision has been to develop a contemporary art space so that all Australians can see more of this superb collection ahead of expansion plans of Stage 2 for the existing building in Parkes Place.

The inaugural exhibition explores the breadth of Australian contemporary art over the last fourteen years and features artists including Bill Henson, Kathy Temin, Ron Mueck, Patricia Piccinini, Peter Booth, Dale Frank, among others.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

524

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Where to find contemporary ceramics: 3 exhibitions in November 2014



From graceful butterflies to rose-covered torsos, Art Radar brings you three exhibitions featuring contemporary ceramic art.

Art Radar lists three exhibitions to see in November 2014 featuring contemporary ceramic art. 

Ben Yau Man-pun, 'Lepidoptera', 2014, porcelain and wire. Photo by Raymond Lam. Image courtesy the artist and Mur Nomade.

Ben Yau Man-pun, ‘Lepidoptera’, 2014, porcelain and wire. Photo by Raymond Lam. Image courtesy the artist and Mur Nomade.

“GRACE” | Mur Nomade, Hong Kong

Mur Nomade, a curatorial office and gallery in Hong Kong, presents a group exhibition showcasing ceramic works and installations by four Hong Kong contemporary artists. Ray Chan See-kwong, Nick Poon Fai-wong, Miu Tsang Che-ching and Ben Yau Man-pun come from a varying range of career marks, but all display remarkable skill and craftsmanship. In the exhibition press release (PDF download), the gallery states that the exhibition was ‘choreographed’ as opposed to being curated:

Each artist entered the stage one after the other, and very naturally found his place. It results in a quiet ballet of elegant shapes and delicate materials. All the artworks find their sources of inspiration in simple forms of beauty, such as the flight of birds, butterfly wings, a slow dance duo or the gesture of offering a bowl of rice.

Miu Tsang Che-ching, 'White Birds', 2014, porcelain. Photo by Raymond Lam. Image courtesy the artist and Mur Nomade.

Miu Tsang Che-ching, ‘White Birds’, 2014, porcelain. Photo by Raymond Lam. Image courtesy the artist and Mur Nomade.

The simple, graceful works are accompanied by piano pieces by Erik Satie. Giorgio Biancorosso, a writer and music scholar based in Hong Kong, says that the music greatly enhances the viewing experience:

Satie’s piano pieces do not merely reinforce the impression of delicacy and simplicity of the ceramics [...] They help us perceive the gallery space as one carefully orchestrated whole [...] When the music comes to an end, we are given a chance to perceive afresh the works on display. Less silent than sound-less, a ceramic sculpture, even more than a painting, conjures a wholly imaginary world which is all the more striking given its obvious presence in our very own physical, three-dimensional space.

Ray Chan See-kwong, 'Duo', 2014, Shigaraki translucent clay. Photo by Raymond Lam. Image courtesy the artist and Mur Nomade.

Ray Chan See-kwong, ‘Duo’, 2014, Shigaraki translucent clay. Photo by Raymond Lam. Image courtesy the artist and Mur Nomade.

Recognising that tactile experience in ceramic art is unique and important, the curators created a special area allowing visitors to touch or hold selected artworks.

The exhibition, entitled “GRACE”, runs until 22 November 2014.

Johan Creten, 'Fireworks - Clearing', 2014, mat and shiny gold luster on majolica glazed stoneware, 100 x 75 x 21 cm. Photo by Joyce Yung. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Perrotin.

Johan Creten, ‘Fireworks – Clearing’, 2014, mat and shiny gold luster on majolica glazed stoneware, 100 x 75 x 21 cm. Photo by Joyce Yung. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Perrotin.

“FIREWORKS” | Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong

Galerie Perrotin Hong Kong is showcasing the most recent fired clay sculptures by Flemish artist Johan Creten in an exhibition entitled “FIREWORKS”. Alongside Thomas Schütte and Lucio Fontana, Creten was one of the earliest exponents of clay art: he started working with clay in the late 1980s, when the medium was still taboo in the art world.

Anchoring the exhibition is the sensual centerpiece Hong Kong Beauty (2014), the newest addition to Creten’s famous long-standing series “Odore di Femmina”. The title of the series is taken from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, referencing the moment when a seducer smells a woman before he sees her and is already attracted. Creten has created a few of these signature torsos each year over the years; the exhibition press release (PDF download) describes how his forms have evolved:

from the early dark black torso suggesting mussel shell covered rocks [...] to the open coral colored torso made in Miami and to the pristine virginal white Sèvres torso that was shown at the Wallace Collection in London and at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Johan Creten, 'Odore di Femmina, Hong Kong Beauty', 2013-2014, gold luster on red glazed stoneware, 93 x 59 x 44 cm. Photo by Joyce Yung. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Perrotin.

Johan Creten, ‘Odore di Femmina, Hong Kong Beauty’, 2013-2014, gold luster on red glazed stoneware, 93 x 59 x 44 cm. Photo by Joyce Yung. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Perrotin.

Covered in a fleshy dark red glaze and a skin of bright gold luster, Hong Kong Beauty is the first of Creten’s torsos to make use of a glazed stoneware base. The piece’s fragile and tender rose petals make the piece seductively enticing, and yet its razor-sharp edges confer threat and underlying tension between the two sexes.

Johan Creten, 'Community One', 2013, cream colored stoneware with mixed glazes, 84 x 94 x 117 cm. Photo by Joyce Yung. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Perrotin.

Johan Creten, ‘Community One’, 2013, cream colored stoneware with mixed glazes, 84 x 94 x 117 cm. Photo by Joyce Yung. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Perrotin.

Another of the sculptures on show is also Hong Kong-inspired, entitled Hong Kong Fireworks. Preferring to work on the move for the past 25 years instead of having a permanent studio, the artist is primarily inspired and influenced by the environment and landscape around him.

“FIREWORKS” runs at Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong until 15 November 2014.

Gan Daofu, 'Hidden Blue', 2013, Jingdezhen porcelain, 54 cm x 51 cm. Image courtesy the artist and FitzGerald Fine Arts.

Gan Daofu, ‘Hidden Blue’, 2013, Jingdezhen porcelain, 54 cm x 51 cm. Image courtesy the artist and FitzGerald Fine Arts.

“THE SCHOLAR AND THE SENTINEL” |  FitzGerald Fine Arts, London

FitzGerald Fine Arts presents “The Scholar and the Sentinel”, a debut appearance for the gallery at the Asian Art in London fair. The exhibition presents a group of Chinese artists who relate their contemporary work to ancient scholarly traditions. The exhibition press release (PDF download) states:

Whilst respecting the formalities of the past, their works portray a vivid contemporary sensibility. Within each artist is a dramatic tension created by a desire to obey ancient disciplines whilst bursting with a need for stand-alone self-expression.

The ceramic pieces are created by artists based in Jingdezhen, porcelain city of China and home to the famed Ming kilns. The host gallery’s Director Benjamin Walker comments that “[m]any of [the] contemporary Jingdezhen pieces are direct ‘descendants’ of the fabled Ming blue and white.”

Gan Daofu, 'Sentinel and the Pines', 2013, Jingdezhen porcelain, 86 cm x 22 cm. Image courtesy the artist and FitzGerald Fine Arts.

Gan Daofu, ‘Sentinel and the Pines’, 2013, Jingdezhen porcelain, 86 cm x 22 cm. Image courtesy the artist and FitzGerald Fine Arts.

Although the artists presented come from the highly regarded Jingdezhen school, which upholds traditions and skills stretching back 1700 years, their works are distinctly contemporary. They marry techniques and styles from Western art as well as various periods in Chinese history. Connoisseurs of ancient ceramics will recognise both familiarity and a fresh perspective in the works, whether in form, method, material or colour.

“The Scholar and the Sentinel” runs at The Weiss Gallery in London during the Asian Art in London fair from 30 October to 8 November 2014.

Michele Chan

522

Related Topics: Hong Kong artists, Chinese artists, ceramic art, sculpturefire, events in Hong Kong, events in London

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Shanghai: A September of art fairs



Shanghai played host to four different contemporary art fairs in each week of September 2014.

The arrival of four art fairs in the month of September 2014 – on the heels of the opening of two new museums, the Yuz Museum of Contemporary Art and the Long Museum West Bund – suggests that a tactical cultural renaissance in Shanghai is progressing on more than one front.

West Bund Art and Design 2014, general view. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

West Bund Art and Design 2014, general view. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

The contemporary art fair is an international phenomenon. Leading players such as Art Basel (founded in 1970) and Frieze (founded in 2003) draw an international art public travelling with an aim: to experience international art and culture from a metropolitan perspective. These fairs support galleries with spectacular commissions and public displays, and by fostering a panoply of associated new exhibitions across the host city, thus making it the place to be, at the time, to live and breathe contemporary art.

Art fairs focus and inspire the existing art map of their city. For the group of internationally-minded art cognoscenti, the fairs are on a circuit of compelling events where the emergence of new art can be more than just seen: it can be sensed and experienced, discussed and checked against the pulse of a city context. More than the sums of their parts, leading art fairs have become cultural events in their own right.

Art Radar visited four art fairs in Shanghai in September 2014.

Zhu Lanqing, 'A Journey in Reverse Direction' (detail), 2011-12, installation view at Minshing Museum, "Contemporary Photography in China 2009 – 2014". Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Zhu Lanqing, ‘A Journey in Reverse Direction’ (detail), 2011-12, installation view at Minshing Museum, “Contemporary Photography in China 2009 – 2014″. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Photo Shanghai | 4-7 September 2014

September got off to a dazzling start with Photo Shanghai, a new fair dedicated to photography. The fair attracted 42 galleries of consistent quality: local, national and international, from cities such as London, Paris, Beijing, Hong Kong and Tokyo. There was a sense of ambitious spectacle, despite the fair being implicitly for the entry-level collector. Affordable images were available and all works fell in the price range of USD1250 to USD175,000.

Large format contemporary works punctuated the forceful monochrome icons of historic process photography. The works linked emerging Asian photography with well-established names and images. Three of the highest priced works were snapped up on the opening evening. Collectors visited from eighteen countries, and a series of talks and tours provided a context for them and embedded the relevance of the fair in Shanghai and the Chinese art world.

The presence of additional, specially curated new media events linked the fair to current and recent shows in the city, such as K11’s “Metamorphosis of the Virtual 5 + 5” (5 July – 31 August 2014) and Chronus Art Centre’s “Jeffrey Shaw and Hu Jieming Twofold Solo Exhibition” (9 May – 28 November 2014).

Minsheng Art Museum was on board as well with “Contemporary Photography in China 2009 – 2014 (1 September – 15 October 2014), portraying images of ‘a liquid society’. The exhibition identified three thematic areas that give order to and make sense of a wide range of images. The show was profound, seemingly unaffected by the marketing perspectives of its commercial partnership.

The OCAT exhibition of Roger Ballen and Daniel Lee, entitled “Metamorphosis Mirror (13 July – 14 September 2014), also reinforced a sense of the relationship between photography and fine art. Additionally, Ballen’s work was well represented across several galleries. Long Museum West Bund’s anticipated show of Vic Muniz‘s work (23 September – 1 November 2014) also suggested that the photographic image was being taken seriously as art in Shanghai. It was no surprise that the fair was popular.

Wang Xieda at James Cohen Gallery at SH Contemporary. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Wang Xieda at James Cohan Gallery at SH Contemporary. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

BolognaFiere SH Contemporary | 12-14 September 2014

Less than a week after Photo Shanghai, the cavernous halls of the Shanghai Exhibition Centre were reordered to accommodate SH Contemporary, an annual event that has run since 2007. Against the pizzazz of top quality photography and great organisation, the contemporary art show was a diffident affair. Rather than employing the central hall, the show stretched out into over 12,078 square metres through the wings of the building. This left the heart of the complex for special projects, but none were forthcoming. The imposing vacant space acted as a foil for Candida Höfer’s portentous empty interiors presented by Matthew Liu Fine Arts, who unintentionally held the space almost single-handedly. The vast desolate area overpowered other displays, such as Michael Wolf’s crowded large format photos of Hong Kong.

The SH Contemporary organisation did not appear to have done much after the show: no market report on footfall or sales was available. There were, inevitably, some fantastic things to see, such as ShanghART’s showing of Wu Yiming; but overall the show didn’t bring anything that would compel a detour to Shanghai to see new art.

Installation view of Zhu Jinshi at Pearl Lam Galleries' space at Art in the City. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Installation view of Zhu Jinshi at Pearl Lam Galleries’ space at Art in the City. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Art in the City | 11-14 September 2014

Art In the City is a new initiative: an exhibition and an art app highlighting the exhibitions of participating galleries. It was described by Massimo Torrigiani –one of its founders who was previously with SH Contemporary – as a “curated selling exhibition developed with the galleries – not like a fair.” In fact, sales at Art in the City were restrained, but the ambition to spotlight Shanghai’s galleries in an ‘ongoing project’ is promising.

The event connected fifteen of Shanghai’s leading commercial galleries, of which several were represented at both Art in the City and SH Contemporary. Usually, the geographic separation of galleries in Shanghai makes a survey view of the city a daunting and exhausting trek, so there was some sense in creating this unified platform in K11’s sumptuous central location beneath their attractive shopping mall.

The exhibition was dominated by an insistent livery, a pseudo-Parisian street scene, produced by Kokai Studios. The jaunty graphic created an air of lightness, rather at odds with the intensity of much of the art. As with SH Contemporary, one looked for jaw dropping effects, larger than the pervading theme of the context. Pearl Lam Galleries delivered this, possessing their space with a single staggering painting by Zhu Jinshi.

Nam June-Paik, 'Eskimo Man', 1995, at Art in the City. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Nam June Paik, ‘Eskimo Man’, 1995, at Art in the City. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Elsewhere, there was a feeling that the works were drawn from stock, so there were few surprises if one was familiar with Shanghai’s gallery scene. This left it to the curation of the spaces to invent new perspectives for the work. Some, such as 55, Hakgojae, Aike-Dellarco and BANK, pulled this off very well. Hakgojae’s deployment of Nam June Paik’s Eskimo Man (1995) – with his jolly, antenna-like umbrella and body assembled from retro radio hardware – harmonised with the street theme and invited thinking about the character of the visiting collector and the audience in the venue.

Yutaka Sone and Rirkirt Tiravanija, 'Titles', 2014, at West Bund Art and Design 2014. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Yutaka Sone and Rirkrit Tiravanija, ‘Titles’, 2014, at West Bund Art and Design 2014. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

West Bund Art and Design | 25-29 September 2014, 1-26 October 2014

The much-anticipated West Bund Art and Design fair appeared after a week’s hiatus, occupying a novel venue close to the aforementioned new Shanghai museums. The stunning exhibition hall certainly looked like a contemporary art fair, where Frieze and Art Basel have set the bar quite high. With a total of 25 galleries, the new venture included some significant ones such as Hauser and Wirth and Pace, who do not have spaces in Shanghai.

Overall sales were reported as being positive, although few foreign collectors were compelled to make the journey to this cultural peninsula of Shanghai. Mathieu Borysevicz, the director of BANK, observed that, “Demographically speaking, most [buyers] were top Chinese veterans and young collectors.” Some local galleries reported healthy sales: Pearl Lam consigned Jim Lambie’s Metal Box Hyacinth Orchid to the Long Museum for USD255,000 and sold several of Ren Ri’s bee sculptured honeycomb in Plexiglas cubes, as well as paintings by Zhu Jinshi. Shi Zhiying, presented by Beijing’s White Space, reportedly sold out. Hauser and Wirth sold works by Thomas Houseago, Zhang Enli, Sterling Ruby, Christopher Orr, Wilhelm Sasnal and Jakub Julian Ziolkowski. Elsewhere, sales were only described as “quite positive”.

For the general public, the isolation of the venue conspired with the self-assured art to give an impression of elitism. There was no counter-effort to engage, educate or share, particularly towards fostering the interest of young people.

Installation at West Bund Art and Design. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Installation at West Bund Art and Design. Photo by Andrew Stooke.

Meanwhile, London’s Frieze art fair is discussed and embraced as a ‘festival’ because of its engaging programme, at a tangent to the core purpose of showing and selling art. Both collectors and the public want a sense of event that creates new trends rather than follows them: contemporary art as a live experience, not as a stock report.

The art fair is an opportunity to bring together new, challenging and exciting work in extraordinary places. It is one element of a robust art sector that connects people with their shared culture, and public interest urges artists to make even better artworks. Who knows who the patrons, philanthropists and collectors of an emerging generation will be?

Andrew Stooke

517

Related Topics: Chinese art, promoting art, art fairs, round up, art and the community, events in Shanghai

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Art Radar Institute seeks 101 Course Tutor



101 Course Tutor (Part-time)

Art Radar Institute was founded in June 2011 and offers online and face-to-face courses to art professionals, academics, artists, scholars and collectors. To date, more than 80 students have undertaken the Institute’s flagship online course, the Art Radar Certificate in Art Journalism & Writing 101.

The Institute is seeking a part-time Course Tutor to teach and manage students undertaking this unique 101 certificate programme. Over 13 weeks, students on this programme learn to write and edit up to two articles that will be published on Art Radar, one of the leading online platforms covering contemporary art news and trends in Asia and beyond. The magazine has nearly 20,000 unique visitors a month, as well as 20,000 subscribers and followers.

Description

Day to day responsibilities include

  • interviewing prospective students
  • communicating with prospective and current students via email and Skype
  • finding and assigning articles to students
  • editing and providing feedback on coursework completed by students
  • uploading completed student articles to Art Radar for publication
  • grading students and writing reference letters
  • various administration tasks directly related to the management of prospective and current students

Art Radar Institute and Art Radar operate remotely, with staff members working from home across the world. As such, applicants for this position can be based anywhere in the world, although applicants living in the Asia region will be given preference.

Requirements

Successful candidates must

  • have a strong background in education (online or offline) and/or journalism, contemporary art, art history, online publishing – our ideal candidate will have previously published on visual culture media
  • have experience using WordPress, with knowledge of HTML and CSS beneficial
  • have native-level English language ability, written and spoken
  • have a tertiary-level education
  • have excellent communication skills, both written and spoken
  • have excellent attention to detail

The 101 Course Tutor’s salary will be commensurate with experience. The 101 Course Tutor is a part-time role: weekly work time requirements will be confirmed during the interview period. This role is ideal for freelancers, and is conducted online via Skype, email and messenger.

How to apply

To apply for this position, please email your CV, a cover letter and two relevant writing samples to artradarrecruitment@gmail.com. Please include “Art Radar Institute seeks 101 Course Tutor” in the subject line.

Application deadline: Sunday, 2 November 2014

Shortlisted applicants will be contacted by email and will be required to attend up to two interviews over Skype. Only shortlisted and successful applicants will be contacted.

Please direct questions about this position to artradarrecruitment@gmail.com. Please include “Art Radar Institute seeks 101 Course Tutor” in the subject line.

Previous applicants may re-apply.