How to start collecting Asian art – Heiner Wemhöner’s tips



Want to collect contemporary art from Asia but don’t know where to begin? Renowned collector Heiner Wemhöner tells Art Radar how he got started.

Art lovers often want to make the leap from looking to collecting, but it takes confidence to do so. Art Radar spoke to longtime collector Heiner Wemhöner to find out how he got started buying contemporary Asian art, and to hear his tips for would-be collectors and dealers.

Wang Yin, Untitled, 2007, oil and acrylic canvas, 150 x 400 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Wang Yin, Untitled, 2007, oil and acrylic canvas, 150 x 400 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Heiner Wemhöner started collecting in the late 1990s and his collection now comprises artworks by world renowned artists, ranging from painting and photography to sculpture. His relationship with contemporary art was strengthened with the planning and realisation of the MARTa Herford museum (Germany), opened in 2005 in a Frank O. Gehry designed building.

Wemhöner supports the cultural life of his hometown, Herford, as Chair of the Friends of MARTa and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wemhöner Foundation, established in 2000. Since 2006, the Foundation has invited internationally renowned artists through its Fünf Tore/ Fünf Orte project to create works for the medieval city gates in Herford. The first of such artists to realise an artwork was American Dennis Oppenheim. The Foundation also holds a biannual award, the MARTa Herford Prize.

In 2011, Wemhöner published FOCUS ASIA, the first volume in a series of publications on the Wemhöner collection, written by China expert Ulrike Münter and examining East-West correspondences in the artworks, placing them within the context of art history.

Zhou Tiehai, 'To have and have not', 2007, acrylic on canvas, 176 x 230 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Zhou Tiehai, ‘To have and have not’, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 176 x 230 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

You started collecting art in the 1990s. Who and what inspired you to begin?

It was at the end of the 1980s that I bought my first colourful oil paintings in Florence, Italy. A friend living in the region had taken me to some galleries.

Can you tell me more about the Wemhöner Foundation? Why did the foundation shift its focus onto contemporary art?

The Wemhöner Foundation was founded to mark the 75th anniversary of the company in 2000; it started its work by supporting the training and advanced training of young engineers. Since 2010, the foundation has also funded the museum MARTa in Herford, my hometown. This is why every two years, the MARTa prize of the Wemhöner Stiftung is awarded, with the latest award ceremony having taken place just a few days ago.

Your family company has a base in China. Was it this that drew you to Asian art?

When I started looking for a location in the metropolitan area of Shanghai for my company in 2004, I came across Lorenz Heibling‘s ShanghART Gallery – a lucky strike for me. Through Lorenz I met a lot of artists. And I have a keen personal interest in the magnificent Chinese culture going back several thousands of years. This culture, after all, is often referred to in the work of young artists. I take great pleasure in constantly learning something new. And I love to read books about China.

Yang Fudong, 'No snow on the broken brigd', 2006, C-Print laminated on aluminium, edition 1/10, 120 x 180 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Yang Fudong, ‘No snow on the broken brigd’, 2006, C-print laminated on aluminium, edition 1/10, 120 x 180 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Can you tell me about your collection – who and what do you focus on and why?

Currently the collection includes about 600 works, lots of them photographic. It was in China that I first got in touch with photography. Yang Fudong is one of my favourites: he is so wonderfully poetic. But of course, there are also paintings and drawings in the collection. And on top of that, I have created a large sculpture garden. Li Hui, a Beijing artist, is currently working on a sculpture – a large outdoor sculpture – for our company in Changzhou.

What was the first piece of contemporary Asian art you bought and why were you drawn you to it?

I bought the first two works from Schoeni Art Gallery in Hong Kong, two sculptures by Yue Minjun. The strong expressiveness of the work – “romanticism and realism” – touched me deeply. There is such a sense of new beginnings about it, exactly the mood I was in at that time.

How has your collection evolved over the years?

Photography became more and more important, and something happened that I never would have imagined a few years ago: the collection can now also count video works and video installations among its assets.

Yue Minjun, 'Romanticism & Realism Series #1', 2003, acrylic on fibreglass, 95 x 78 x 30 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Yue Minjun, ‘Romanticism & Realism Series #1′, 2003, acrylic on fibreglass, 95 x 78 x 30 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

What changes in Asian contemporary art have you witnessed in your collecting career?

The forms of expression have changed, for example by shifting from Cynical Realism and colourful hues to more subtle forms. And they have become more political, too.

You have published FOCUS ASIA, the first book in a series presenting your collection. Can you tell me about the series and why you chose to display your work in this way?

After having collected art for several years, I felt the desire to catalogue the works to put them in order and keep better track of the collection’s evolution. In this light, it was only consistent to publish FOCUS ASIA as the first book, given also that the collection really has a strong focus on Asian and Chinese art. I think that there are about 35 Chinese artists in the collection at the moment.

Will there be an exhibition accompanying the book? Do you have any wider plans to loan out or exhibit your collection?

We have just presented a part of the collection to the public for the first time, and the opening ceremony was held last Saturday in the OSRAM Höfe in Berlin. A catalogue of the exhibition is also available. I would be very happy to hold an exhibition of the collection in the city of Changzhou, where our Chinese company is located. But contemporary art has not yet appeared on the radar of politicians there. We’re working on it.

Yu Ji, 'Fang and her Doll', 2007, digital C-print, 120 x 150 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Yu Ji, ‘Fang and her Doll’, 2007, digital C-print, 120 x 150 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Every year there are more and more fairs and biennales. Do you attend them and are they useful for you as a collector, or do you source acquisitions by other means?

Yes, the number of fairs is exploding now. This is certainly a sign that interest in contemporary art is growing. On the other hand, it is impossible for a collector to visit all these fairs. In the past, a biennale always meant something special. Now, in my view, it is losing much of its significance due to this inflationary trend. Less would be more.

There are many people who love art and long to own a work but cannot make the leap to collect, doubting their own intuition and taste. What is your advice to them?

Follow your gut feeling. Follow what you love – what touches you, what stirs your emotions. Don’t ask for the price first. Ask the cost of something only when you like it. And then ask yourself if you can, or would like to, be able to afford it just at that moment.

What advice would you give to a dealer who is starting out about how to develop a relationship with a collector like you? Why?

For me, the best gallerist would be the one telling me “Listen, I would not buy this if I were you, because this is one of the weaker works of the artist.” A gallerist providing just honest advice. But this is how trust is built. I would also expect the gallerist to give me timely hints and suggestions helping me to be the first to have a look at some particular works.

Chi Peng, 'Wu Kong', 2012, oil on canvas, 120 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Chi Peng, ‘Wu Kong’, 2012, oil on canvas, 120 x 100 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

What are the biggest mistakes that novice dealers make with established collectors? Why?

Selling you something they are not convinced of, only to get rid of a shelf-warmer. The relationship between a gallerist and a collector is a very delicate one and should primarily be built on trust.

Do you have any rules of thumb about the career stages of an artist? For example, is it best to collect art which has appeared at auction, artists who have had their first solo show or something else?

You should buy an artist’s work if you like it, if you feel fascinated by it. Buying big names and spending lots of money is something anybody can do! And at times, you have to be ready to even buy something you might not like so much five years later; in other words, to make concessions. Buying something because you feel emotional about it is no mistake, after all. But you will move on. And this is a positive thing.

You have been active in the art world a long time, what are the biggest irritations or challenges?

The incredibly high prices that are presently achieved at international auctions, such as Sotheby’s or Christie’s. Where is this going to end?

Chen Xiaoyun, 'Revolution's Romanticism', 2007, Inkjet print, edition 3 / 8, 144 x 180 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Chen Xiaoyun, ‘Revolution’s Romanticism’, 2007, Inkjet print, edition 3 / 8, 144 x 180 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

What information sources do you use to follow the art world?

I read a lot. Books, art magazines, newspapers, and I visit galleries and also museum exhibitions. And I meet the artists.

You must have seen many shows over the years. What makes an interesting show and what makes a bad one?

 I still clearly remember the exhibition “Sensation” in the museum Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin 1999. For the first time ever, Saatchi showed British avant-garde, with artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. This was indeed a shock for me, I simply was not ready for it yet. The exhibition was a highly moving experience I will always keep in my mind.

Shi Xinning, 'Cigarette', 2008, oil on cavans, 150 x 150 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Shi Xinning, ‘Cigarette’, 2008, oil on cavans, 150 x 150 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Wei Guangqing, 'In Inscription No 1', 2008, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 146 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Wei Guangqing, ‘In Inscription No 1′, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 146 cm. Image courtesy Sammlung Wemhöner.

Related Topics: Chinese art and artists, collecting, interviews

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Seoul’s Mediacity 2014 presents 12 new works and a pan-Asian vision



Seoul’s international biennale of new media art will feature 12 new works and participants from across Asia.

Mediacity Seoul 2014, taking place from 2 September to 23 November 2014, will present works by artists from East and Southeast Asia, as well as from the Arab region and the West. This year’s edition will also feature 12 new works, the largest number shown at the event to date.

Identity of SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul 2014. Image courtesy SeMA Biennale 2014.

Identity of SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul 2014 “Ghosts, Spies, and Grandmothers”. Image courtesy the artist and SeMA Biennale <Mediacity Seoul> 2014.

The SeMA Biennale <Mediacity Seoul>, also known as Seoul International Media Art Biennale, now in its eighth edition, is curated by Korean artist and filmmaker Park Chan-kyong. The theme of the 2014 biennale is “Ghosts, Spies, and Grandmothers”.

The exhibition, which is hosted by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and organised by the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA), will feature twelve new works, the largest number of new artworks to be presented in the history of the biennale. The event this year also looks to expand on the notions of ‘Asia’ and the complexities of its reality, inviting artists from the Arab region and the West to participate alongside East Asian and Southeast Asian artists.

The organisers explain their vision of Asia in the press release:

The idea here is not to promote Asia as a lifeless or fixed entity, but to see it as a moving target, a cognitive lens, a region that is much more complex than its stereotypes. Toward these ends, artists from Arab and Western countries will also participate in the exhibition.

Among the participants in this year’s biennale are Dinh Q. Le, Ho Sin-Tung, The Propeller Group, Haegue Yang, Bae Young-whan, Yuichiro Tamura, Otty Widasari, Nilbar Güreş, Truong Cong Tung, Sean Snyder and others. The Biennale told Art Radar that at this stage more information about the artists is not available for disclosure as yet. The final list of participants will be announced in May 2014.

The Biennale held a pre-biennale series of workshops, conversations and talks and a pre-biennale exhibition in October-December 2013.

Truong Cong Tung, 'Magical Garden', 2012-2014, found photograph taken by the patients at "Magical Garden", Long An province, Vietnam. Image courtesy the artist and SeMA Biennale 2014.

Truong Cong Tung, ‘Magical Garden’, 2012-2014, found photograph taken by the patients at “Magical Garden”, Long An province, Vietnam. Image courtesy the artist and SeMA Biennale <Mediacity Seoul> 2014.

Ghosts, Spies and Grandmothers

The theme of “Ghosts, Spies, and Grandmothers” explores notions of history, tradition, technology, spirituality, mysticism and colonialism, among others.

Artists exploring the notion of “ghost”, capture scenes of the traditional and the modern colliding and negotiating with each other, through ideas of spiritualism, mysticism, rituals and visions.

The exhibition seeks to show how artists’ practices are similar to those of spies and how artists can reverse the meaning of “spy”, alluding to the history of colonialism and the Cold War in Asia, and the rise of Asian nationalisms brought about by wars, ideological witch-hunts and mutual distrust.

The Biennale aims to bring the potency of the “grandmother” image forth, which is often seen as irrelevant today. Least associated with politics, grandmothers have nonetheless experienced transformations through the ages, with colonialism and war. In Korea, they have for centuries been associated with the sacred, being the ones that rise early to pray for the family.

Che Onejoon, 'Mansudae Master Class', 2014, three-channel HD Video, duration: approx. 20 min. Image courtesy the artist and SeMA Biennale 2014.

Che Onejoon, ‘Mansudae Master Class’, 2014, three-channel HD Video, duration: approx. 20 min. Image courtesy the artist and SeMA Biennale <Mediacity Seoul> 2014.

More about Mediacity Seoul

The SeMA Biennale <Mediacity Seoul> was inaugurated in 2000 and is one of the few biennales in Asia that focus on new media art. Since its inception, the event has been promoting experimental and cutting-edge new media practices and developing cross-disciplinary discourses with contemporary science, philosophy and new technology. The biennale also aims to show the multitude of interests and ideas explored in the world of contemporary art. Curators of past editions of the biennale include Sunjung Kim, Wonil Rhee, Misook Song, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Jeremy Millar, Barbara London and Yuko Hasegawa.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: biennales, new media art, Asian and Middle Eastern artists, events in Seoul

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Manila’s mean streets: The Filipino Street Art Project – part 1



A feature-length documentary and multimedia project bring Manila’s flourishing and evolving street art scene to a global audience.

In the first installment of a three-part series, Art Radar introduces the Filipino Street Art Project, a transmedia project that delves into the Filipino street art scene in and around Metro Manila. Talking to artists, documenting and archiving walls and artworks around the city, the Project explores the broader meanings of street art and its universality.

Kookoo and Ku. Image courtesy the Filipino Street Art Project.

Kookoo and Ku, ‘Welcome 2014′, 2014, spray paint. Image courtesy Kookoo Ramos.

Street art: “Anyone can do it, everyone can view it”

Street art is one of the most public art forms, utilising the cityscape and urban space as its canvas. The phrase “street art” is an umbrella term encompassing the various facets of this form of visual art, ranging from an unsanctioned, barely legal sub-culture that involves graffiti tagging, stencils, stickers, mosaics, installations, video and even “yarn bombing”, to more mainstream commissioned murals and artwork used during urban regeneration. In recent years, street art has even found a place in auction houses.

In the Philippines, street art has recently become widespread in cities such as Manila, Cavite and Cebu. It is this diversity and vibrancy that attracted Kim Dryden, a documentary filmmaker, and Austin Smith, a Filipino-American storyteller with degrees in South and Southeast Asian studies, to Manila’s street art scene. They started the Filipino Street Art Project in 2013.

Kim Dryden says:

Street art is accessible in so many ways – anyone can do it, everyone can view it. It’s a really populist medium, an amazingly powerful way to communicate big ideas to the maximum amount of people.

About the Filipino Street Art Project

The Filipino Street Art Project is a multi-fold endeavour combining several approaches. Through the project Dryden and Smith aim to learn about the local street art scene, engage new audiences and build bridges between existing artistic communities.

To these ends, the project encompasses a website, a fortnightly newsletter, partnerships (such as with Wika Magazine and Wake Forest University), internships and fellowships, as well as a class at Wake Forest University in which students will make films and create e-books based on one chosen artist. A central aspect of the Project is a feature-length documentary film that follows the journeys of two artists. The Project was recently invited to be a part of the Google Cultural Institute.

Some of the Filipino street artists featured in the project are:

  • Lee Salvador
  • Triskaideka Masuerte
  • Basic Lee
  • Gerilya
  • Whoop Wonka
  • KooKoo Ramos
  • Elli Killingwithcuteness
  • Blic Pinas
  • Brian Barrios
Gerilya. Image courtesy the Filipino Street Art Project.

Gerilya, ‘NCCA Urban Artscape Project’, 2013, acrylic paint. Image courtesy Jano Gonzales.

The rise of street art in the Philippines

Artist Mark Salvatus, one of the founding members of Pilipinas Art Plan (PSP), started out as a street artist. He said of the Filipino street art scene:

The street art scene in the Philippines is getting bigger, with many crews, collectives and groups presenting different kinds of aesthetics, agendas and voices – political or apolitical. It is not only centered in Manila, there are also initiatives in other emerging cities like Cebu, Cavite and Tacloban. Compared to before, street art is well accepted now; you can see it in the streets and also in galleries, events, advertising, fashion, etc. It is youth culture and urban culture.

The streets give a voice to members of a society, allowing them to express themselves in various ways, whether artistically or to make socio-political statements. Kim Dryden told Art Radar:

The artists we work with all have their own reasons for being involved in street art. On one end of the spectrum, you have artists whose work is a very personal thing, sometimes purely aesthetic because they simply enjoy painting on the streets. On the other end of the spectrum, some artists’ work is very direct in what they’re trying to convey – they contain very clear social and political critique, for example. And then in the middle, you see artists using street art as a way to deal with identity, discuss big issues like globalization, or make people think about how public space is used.

The street artscape in the Philippines is currently very active. Like any artists, street artists here have diverse styles, messages, inspiration and reasons for painting what they paint. Lee Salvador, whose artworks feature a blue character with a monster emerging from its chest, said in an interview with Dryden that this motif “represents that everyone has a bad side, but that we can work on it”. He elaborates:

I’m trying to tell everyone that life isn’t fair: we struggle, feel pain, and are uncomfortable, but it’s there that we need to fight and realize that we can turn negatives into positives. I’m doing street art for the kids who can’t go to an art gallery or malls to see colourful posters and artworks, and for those kids who don’t have [a] TV in their homes.

Gerilya, an artist collective formed in 2008, explores socio-political issues and national identity through art. Inspired by Filipino culture and history, they seek to make their art as relevant as possible, explaining:

Our style is very similar to comic books – graphic images, colourful, bold lines and playful use of typography. We’ve tackled a lot of political issues since we started doing street art. The earliest was a road painting protest about the militarisation in universities and campuses. Our most recent mural was a commentary on the Pork Barrel corruption in the Philippines’ government.

Lee and Rai. Image courtesy Filipino Street Art Project.

Lee Salvador and Rai Cruz, Untitled, 2012, acrylic paint. Image courtesy Filipino Street Art Project.

Whose streets?

While names such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey have been synonymous with the art form for years, street art has also taken off in other parts of the world. Often employed as a method of social and political critique, this form of art also throws open the definition of the public sphere and to whom the streets belong.

According to Rai Cruz of Cavite-based Filipino street art group Cavity Collective, quoted in INQUIRER.net, street art is like

reclaiming an urban space. It’s communication. […] There’s always the risk that either someone paints over it or the structure later gets torn down. So we know [the artwork] is just temporary.

In the same article, Maiquez of Pilipinas Street Plan adds, “We don’t mind if they repaint it. Anyway that’s the sense [of a public space], it’s free for all.”

B.B. Marshal. Image courtesy the Filipino Street Art Project.

Brian Barrios, Untitled, 2011, acrylic paste on manila paper (wheatpaste). Image courtesy Anakbayan.

Archiving street art

Unlike many other art forms, street art is, by its nature, temporary and ephemeral. This makes its documentation and archiving vital. Mark Salvatus said:

PSP also archives street art in the Philippines through its blog where you can see the development of it since 2006. The blog is a big help in archiving those images because maybe 90 percent of the works on the streets are gone.

The Filipino Street Art Project, similarly, is committed to not only bringing street art around Manila in the spotlight, but also documenting it through their blog, website, film and social media. According to Austin Smith of the Project,

[street art] has been around for a long time in western countries but is recently really taking off. In developing countries like the Philippines, street art and graffiti really got going at the same time that social media did, and I think this has a lot to do with its popularity.

Social media assists street artists to reach out to an even wider cross-section of audiences, while at the same time allowing them a means to document their work. Since street art is site-specific, the internet plays its role in helping it go from local to global.

Dee Jae. Image courtesy the Filipino Street Art Project.

Dee Jae Paeste, ‘Animal Spirit Murals’, 2013, spray paint and stencil. Image courtesy Dee Jae Paeste.

Next in this series

In the second installment of this three-part series, Art Radar features an exclusive interview with Kim Dryden and Austin Smith about the idea behind the Filipino Street Art Project, its progress and what lies ahead for the team and artists.

Kriti Bajaj

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Related Topics: Filipino artists, film, street art, documentary, graffiti, public art, art in Manila

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Abulnasser Gharem’s “Al Sahwa” in Dubai – in pictures



Dubai’s Ayyam Gallery holds Abdulnasser Gharem’s first solo show in the Gulf region since 2010.

Ayyam Gallery in Dubai is holding Saudi Arabian artist Abdulnasser Gharem’s solo exhibition from 17 March to 30 April 2014. Entitled “Al Shawa”, the show explores symbols, images and events in the recent history of the Islamic world and proposes a new awakening for the contemporary Middle East.

Abdulnasser Gharem with his work 'The Concrete'. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem with his work ‘The Concrete Block’, 2012. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

The intolerance of “Al Shawa”

The exhibition title “Al Shawa” (The Awakening) refers to the Al Shawa movement of the 1970s and early 1980s, which dominated public and university life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and across the Middle East. The movement focused on a restrictive version of Islam as dictated by the “Shawiin” and challenged anyone who stood against its beliefs, including Shi’aas and Sufis.

Abdulnasser Gharem (b. 1973) was only a child when Al Shawa started to gain ground in schools. He recalls how everything started to change, from the shorter uniforms to the best grades given to the students that participated in the Al Shawa association.

Abdulnasser Gharem, 'Camouflage', 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 240 x 480 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem, ‘Camouflage’, 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 240 x 480 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

In his artist statement, Gharem recounts how Al Shawa “began to shape the identity and growth of the students,” and the artist “eventually felt that they were trying to change my spiritual genes and I became an unintended victim.”

The artist goes on to mention how movements like Al Shawa attracted anyone who felt marginalised by society or came from places that were suffering from social brittleness and found in those movements a way to improve their lives.

Abdulnasser Gharem 'Detour', 2009, custom-made LED light box, 105 x 70 cm, edition of 8. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem ‘Detour’, 2009, custom-made LED light box, 105 x 70 cm, edition of 8. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

A call for a new awakening

Through this exhibition, Gharem explores those times and proposes a new kind of awakening for the contemporary Middle East. This awakening must be facilitated through creativity, dialogue, exchange of knowledge, discourse on art and education, and an attitude of tolerance.

Abdulnasser Gharem, 'Generation Kill', 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 160 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem, ‘Generation Kill’, 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 160 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

In the artist’s own words,

I attempted in this exhibition to magnify all that (…), hoping to launch a request for the restoration of the real Islam, which believes in pluralism and diversity, and together is committed against extremism.

Abdulnasser Gharem, 'Concrete', 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 120 x 240 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem, ‘Concrete’, 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 120 x 240 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

The works in the exhibition include new large-scale stamp paintings and silkscreens from the series Stamps and Men at Work, which are a combination of images of conflict with images of public works and maintenance, encouraging audiences to think about the interfaith conflicts that increasingly plague the Middle East.

Abdulnasser Gharem, 'Hemisphere', 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 240 x 360 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem, ‘Hemisphere’, 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 240 x 360 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

A seminal work in the show is Hemisphere (2014), one of the two largest stamp paintings created by the artist – along with Camouflage (2014). Hemisphere represents an ancient warrior’s helmet juxtaposed with the green dome of a mosque.

The colour green refers to the grandeur of the Muslim world and the peace that the Islamic faith stands for. The reference to conflict – the helmet – points to the recent elements that are averse to a peaceful Islamic environment.

Abdulnasser Gharem, 'Pause, 2014, (diptych), rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 160 x 400 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem, ‘Pause’, 2014, (diptych), rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 160 x 400 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Pause (2014) relates to the events of 9/11. In an interview with NPR, the artist explains that the title refers to the moment of shock felt globally after the attacks, when “the whole world was like someone pushed that button: pause.” He also mentions that most of the 19 men aboard the plane were Saudi Arabian and some went to school with him, but inexplicably chose the path of religious extremism.

Abdulnasser Gharem, 'The Stamp (Moujaz)', 2012, silkscreen print on Somerset Tub paper, 120 x 150 cm. edition of 25. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem, ‘The Stamp (Moujaz)’, 2012, silkscreen print on Somerset Tub paper, 120 x 150 cm. edition of 25. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Moujaz (The Stamp) (2012) is a stamp that brings forth references to the complexities of the bureaucratic processes in an Islamic state.

Abdulnasser Gharem, 'Concrete Block (Red & White'), 2013, rubber stamps, digital print and paint on 9mm Indonesian plywood board, 120 x 115 x 65 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem, ‘Concrete Block (Red & White’), 2013, rubber stamps, digital print and paint on 9mm Indonesian plywood board, 120 x 115 x 65 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem, 'No More Tears', 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 160 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

Abdulnasser Gharem, ‘No More Tears’, 2014, rubber stamps, digital print and paint, 160 x 200 cm. Image courtesy the artist, Ayyam Gallery and Edge of Arabia.

About the artist

Gharem’s conceptual work challenges the perception of art in his native Saudi Arabia. Working in a variety of media, including photography, video, performance and sculpture, the artist examines the nature of life in the modern day and often constructs a social critique. Gharem co-founded Edge of Arabia, a nonprofit platform for art education and international exposure for Saudi Arabian artists. The artist also founded the artist-run nonprofit initiative Amen Art Foundation for emerging Saudi artists.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

323

Related Topics: Saudi artists, conceptual art, picture feasts, gallery shows, events in the UAE

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Gabi Ngcobo on historical legacies – Para Site conference, Hong Kong



The Johannesburg-based artist and curator reflected on the life and death of institutions through her own projects.

On 4 April 2014, South African artist and curator Gabi Ngcobo spoke about the politics of memory and historical self-creation at Para Site’s 2014 International Conference in Hong Kong. This year, the conference title was “Is the living body the last thing left alive? The new performance turn, its histories and its institutions.”

Gabi Ngcobo at the Para Site International Conference 2014. Image courtesy Para Site.

Gabi Ngcobo at the Para Site International Conference 2014. Image courtesy Para Site.

Para Site’s three-day international forum, which featured artist and curator talks, panel discussions and plenary sessions, this year focused on performance art. Gabi Ngcobo’s talk, entitled “Dying to Live/Living to Die”, addressed the cyclical nature and conflict between life, death and existence. Using the narrative of the birth and eventual suicide of the artistic platform that she co-founded, the Center for Historical Reenactments, Ngcobo talked about her projects and the themes that her work explores.

Rope-a-Dope: Observations into everyday life

The Center for Historical Reenactments (CHR) was founded in 2010 in Johannesburg, employing artistic practices to re-interpret history and propose new narratives. Conceptualised by Ngcobo and Sohrab Mohebbi following their collaboration on the curation of a performance art project called Rope-a-Dope: To Win a Losing War, CHR aimed to question and rethink history, memory and language. According to Ngcobo,

CHR began with a question that had largely to do with historical legacies and their resonance and impact on contemporary art, and a willingness to respond to current agencies that have grown over the debris of history.

Rope-a-Dope is a metaphor for political resistance that arose from a fighting strategy employed by Muhammad Ali against reigning world champion George Foreman in an infamous boxing match in 1974. It essentially involves the endurance of repeated blows before rising up to triumph over the adversary, and the term has been revived in contemporary politics and creative strategies.

Ngcobo explains that Rope-a-Dope is not the glorification of suffering in order to create, nor is it about winning, but “an observation into an everyday practice that, for most, is an inevitable part of life.” Using this as a foundation for its projects, CHR explores the consequences of inaction, rituals of self-preservation, and the “everyday practices” such as xenophobia, violence and crime that people in South Africa still contend with.

Image courtesy Center for Historical Reenactments, taken from www.newmuseum.org.

Image courtesy Center for Historical Reenactments, taken from www.newmuseum.org.

The pink elephant and the politics of memory

CHR’s office faced the street corner on which Mozambican musician Gito Baloi was shot dead in April 2004. Many of the buildings in the area were deserted following the advent of the new democracy in 1994, and one of these buildings was a popular liquor chain store with its symbol – a pink elephant – providing a prominent landmark. In 2011, CHR declared this pink elephant a “memory bank”, from which their project Na Ku Randza arose. “Na Ku Randza”, which means “I love you”, was the name of a song by Gito Baloi. Ngcobo said that the project was

conceptualised out of a desire to not be confined to the walls of space but to be driven by the desire to come out.

Click here to see a video of Na Ku Randza on Youtube.com

Na Ku Randza consisted of a series of public interventions in one day, such as spatial painting, a performance by Kemang Wa Lehulere and a memorial graffiti mural by Breeze Yoko that revisited the site of trauma (the area where Baloi was murdered) and:

  • drew attention to sidelined stories and forgotten truths of history beyond grand narratives;
  • became representative of other traumas symptomatic of this area, such as xenophobia, gendered violence, crime;
  • used public sites as an exercise in giving and taking without permission, “finding a grammar to inhabit a space of trauma without duplicating it.”

In another 2011 project, Fr(agile), CHR used the de-cluttering and organising of South African photographer Alf Kumalo’s archive to “think through and push ideas of coming out even further.” The project addressed issues such as:

  • the fragility of memory
  • archives and the franchising of memory
  • hierarchies inherent in the memory industry
Donna Kukama and Kemang Wa Lehulere, 'An Unknowing Grammar of Inhabiting a Text', 2010. View of a performance at CHR, Johannesburg, as a part of the project "Xenoglossia". Image courtesy CHR, taken from www.newmuseum.org.

Donna Kukama and Kemang Wa Lehulere, ‘An Unknowing Grammar of Inhabiting a Text’, 2010. View of a performance at CHR, Johannesburg, as a part of the project “Xenoglossia”. Image courtesy CHR, taken from centerforhistoricalreenactments.blogspot.com.

Staging an institutional suicide

CHR staged its suicide in 2012 with an event called “We are Absolutely Ending This”, which reflected on the South African relationship with spectacles of conclusion. The event was an invitation to collectively reflect on an institution’s lifespan, revisiting the questions that foregrounded it, through performances, videos, concept food and contributions by CHR, Tony Cokes, Shahab Fotouhi and Sohrab Mohebbi, to name a few. Gabi Ngcobo explained that the ending was due to the mystery regarding audiences, expectations of deliverance and the trap of sustenance; but “staging” their own ending provided them with a new visibility.

As an artistic platform, we have kept a flexible structure that should not be mistaken for an institution even if it thinks through questions regarding the future of institutions. […] The future of a pseudo-institutional body is the same as its end; after all, being something that had the right to exist, one has also the right to die.

However, the ending of CHR was in fact a reason to re-evaluate and revisit larger institutional functions, rather than the conclusion of a phase, contemplating what it means for an institutional body “that cannot live, but does not die.”

Kriti Bajaj

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Related Topics: South African artists, conferences, performance art, research, art about the human body, public art, site-specific art, historical art, art about memory, art using words, art about violence, art and the community, artists as curators, events in Hong Kong

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How can galleries make the future brighter? Georgina Adam at Talking Galleries symposium



Art journalist Georgina Adam on proactive approaches to gallery practice.

The Talking Galleries symposium, held in November 2013, closed with a talk by Georgina Adam, during which the art market expert offered a vision of proactive gallery practice in the future. 

Georgina Adam at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Georgina Adam at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

What is Talking Galleries?

The Talking Galleries 2013 symposium took place on 11 and 12 November 2013. The programme was organised in Barcelona and produced by Screen Projects, a cultural agency dedicated to contemporary art. The international galleries meeting aimed to explore the issues that affect and concern gallery practice – how galleries conduct business and operate within the art world – in a reality marked by the economic crisis, changing technology environment and fluctuating values market.

The meeting offered a platform for exchange of ideas for the global community of gallery professionals. Among the participants were prominent, international arts professionals, such as Noah Horowitz, Executive Director of The Armory Show (New York), Ann Demeester, Director of de Appel Arts Centre and Head of de Appel Curatorial Programme (Amsterdam), Sylvain Levy, collector and specialist of contemporary Chinese art, DSL collection, (Paris), among others.

Art Radar gives a summary of the closing talk by Georgina Adam, Art-Market-Editor at Large of The Art Newspaper, Art Market correspondent for the Financial Times, and columnist for the BBC in London.

Watch Georgina Adam at Talking Galleries 2013 on youtube.com

Looking to the future of gallery practice

Adam spoke on the closing day of the symposium, in a talk titled “Looking to the future: a prospective and proactive summary.” She summarised the main ideas discussed during the programme, offering prospective and proactive ways to use approaches and perspectives for the future of gallery practice.

Noah Horowitz at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Noah Horowitz at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

The shifting values of today’s art system

Key shifts in the art market

Noah Horowitz highlighted the key shifts in the art market today:

  • Explosion of the market for modern and contemporary art, doubled since 1998;
  • Globalisation, with the rise of China as a new key player and the ‘decline’ of the EU and US;
  • Growth of an event-driven market, with the proliferation of art fairs;
  • Colossal evolution in auction houses who are moving into private sales and having their own selling spaces;
  • Blurring of boundaries, as dealers mount non-selling shows.

“Don’t be nostalgic, the past won’t come back”

Horowitz’s key predictions for the future were:

  • Escalation of costs, producing the need for more strategic decisions, ie which fairs to participate in;
  • Blurring of boundaries will continue;
  • Internet will be important and on the growing side, although slow;
  • Decentralisation of the market, from big centres such as NY to new ones;
  • The linear model for running galleries is moving from a simple structure to a much more multi-layered structure.
From left to right:   Ann Demeester, de Appel Arts Centre;  Lisa Panting, Holly bush Gardens gallery;  Jeanine Hofland, Janine Hofland Contemporary Art; Victor Gisler, Mai36 Gallery. "ARE GALLERIES STILL RELEVANT? –  Constant reinvention is necessary", Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

From left to right: Ann Demeester, de Appel Arts Centre; Lisa Panting, Holly Bush Gardens gallery; Jeanine Hofland, Janine Hofland Contemporary Art; Victor Gisler, Mai 36 Gallery. In the Panel Discussion “ARE GALLERIES STILL RELEVANT? – Constant reinvention is necessary”, Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Gallerists’ experience

Changes in gallery practice

Various gallerists shared their personal experiences in funding and running galleries, the lessons they learned and the challenges they encountered along the way, and how to adapt to the contemporary art market. Among them were Albert Baronian (Founder of Albert Baronian gallery, Brussels), Janine Hofland (Founder and Director of Janine Hofland Contemporary Art, Amsterdam), Victor Gisler (Founder and Director of Mai 36 Gallery, Zurich), Lisa Panting (co-director of Hollybush Gardens gallery, London), Jocelyn Wolff (Jocelyn Wolff Gallery, Paris) and the collector Alain Servais (Brussels).

Emphasis was put on aspects of gallery practice that are paramount today:

  • Long-term planning/goals and commitment;
  • Believe in what you do, stay focused, don’t give up;
  • Be strategic, make choices, at a time when more money is needed to operate;
  • Use your knowledge to create a brand;
  • Communication with curators, institutions, clients and artists;
  • Professionalise;
  • Cooperate with other galleries and institutions;
  • Emphasise space and relationship to artists;
  • Competition asks for new ways to cope and adapt: smaller galleries can exist alongside the giant players.
  • Need for more transparency.

Developing relationships within the art system

Ainhoa Grandes, Director of the MACBA Foundation, Barcelona, said:

Know who you’re working with.

“Know who you’re talking to,” said Maria Corral, Art Critic and Independent Curator, Madrid. They both stressed the need for galleries to personalise their communication with institutions, tailoring their emails to the individuals they are targeting. Galleries should know about the institution before they approach it. Galleries also need to follow up with information about the artists collected by clients and institutions, as they are interested in what a collected artist does.

Kamel Mennour (Kamel Mennour Gallery, Paris) talked about the relationship to artists and said galleries need to be flexible. A lost relationship will be soon forgotten, as new ones will be forged. Flexibility is key.

Claire McAndrews at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Claire McAndrew at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

The future of the art world

Tomorrow’s art market

Claire McAndrew, Founder of Arts Economics, cultural economist, investment analyst and published author from Dublin, highlighted the main changes in the art market, following today’s data:

  • Globalisation: Recent market trends show globalisation has flattened out market corrections. There are more and more collectors from around areas like Brazil, Latin America, Africa as well as the Middle East.
  • After the 2011 boom, China is returning to stability.
  • Global wealth will bring more art buyers.
  • 70 percent of transactions in the art world are under EUR50,000 (of course, not at the mega-gallery level).

Galleries are relevant as they offer specialised expertise and services, and they build upon personal relationships rather than impersonal ones, as the auction houses do. In this context, other changes are still taking place:

  • Dealer model has changed, as more services are required, like the production of more content;
  • Rise in competition;
  • Retail galleries are in decline, as this is the era of a fair and event driven market
  • Internet business is at USD3 billion although at the lower and mid range.

Claes Nordenhake, a gallerist from Berlin, talked about alternative models to art fairs, such the Berlin Gallery Weekend, and how that model of promotion can bring more people into the galleries. He said it is actually successful and perhaps other cities should have the same kind of event.

Sylvain Levy at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Sylvain Levy at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

China’s art market

Silvain Levy of DSL collection talked about the immense growth of the Chinese art market, taking as an example China’s participation in the Venice Biennale, from its first small pavilion in 2005 to the 350 artists in last year’s edition.

Discussing the Chinese art market, he highlighted major aspects such as:

  • Importance of networking and contacts;
  • The huge potential of China’s art market;
  • China uses culture and art as soft power;
  • Western influence is important, but it’s a love/hate relationship;
  • Political expediency, not censorship (mentioning Ai Weiwei);
  • The arrival of foreign auction houses, treated as ‘crocodiles’ (the international giant businesses that want to ‘eat’ the local ones, stealing their business) 

But, Levy points out, the question is:

Will ultimately the fish (the Chinese auction houses and dealers) eat the crocodile?

Daniel McLean. Lawyer specialising in Art Law, Intellectual Property and Media Law, London. Moderator of the panel discussion "CODE OF PRACTICE: How to standardize and make gallery practice more transparent", at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Daniel McLean. Lawyer specialising in Art Law, Intellectual Property and Media Law, London. Moderator of the panel discussion “CODE OF PRACTICE: How to standardize and make gallery practice more transparent”, at Talking Galleries 2013. Screenshot by Art Radar.

Gallery practice for the future

A federation for European Galleries

Adriaan Raemdonck, President of The Federation of European Art Galleries Association (F.E.A.G.A.) in Antwerp, works on supporting the galleries in the following ways:

  • Lobbying the European Union on Artists Resale Rights (ARR);
  • Working for harmonisation of VAT, currently different from one country to the other;
  • Encouraging galleries to join their national associations, to work together and push for reforms.

Using technology

Billy Maker, Senior Account Director at exhibit-E (New York), talked about the importance of using technology in galleries’ practice and how that can help the business and the branding. But, he said, consistency in using the various technological tools is paramount.

  • Define your personalised needs;
  • Take your time, pace it, test before committing to usage;
  • Test blogs and free tools, such as youtube, in house;
  • Be consistent. Consistency in using tools and also social networks helps your gallery build its brand.

Codes of practice

There was much discussion revolving around issues of standardisation of practice and transparency in the art market. There is growing concern for galleries’ need to standardise their procedures, such as artist contracts. Increasingly, younger artists are willing to sign contracts as opposed to older artists.

In a world with more complex relationships, contracts give more security and clarity. Other creative industries where contracts are the rule were mentioned, such as music. The conclusion was that in the future, galleries will have to eventually standardise their practice.

Looking to the future, Georgina Adam said:

Perhaps one day the art world needs to raise its game a notch. To become more professionalised.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia 

320

Related topics: market watch, art world trends, lectures and talks, events in Spain

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Weekly jobs and opportunities | National University of Singapore opening, Watershed residency in Bristol



Looking for new career options in the arts? Art Radar Opportunities is a convenient archive of openings in the visual art world.

Every week we add new positions suitable for a variety of backgrounds and levels of experience. Whether you’re an artist or an aspiring curator, a market analyst or a scholar, Art Radar Opportunities has listings that’ll pique your interest.

 

Reader offer! We’re offering free job listings to all of our readers. If you’d like to advertise your opportunity to 25,000 visitors a month, contact our page coordinator on stories.artradar@gmail.com with “codeopportunities” in the subject line.

 

New this week! 

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JOB Singapore | Curatorial Intern | National University of Singapore – apply by 16 April 2014

The National University of Singapore (NUS) is looking for a Curatorial Intern for the T.K. Sabapathy Collection from 12 May to 1 August 2014. MORE HERE

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RESIDENCY China | Asia Art Archive – apply by 17 May 2014

Asia Art Archive (AAA) announces the 2014 call for proposals for The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Greater China Curatorial Residency Programme. MORE HERE

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OPEN CALL Siem Reap | Angkor Photo Festival & Workshops – apply by 30 May 2014

Angkor Photo Festival & Workshops, the longest-running photography event in Southeast Asia, is now accepting submissions for its tenth edition. MORE HERE

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RESIDENCY Bristol | Watershed Studio Artist Residencies – apply by 16 June 2014

This is an open call for Watershed’s Studio Artist Residencies programme, a fantastic opportunity for artists based in the UK to explore ideas at the point where art, culture and technology meet. MORE HERE

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JOB Singapore | Assistant/Associate Professor | Nanyang Technological University – apply by 30 June 2014

The School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, invites qualified academics/professionals to apply for a faculty position as Assistant or Associate Professor in Visualisation of Cultural Heritage. MORE HERE

 

Looking for more opportunities in the contemporary art world? For Art Radar’s complete list of jobs, internships, residencies, courses and open calls, click here.

 

Closing this week!

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JOB Edinburgh | Development Manager | The Fruitmarket Gallery - apply by 22 April 2014

The Fruitmarket Gallery based in Edinburgh, Scotland, is looking for a Development Manager to join their expanding Fundraising Team. MORE HERE

 

This is just a sample of art world jobs we gather each week. If you’d like to see more, click here to sign up for more information on how to get full access and feeds of jobs, internships, open calls, courses and other opportunities for art professionals.