Curating as an art form – Art Reoriented interview



Curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath of Art Reoriented speak to Art Radar about their practice.

Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath are the co-founders of Art Reoriented - an independent curatorial platform based in Munich and New York. The duo tells Art Radar about their unique curatorial practice focusing on individual artists that challenges exhibitions based on conventional classifications of art history.

Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, co-founders of Art Reoriented. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, co-founders of Art Reoriented. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Bardaouil and Fellrath are known for their groundbreaking approach to curating exhibitions that re-examine the classification system in art through creative new ways of understanding and connecting artworks. They have curated exhibitions internationally, including “Tea with Nefertiti” (2013) and Mona Hatoum’s “Turbulence” (2014) at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar; “Songs of Loss and Songs of Love: Oum Kulthoum and Lee Nan-Young” (2014) at Gwangju Museum in Korea; Akram Zaatari at the Lebanese Pavilion (2013) at the 55th Venice Biennale; and the comprehensive retrospective “Paul Guiragossian: The Human Condition” at the Beirut Exhibition Center.

You have very diverse cultural and academic backgrounds. Could you talk a bit about your respective backgrounds and what inspired you to become a curator?

Sam Bardaouil (SB): I was born in Lebanon during the civil war. For the first fifteen years of my life, I experienced the war on a daily basis. This experience obviously shapes who you are, and gives you a certain insistence on wanting to contribute to change or positivity in the world. I’ve always thought of the arts as a way to express oneself, a way to better understand the world and open up certain questions. I studied art history and theatre, and worked in theatre for a while as a director, writer and performer. I became more immersed in art history, art criticism and teaching art at university. My theatre background was very informative in helping me understand how to approach exhibition-making in a spatial kind of way.

I was teaching at several universities prior to teaching at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University. Till and I met, and we discussed several ideas and projects and worked on a few exhibitions together in 2008 and 2009. We realised that there was something very interesting about our different backgrounds. We decided to start working independently and founded Art Reoriented in order to have the freedom to work without being affiliated or constrained by one institution.

Till Fellrath (TF): I was born in Geneva, I went to school in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. My background is in Economics, and I taught economics in London and then in Singapore, and was in Singapore management. So, I have quite a teaching background. I was also a consultant at the time for nonprofit organisations and museums. Personally, art was always my passion, and I always loved going to museums and reading everything about it. In 2004, I took a gap year and went to Parson’s School of Arts. I then started working in the art field full-time, began making exhibitions, ran a museum in Chelsea, and then met Sam and decided to work with him on curating exhibitions.

Actually, coming to the point we are at right now, curating is not something that one can really study or should really study. I think curation is such a complex field that it’s very important to be able to draw from other disciplines. Whether it’s economics or politics, or you’ve travelled, you’ve lived and experienced things and have seen a lot of art, and so on. I think it’s a blurry kind of a profession that doesn’t really have a particular track to study it. I think there’s also curatorial talent, and there are so many things that you have to incorporate in order to understand the art and the artists. I think it’s quite good to come from different disciplines and merge them.

Installation view of Tea with Nefertiti exhibition. Egyptian Museum, Munich 2014. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Installation view of “Tea with Nefertiti” (2014) at the Egyptian Museum, Munich. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Art Reoriented was formed in 2009. Has your curatorial vision changed over the years?

TF: I’m hoping that every project that we do builds on the previous ones, so in a sense, the way of putting the exhibitions together every time gets more complex, more comprehensive and more informed because you don’t curate 100 shows a year. It takes so much time to do it. Every time you are going through an exercise of putting a large group show together, you really grow a lot. You give it your best. You give everything you have, all your ideas, everything that you’ve seen comes together. Inevitably, the more you do it, it becomes more comprehensive, and the arguments become more developed over time.

SB: I think more than how your vision changes or grows, it’s about how you become more articulate in making your vision easily communicable and accessible to the audience. It’s like any other art form in a sense. We believe that curation is an art form in storytelling. As you grow in your field and grow in your practice, your vocabulary expands, your terminology expands, and so does your ability to construct sentences. I’m using the metaphor of storytelling to work with narratives, to work with dialogue, to work with characters. If you think of artworks and artists as the tools through which you construct certain narratives, you develop the sensitivity of maintaining the integrity of the identity of those tools. Not by coercing the artists or artworks into narratives, since this takes away from what the individual intended through their works, but by building on that and developing a more complex narrative where both the individual and also the collective questions you are trying to raise or story you are trying to tell are clearly evident.

TF: We are independent curators, and we are lucky enough to be able to do projects all over the world. We are seeing roughly about 200 shows a year, whether Biennales, whether it’s large museum shows, so I think we are in a very unique and special position. We have a pretty good overview of what the scope of curatorial practice is, and what is out there – what we like and what we don’t like. So, I think we are developing more and more clearly what we advocate, and what we stand for. What Sam is saying is that the vision was always there but we feel more strongly about it – to really give artists a true platform for their own sake, to really go back to the basics, that an artist has a vision and has a mission and often gets contrived by political images, by cultural stereotypes, by art history classifications. Whether that’s over time, centuries, I think it’s important to look at the artist’s work, what that stands for, then go broader rather than go the other way around which is often the case.

Installation view of Mona Hatoum's Turbulence, Mathaf, 2014. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Installation view of Mona Hatoum’s ‘Turbulence’, Mathaf, 2014. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

It sounds like there’s a lot of research involved in curating your exhibitions.

TF: Absolutely, there’s no way around that. I think curation is sort of becoming a fashion – and I really don’t understand the fascination for so many people to become curators – it’s really hard work and not particularly well paid. It’s also really complicated and no matter how good the show is, a tonne of people are going to be upset with you because you didn’t put this and that and whatever. It’s really quite tricky and it takes a lot of time, a lot of research, a lot of seeing art, and that is simply not something you can get around. You really need to develop over years.

SB: I think it’s also very important because we tend to see it as two things. First, it’s important to do research because it offers you the context or the framework. So, whatever exhibition you are showing exists in temporal, regional, artistic, art historical, geographical, political, theoretical, philosophical contexts – and this is where the research comes in. The other thing about research is negative – I think when you are putting art in an exhibition, there are so many layers and so many positions, and what we don’t necessarily like to do is when you see a show, and there is only one layer. You go to see the show, and that’s it. I think the more research you do, the more layers you can create. There’s the first layer which is what you see at first sight, then, you discover more when you start looking at more juxtaposed works and reading some of the texts, and then you realise that there are so many layers with which you can appreciate it and understand what you are looking at. That is very important, and it takes a lot of time and work.

TF: To give you an example, there was a relatively small show we did at the Alexander Gray gallery in New York on the Korean Dansaekhwa movement – the artists that work in the monochrome style. There were 20 artworks on view. To understand these artists, you simply had to go to where the artists were working and talk to them and their families. We had friends who we worked with to access primary literature, and we went to a lot of these artists’ studios or estates. If you don’t see the works, and you don’t understand the struggle of the people, economically, politically, and the conditions in which they were working in at the time, you don’t understand the socio-economic context. And then if you don’t actually see those canvases and understand the sort of violence with which artists were treating the canvases and constructing these abstract works, you are simply missing the point of how they were done and why they were done. You just see it as some sort of American abstract expressionism or something when it really had nothing to do with that whatsoever. There isn’t the slightest bit of formalistic or other connection really. I think you end up misreading these from some sort of a perspective of some Asian zen, when it has nothing to do with it. It’s quite the opposite of that.

There is a lot of research, whether academically, talking and travelling. I think all of this somehow filters into how you present any artwork by the way you write the press release, by the way you arrange the objects, and by the way you talk about these works. I think for art history’s sake, it is really a big responsibility to do the research properly and not come to easy conclusions because once it’s out there, it ends up becoming the truth, even though it’s not the truth.

Installation view of Tea with Nefertiti exhibition. Egyptian Museum, Munich, 2014. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Installation view of “Tea with Nefertiti” (2014) at the Egyptian Museum, Munich. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Do you feel that your curatorial approach is very different from what is currently happening internationally?

TF: I would say, yes. I think we are probably a minority in terms of doing it so vigilantly. It’s hard to criticise other people, and it’s hard to summarise what people are doing globally since there are a lot of museums. But I do think that curating has become a fashion where people easily put up a few things and have extremely complicated concepts in there which don’t really come through in an exhibition or when they write about something. I think we are probably more cautious, and we take more time before we put something together.

The second thing that we like doing that we don’t often see is clarity. You really want to have a clear visual walk-through so you actually feel something, and it’s a beautiful show, and it’s clear, especially in larger exhibitions. Why you are where you are in the narrative so you don’t lose yourself in the show, so you always understand what’s going on. You are being taken on a journey, and you leave with a lot of questions, which is great. You feel somehow enriched when leaving the show rather than feeling like you were bombarded with objects.

Could you describe how you arrive at this clarity? And what is the process behind creating this clarity?

SB: To follow from what Till was saying, obviously, there are many types of curators, many methodologies. For us, it’s about commitment in a sense. You commit to a certain way of doing things. You have a very clear position as to where you stand, what you’d like to show, how you’d like to show in exhibitions, parameters you’d like to work with. So, if we choose to work in a certain way, other curators choose to work in different ways and you know, they will stand for what their commitment is, and we will stand for what our commitment is.

What I think is very important for us in talking about this clarity, is in a sense, we know what we want to say. I think that most of the time, it’s not about saying something that’s close-ended. It’s not about making a final statement. If anything, we’d like to open up a series of questions. I think an exhibition is about questions, and the text is about articulating those questions in a more concrete way or proposing certain answers. There is a very different way in which we approach text and exhibitions. I think they both complement each other.

The clarity for us is first for us to know what is it that we are trying to say. What are the questions we’d like to ask through this particular project or exercise, be it exhibition or the text that it comes with? For this to happen, you have to do your research, we go back to this idea. There is something that we say all the time: if you can’t say it in two or three lines then you have nothing to say.

TF: We were both in academia for several years, and I think when you really don’t understand the abstract of a paper, then there probably is nothing in that paper. I think another thing that’s very important is that for many curators – and you hear it often in discussions – it’s often so much about the curators themselves, their own egos and maybe it’s about their artists. Often, the thing that’s missing is the audience.

At the end of the day, you make a show for the people who come to see it. I think that’s the key element that’s in our projects. We don’t know whether we are always successful but we really strive for people to come to a show and feel something, and to adapt them to a local context, and make sure that they can make an emotional and intellectual connection, of varying degrees, of course, in every show.

I think you can test this out when you go to shows. Can you follow this? Is there a structure? Do you take something away that’s a convoluted mess of objects thrown together? Is there a connection, or is there none? At the end of the day, it’s often forgotten – art is something quite magical, in a simple, guttural way. Great art can do something, and we don’t really know what that is, and I think there is another tendency, the viewers and curators are often almost afraid of that. You have to over-interpret, over-analyse, verbalise and explain everything, and sometimes you cannot and I think that’s something that would be great to embrace. Let’s push that magic, in a sense, and embrace it. Art can do wonders, instead of overkilling it.

Installation view of Songs of Loss Songs of Love exhibition at Gwangju Museum of Art 2014. Image courtesy of Art Reoriented.

Installation view of “Songs of Loss Songs of Love” (2014) at Gwangju Museum of Art 2014. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

There’s an interesting aspect of fiction and history in both your exhibitions, “Tea with Nefertiti” and “Songs of Loss Songs of Love”. How did you come up with the narrative themes of these exhibitions? And how do you select the artists for these exhibitions?

SB: These are very different types of shows, there are two different story approaches. I think with “Songs of Loss Songs of Love”, it was very important for us to find a way of entering into the local audience. We’ve been travelling in Asia for many years, visiting different places, and we were specifically in Seoul and Gwangju in South Korea. Gwangju Museum of Art asked us to do this exhibition there, and it was very important for us to find a way of connecting to the audience, and we also did not want to do the obvious or the expected, to talk about the uprising in Gwangju in 1980s.

Since the museum was interested in us doing a show of artists that are mostly from the Middle East and the Arab world, we were also equally conscious that we wanted to present the artworks in a framework that preserves the individuality of each artist and does not reduce them to just another way of the expected rhetorical politics vein, the Islam and calligraphy, the images we usually think of when we talk about the East. We spent a lot of time talking to people to find an interesting point that could be the starting point for the show.

We came across this amazing singer from South Korea, Lee Nan-Young (1916-1967). She had this beautiful, heartbreaking song from the 1930s called “The Tears of Mokpo”. Mokpo is very close to Gwangju and also in the south where the Japanese, during the colonial rule, use to take the men to work in plantations and camps in Japan, so the women would stand at the port and cry as they saw their men go away. Over the years, after the war, the song became very emblematic of this kind of identity or connection to home. This was a very strong thing for us. If we were to think of a figure or a song that is from the Arab world that can be the counterpoint of Lee Nan-Young, who would that be? Of course, for us, that is Oum Kulthoum (1904-1975), a very famous Egyptian singer who became emblematic of the whole period in the Arab world where there was a search for national identity. And she has a story similar to Lee Nan-Young. They both start from a very poor, humble background and they both became very famous.

In 1967, they were both in Paris and that was the starting point. What would have happened if the two had met? How would they have collaborated or worked on something together? It was about cultures meeting, artists meeting, and what happens because of that encounter. So the exhibition itself became a fulfilment to a promise that we proposed – Lee Nan-Young and Oum Kulthoum’s promise to each other, to meet and work together. But they had both died and couldn’t fulfil that promise. The artists coming from that world from Oum Kulthoum became a fulfilment to Lee Nan-Young.

All the works were related to the themes of two songs that we chose. Tears of Mokpo by Lee Nan-Young, and Ruins for Oum Kulthoum. Sound was very important for the exhibition, the music was very important. As you walked around, you could hear different pieces, and they all had a different sound quality, and it was a very poetic exhibition. The people connected, and they thought it really happened, and then realised that it was fiction.

TF: The research elements were all there, with the layering of information, to play with this duality in a sense. You have these two cultural backgrounds, two time periods (when they were to have met, and the present time) and then we basically came up with these two chapters, “Songs of Loss” and “Songs of Love”, because in a sense there are two sections, they are two sides of one coin. You lose a lover, you can’t experience one without the other in a sense, and we are playing with that.

The underlying elements you have in there since both of them come from these cities with the ocean, many of the works we chose have a notion of travel in them. And finally, there’s the notion of sound and music, concepts on which many people can connect on in the city of Gwangju. These are probably more interesting departure points than going for the obvious, the Arab Spring with the uprising in Gwangju which is probably beaten to death, and there’s almost something patronising when national people come to the city of Gwangju, and we are trying to teach them their own history. I think it’s a bit ridiculous. I think it’s quite nice to go for something universally relevant, and maybe touches on the history of the city, but they don’t need an international curator to go there and explain it to the locals. I think they are quite educated and aware of where they come from.

Installation view of Songs of Loss and Songs of Love exhibition at Gwangju Museum of Art, 2014. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Installation view of “Songs of Loss Songs of Love” (2014) at Gwangju Museum of Art. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

How was the exhibition received by the local audience?

TF: It seems to have done really well. We were there for the first few days, and we were just back in Gwangju for the Gwangju Biennale opening, and a lot of people were talking about the show from various corners so it seemed to have really resonated and succeeded in terms of connecting people to a group of artists that they weren’t familiar with.

Could you talk a bit about your exhibition for the Lebanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013? What was your curatorial vision for the pavilion? And how was it curating for a national pavilion as opposed to a museum?

TF: It is different for many reasons. For a museum, you are bound by spaces, mission, collection. It’s a very different kind of audience so it’s much more of a local context. When you curate a show for Venice, you pretty much have all the variables open to you. There isn’t anyone telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. Even the space, we found the space. As for the audience, it’s a very specific audience, a demanding audience – very experienced, savvy art-goers, so to speak, and of course there’s the local audience. But I think the Venice Biennale is quite particular in that it actually attracts an international art audience, as very few other events do.

In curating for a national pavilion, our vision was driven by the space, by the location, by the events, to find one artist that was very dear to us from the beginning. Aside from finding the right artists, we tried to find the right project that maybe talks about something that is very important in Lebanese society at the moment. I think it helps that Sam is Lebanese, and I’m not Lebanese so we have this two perspectives that come together, which is exactly what you have in Venice in terms of the audience. The idea of one strong artistic project was very clear for us, and hope that the audience would come, engage and spend a lot of time at the pavilion since there is simply so much to see there.

SB: I think that our knowledge of different artists from Lebanon, both living and in and out was not something that started when we were asked to curate the pavilion. We had been doing research for a long time but then several months before, we chose to work with Akram Zaatari. We investigated a lot of artists living in Beirut and Lebanon, but also abroad, and looked at many projects. When Akram proposed this project, we felt that it was the right one because it was very poignant and relevant. The project somehow raised certain questions that could be critical of certain perceptions or political strands within the country, and within the parameters of a national pavilion. In a sense, to inverse the actual equation and use the national pavilion to critique certain national attitudes which was a great opportunity.

It was also great that we could do this through a national pavilion and not an independent project. The commissioner of the pavilion, APEAL – Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon, were great. There was no censorship, no attempt at curbing any choices that we made as curators, and the artist was doing the work we commissioned him to do.

TF: One important thing to add is that Akram is an artist we had worked with previously on a big commission for the opening of the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar. We had known him for many years, and this project came up, and we had him in the back of our minds and despite all the research we did, found that that is the ideal project for this context.

Venice has this strange thing of these national pavilions, which comes from a time of world fairs where you exhibit other cultures in these international fairs. It’s really from that thinking and it has actually lasted till today in Venice. It’s a very interesting platform in a sense because a lot of artists, and people don’t want to represent a country and you don’t want an artist to tell you everything about a country. On the other hand, in this particular forum, it has this interesting opportunity to enter an international artistic community with something that would be important in the society. So instead of shying away from that, it may also be interesting to go heads on. You choose a project that’s actually talks about the nation, and it does make a statement of sorts. So the choice of Akram is also one of working with an artist that has always been in Lebanon, and has not made his career outside, someone who has contributed to the infrastructure of the country and helped build institutions and make Lebanon and Beirut a great place for artistic production.

SB: And that would in turn send a message to artists based in Beirut, who are not living abroad, that you could have an international career and be recognised in important exhibitions while still being based and practising inside and not so called bigger centres like Paris or New York.

TF: These are considerations that you would not necessarily think about if you were to curate a museum show.

Installation view of Mona Hatoum's Turbulence exhibition. Mathaf, 2014. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Installation view of Mona Hatoum’s “Turbulence”, Mathaf, 2014. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

In a previous interview for ArtAsiaPacific in 2012, you’ve spoken about museums and art spaces still putting on shows entitled “Contemporary Chinese Art” or “Japan Now” or “New from the Middle East.” Could you talk about how you approach your curatorial practice to shift away from these exhibitions with a regional focus, and curate shows focused on individual artists?

SB: I think there are so many ways you can evade reducing a project into these geo-political frameworks. We can give you different examples. One example is the naming of the exhibition, the title. “Tea with Nefertitiwas a show that takes the history of collecting Egyptian art in big museums from the 19th century onwards as a case study, and is an example of how museums can use artworks and artists to create images of other cultures.

When we were looking at naming this exhibition, the first thing we decided was not to use the word ‘Egypt’ in the title, because the moment you put the word Egypt, people will think that it’s a survey show of contemporary Egyptian artists associated with Tahrir Square, the Arab Spring or with the mummies and pyramids. So, it was very important to find a way of connecting the example or core example that we are using to illustrate very important point through this exhibition without reducing it into geographical focus. With Nefertiti, you understand that there’s a connection to Egypt, but then it’s not about Egypt, it’s about the artwork. And “Tea with Nefertiti is like sitting and talking to Nefertiti and listening to her point of view, what she has encountered and what she has to say while being taken around the world, since it was excavated, so on and so forth. So that’s one example of the way we try. And the first thing you read is the title of the exhibition.

TF: Even when you think about the audience – how does it come across? What do you want people to take away from the show? And that often should be one of the starting points. Another way of doing it is when curators look at artists for a show on contemporary Asian artists. If that is your primary way of choosing artists, that becomes problematic and becomes ethnicising [sic]. Even if you do want to present contemporary artists from China, there needs to be another layer, you still need to have another formalistic element.

In “Songs of Loss Songs of Love”, these works connect very strongly in a very visceral way because of what they talk about, rather than artists coming from a very blurry defined region which is the Middle East. I think, whatever project you are working on, it’s important to look at the artists, look at the works, understand and feel the works, and connect them in a strong way. Even if there is an ethnic commonality, this is not what actually pops to the foreground in an exhibition. It’s the same, in fact, when you meet people from all over the world: you remember the person for who they are because they are funny or angry not because of x, y and z. This is the way we are approaching art exhibitions, going away from this East/West thing, and kind of going back to the roots and basics in a sense.

Installation view of Told Untold Retold exhibition at Mathaf Museum, 2010. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Installation view of “Told Untold Retold” (2010) at Mathaf. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Why do you think this categorising of artists into regions is so prevalent in the arts?

TF: I think there are several reasons. Art history as such is a domain where it’s all about classifying and seeing what has happened. There’s much more of a rigid classification than in music, of schools, places, art styles etc., and you have that in musicology. Secondly, nowadays, there is often a market-driven approach where you sell artworks, and it’s much easier to say “oh we have the new hot Turkish artist” than going a little more in depth and marketing that. And I think people love politics. Somehow, there is a mix of politics and art, where one artist has to explain the whole politics and history of the particular country. This is always impossible, but there is an underlying expectation that when you have an artist from Egypt, they will explain to you how their country works.

SB: I think, in the wake of post-colonial studies, a lot of European museums, institutions and curators that do not come from colonised countries felt it was important to show the places that are not from the canon. Let’s show artists from Seoul, Beirut etc., that’s the lens from which they were initially framed, and the artists jumped at it as this was the only way to show their works. This is how it started.

For us, historically speaking at large, and maybe in the wake of the last century, like in Cairo or Beirut, there was this exchange of ideas and styles that was happening, and people don’t realise that it was happening before and think that this is happening for the first time now since the New Museum is showing it. So for us, it’s important to dig deeper, and excavate historical frameworks and how they can be presented.

How do you see the curatorial practice around the world evolving in the next five years, or how would you like it to evolve?

SB: For us, one of the things we hope to keep on doing and maybe other institutions and curators would do is to distinguish between a curator of contemporary art and a contemporary curator of art. We’d like to think we are contemporary curators of art. There is a big difference between the two. In our exhibitions, we would like to look at artists and artworks from different time periods through a contemporary perspective, and try to find new links and new connections, both formalistically, philosophically, intellectually, socially and so on and not limit ourselves to only look at living artists today.

We are not specialists in every field and every period, and we would like to expand the discussion and include other experts in our research and have interesting dialogue and exchanges that inform our vision and would allow us to present contemporary art within the framework that make references to art historical materials and periods, juxtapositioning works from different times to break these classifications. This is something we are interested in pursuing further in our works.

TF: I think it applies to many disciplines, and in the arts, there is an over-specialisation in many areas. I think you need to have people who really know things in-depth, but you also need more people who are connectors. Within art history, it’s amazing how few branch out. How many curators that specialise in a particular geographic area actually branch out and see works outside their area. You have to see everything and you can make wonderful connections. When you just go against everything and see how people think, how does it connect, and I think it’s far more exciting than looking at a certain document.

It’s quite radical in a sense to throw away all these specifications and working with Islamic art scholars, and urban planners and what not, to really understand a lot of background for a particular show. And then, we also went on connect it to different collections. I hope this kind of exchange is something that happens more in the future.

There is a tendency to have single artist shows, and there is also this tendency to think about visitors and ticket revenues – that is all important. But it’s also important to really try to advance the discipline by asking radically new questions about how you look at and interpret a work of art.

Installation view of Told Untold Retold exhibition. Mathaf Museum, 2010. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Installation view of “Told Untold Retold” (2010) at Mathaf. Image courtesy Art Reoriented.

Are there any new projects that you are currently working on?

TF: When we were doing all the research for the Lebanese Pavilion, we identified a younger group of Lebanese artists that are connected to Beirut: a new generation of younger artists who are more individualistic rather than working with collective narratives of the war and so on. A new wave of artists. So we are representing them in a show in several European locations starting from next year.

SB: And the show is titled, “I spy with my little eye”.

TF: We are working on an exhibition that’s about Surrealism in Egypt. We just finished a book on conversation with artists that have a connection with the Middle East, and the book goes against the stereotype, and we really go into everything, their childhoods and very extensive conversations that really show the personality of artists, and why they do what they do.

SB: To give you a little background on the book, it came about while thinking about how Arab artists go about engaging with this Arab Spring. We knew these artists before, and we’ve been talking about how the artists as individuals were responding differently to what’s happening during this particular moment, and their respective backgrounds, trajectories and their personal stories. The book is called Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring: Conversation with Artists from the Arab World, and will be released by SKIRA at the end of 2014.

For 2015, Art Reoriented are preparing an exhibition on young Lebanese artists that will premiere at Mataderos in Madrid and travel to various European cities.

Christine Lee

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Christie’s Hong Kong autumn auctions: A pan-Asian vision



Christie’s autumn pan-Asian art sales in Hong Kong show renewed strength in the market.

Auctions of Asian art at Christie’s Hong Kong the past weekend broke new records for both the auction house and some artists. The auctions also demonstrated that Asian collectors are increasingly active in the Asian art market, sweeping up top lots by influential artists.

Auction scene during the sale of Sanyu's 'Pot de Pivoines (Potted Peonies)' at Christie's Hong Kong Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 22 November 2014. Image courtesy Christie's.

Auction scene during the sale of Sanyu’s ‘Pot de Pivoines (Potted Peonies)’ at Christie’s Hong Kong Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 22 November 2014. Image courtesy Christie’s.

From 22 to 24 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong held its round of autumn auctions for Asian contemporary art. The sales featured over the weekend saw an increasing participation from Asian collectors and set new records for the auction house and for artists. Lots fetching the top ten prices included artworks by contemporary artists like Zeng Fanzhi, Kazuo Shigara, Yayoi Kusama, Yoshimoto Nara, Cai Guoqiang, Zhang Enli and I Nyoman Masriadi among others.

YAYOI KUSAMA (B.1929), 'Infinity-Nets WHXOTLO', 2006, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 1000 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

YAYOI KUSAMA (B.1929), ‘Infinity-Nets WHXOTLO’, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 200 x 1000 cm. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Second highest total for an evening sale in Asia

The Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 22 November 2014 achieved a total of HKD635,495,000 (USD82,296,603), which was Christie’s second highest total for an evening sale in Asia. The sale sold 72 of the 81 lots on offer and also set eleven new world auction records for artists, including four from Japan, four from Southeast Asia and two from China.

José T. Joya, (Filipino, 1931-1996), 'Homage To Turner', 1965, oil on canvas 90 x 182 cm. Sold for HKD5.44 million (USD704,778), 1st in the top 10 lots at the Asian 20th Century Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

José T. Joya, (Filipino, 1931-1996), ‘Homage To Turner’, 1965, oil on canvas 90 x 182 cm. Sold for HKD5.44 million (USD704,778), 1st in the top 10 lots at the Asian 20th Century Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Eric Chang, Deputy Chairman of Christie’s Asia and International Director of Christie’s Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Department, said:

To date, the sale was one of the strongest showings we have had for Asian art across geographies, from Southeast to North Asia. Japanese Gutai works from Asian’s first avant-garde movement and Korean artists had exceptional results. In addition, since its inclusion in this category three years ago, Southeast Asian works have also grown from strength to strength and have truly expanded beyond their geographic boundaries to gain acceptance from a wider audience.

Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983), 'Making Up', 1951, oil on canvas, 81.5 x 66.5 cm. Sold for HKD5.92 million (USD766,964) at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983), ‘Making Up’, 1951, oil on canvas, 81.5 x 66.5 cm. Sold for HKD5.92 million (USD766,964) at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Record-breaking Southeast Asian art

The auction saw healthy bidding from the beginning, with both the floor and overseas collectors competing for Southeast Asian modern and contemporary artworks.

One of the first lots, Making Up (1951), a depiction of a Chinese opera artist by Cheong Soo Pieng (1917-1983), went under the hammer for HKD5.92 million (USD766,964), almost tripling its higher estimate of HKD2 million (USD260,000).

The momentum continued with Victorio Edades’s American Football Player (1926), which sold for HKD1.6 million (USD207,288), setting a new record for the artist but selling below its lower estimate of HKD1.8 million (USD280,000).

Le Pho (1907-2001), 'View from the hilltop', 1937, oil on canvas, 113 x 192 cm. Sold for HKD6.52 million (USD844,697), breaking the record for any Vietnamese artist ever sold at auction, at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Le Pho (1907-2001), ‘View from the hilltop’, 1937, oil on canvas, 113 x 192 cm. Sold for HKD6.52 million (USD844,697), breaking the record for any Vietnamese artist ever sold at auction, at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Vietnamese modernist Nguyen Phan Chanh’s La vendeuse de betel (The Betel Nut Seller) (1931) went for HKD3.16 million (USD409,393), surpassing its higher estimate by USD20,000. But the star of the Vietnamese art on sale that evening was Le Pho (1907-2001), whose View from the Hilltop (1937) set a new world record for both the artist and any work of Vietnamese 20th century and contemporary art at auction, realising HKD6.52 million (USD844,697) (estimate upon request).

Sanyu (Chang Yu, 1901-1966), 'Pot de pivoines (Potted Peonies)', 1940s-1950s, oil on masonite, 88.2 x 73.7 cm. Image courtesy Christie's.

Sanyu (Chang Yu, 1901-1966), ‘Pot de pivoines (Potted Peonies)’, 1940s-1950s, oil on masonite, 88.2 x 73.7 cm. Sold for HKD56.12 million (USD7,270,610), 1st in the top 10 lots at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Chinese art market: cooler but still strong

Although the market for Chinese art seems to have cooled down as China’s anti-corruption campaign weighs on demand for expensive items, with some contemporary lots failing to meet expectations, Eric Chang commented: “20th century Chinese masters like Sanyu continue to be highly sought after.”

The sale also saw the participation of younger collectors, a new generation that has recently made a strong, lasting appearance in the art market in Asia, as previously seen at Christie’s Hong Kong Spring auctions in 2014 and elsewhere in Asia.

Zao Wou-Ki (1920-2013), '25.05.62', 1962, oil on canvas 199.7 x 161.5 cm. Sold for HKD46.04 million (USD5,964,698), 3rd in the top 10 lots at the Asian 20th Century and Contempoary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's. Painted in 1962

Zao Wou-Ki (1920-2013), ’25.05.62′, 1962, oil on canvas, 199.7 x 161.5 cm. Sold for HKD46.04 million (USD5,964,698), 3rd in the top 10 lots at the Asian 20th Century and Contempoary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Eric Chang also acknowledged the importance of influential Asian artists and young collectors:

It is encouraging to see that great Asian art continues to resonate with art lovers everywhere, with interest growing among a younger generation of collectors.

The top seller of the evening sale was indeed the Chinese master: Sanyu’s Pot de Pivoines (Potted Peonies) (1940s-1950s) went under the hammer for HKD56.12 million (USD7,270,610) to a Taiwanese couple. The lot broke the artist’s previous auction record at a Christie’s auction of HKD53.3 million (USD6.9 million) for Potted Chrysanthemum in a Blue and White Jardiniere (1950s).

Chu Teh-Chun (b. 1920), 'No. 404', 1970-1971, oil on canvas, 162.5 x 202.5 cm. Sold for HKD33.16 million (USD4,296,034), 4th in the top 10 lots at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Chu Teh-Chun (b. 1920), ‘No. 404′, 1970-1971, oil on canvas, 162.5 x 202.5 cm. Sold for HKD33.16 million (USD4,296,034), 4th in the top 10 lots at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Another one of Sanyu’s Potted Chrysanthemums achieved HKD80.76 million (USD10.4 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2014, which marks the second highest price for the artist at auction. Sanyu’s work Roses in a white vase (1931), was the second highest selling lot of the evening sale, at HKD47.16 million (USD6,109,800).

The third and fourth highest selling lots were also Chinese masters, with Zao Wou-ki’s 25.05.62 going under the hammer for HKD46,040,000 (USD5,964,698) and Chu Teh-Chun’s No. 404 (1970-71) at HKD33.16 million (USD4,296,034), both surpassing their higher estimates by about HKD1 million.

Zeng Fanzhi (b.1964), 'Mask Series', 1998, oil on canvas, 200 x 150 cm. Sold for HKD25.88 million (USD3,352,876), 5th in the top 10 lots at Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Zeng Fanzhi (b.1964), ‘Mask Series’, 1998, oil on canvas, 200 x 150 cm. Sold for HKD25.88 million (USD3,352,876), 5th in the top 10 lots at Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Zao Wou-ki’s 09.06.67 and Zeng Fanzhi’s 1998 painting from the “Mask Series” both sold to Asian private collectors at HKD25.88 million (USD3,352,876), but while the first greatly surpassed its higher estimate of HKD20 million (USD2.6 million), Zeng’s work sold within its estimate of HKD22 – HKD28 million (USD2.9 – USD3.6 million).

One of the top ten lots, a 2001 painting from Zeng Fanzhi’s “Mask Series”, sold to an American private collector for HKD18.04 million (USD2,336,180), the only one in the top tens to go to a non-Asian collector.

Zeng Fanzhi (b.1964), 'Mask Series', 200, oil on canvas, 199.7 x 129.6 cm. Sold HKD18.04 million (USD2,337,167), 7th in the top 10 lots at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Zeng Fanzhi (b.1964), ‘Mask Series’, 200, oil on canvas, 199.7 x 129.6 cm. Sold HKD18.04 million (USD2,337,167), 7th in the top 10 lots at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

In April 2014 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaogang’s Bloodline: Big Family Series No. 3 broke the artist’s auction record at USD12.1 million, at a time when the thirst for Chinese art was in full swing. The Christie’s sales revealed a lukewarm market for Chinese contemporary art, as prices did not reach the soaring heights achieved in the 2013 autumn and 2014 spring auctions. Many of the Chinese contemporary artworks offered sold just above their lower estimates.

Zhang Xiaogang (b.1958), 'Portrait with Grey Backgrounf', 1994, oil on canvas, 99 x 85.2 cm. Sold for HKD17.44 million (USD2,259,434) at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Zhang Xiaogang (b.1958), ‘Portrait with Grey Backgrounf’, 1994, oil on canvas, 99 x 85.2 cm. Sold for HKD17.44 million (USD2,259,434) at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Jianping Mei, Professor at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business and Co-founder of the Mei Moses family of fine-art indexes, as saying:

China’s art market has some bubbles. As the money supply slows and wealth gap narrows in China, it’s difficult to repeat past performance.

Nevertheless, as quoted by Artnet News, Eric Chang saw this as a positive sign of collectors sharpening their eye at auction:

These auctions are a demonstration of the maturing appetite of collectors for compelling Asian art.

Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2008), 'Kaien', 1999, oil on canvas, 194 x 130 cm. Sold for HKD 23.64 million (USD3,062,673) at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Kazuo Shiraga (1924-2008), ‘Kaien’, 1999, oil on canvas, 194 x 130 cm. Sold for HKD 23.64 million (USD3,062,673) at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Korea and Japan

With a more controlled demand for Chinese art, Christie’s has been focusing on a pan-Asian theme in its Asian sales. The Japanese Gutai works from Asia’s first avant-garde movement of the 1950s – introduced as a category by Christie’s for the first time – and Korean artists had “exceptional results”.

Kaien (1999), a dark-blue abstract painting by Kazuo Shiraga, who used his feet to execute the work, was sold for HKD23.64 million (USD3,062,673) to Shanghai Long Museum owner and collector Wang Wei, more than doubling its lower estimate of HKD10 million (USD1.3 million) and surpassing its previous 2013 record at Christie’s Paris of approximately USD2.18 million. Shiraga’s highest price was achieved at Sotheby’s Paris in summer 2014, at USD5.32 million. Shiraga has become very popular recently, as explained in Artnet News, and two galleries based in New York will be holding shows of his work in 2015.

Kim Wahn-ki (1913-1974), Untitled, 1958, oil on canvas, 60 x 81 cm. Sold for HKD7.84 million (USD1,015,709) at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Kim Wahn-ki (1913-1974), Untitled, 1958, oil on canvas, 60 x 81 cm. Sold for HKD7.84 million (USD1,015,709) at the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 22 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Korean Kim Whan-Ki’s Untitled work (1958) went under the hammer for HKD7,840,000 (USD1,015,709), beating his 2011 HKD6.9 million record at Seoul Auction’s sale in Hong Kong.

As Jing Daily reports, Wang Wei was only one of many prominent mainland Chinese collectors who scooped up top lots and vied for both Chinese and other Asian artworks.

Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), 'Mask Series', 1999, oil on canvas, 108.8 x 108.8 cm. Sold for HKD7.24 million (USD937,976), 1st in the top 10 lots at the Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Zeng Fanzhi (b. 1964), ‘Mask Series’, 1999, oil on canvas, 108.8 x 108.8 cm. Sold for HKD7.24 million (USD937,976), 1st in the top 10 lots at the Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Chinese contemporary artists stand out

The Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale on 23 November 2014 totalled HKD80,912,500 (USD10,478,169) and offered works by influential Asian contemporary artists, selling 183 of 280 lots offered. The top ten lots were all sold to Asian private or corporate collectors.

While the star of the Asian 20th Century Art Day Sale was Filipino abstractionist José T. Joya at HKD5.44 million (USD704,778) breaking his world auction record, the top selling lot of the contemporary day sale was a 1999 “Mask Series” painting by Zeng Fanzhi, which went under the hammer for HKD7.24 million (USD937,976), below its higher estimate of HKD8.5 million (USD1.1 million).

Yoshimoto Nara (b. 1959), 'Quiet, Quiet', 1999, lacquer on FRP,245 x 94.5 x 94.5 cm, unique. Sold for HKD4.84 million (USD627,045), 2nd in the top 10 lots at the Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Yoshimoto Nara (b. 1959), ‘Quiet, Quiet’, 1999, lacquer on FRP,245 x 94.5 x 94.5 cm, unique. Sold for HKD4.84 million (USD627,045), 2nd in the top 10 lots at the Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Second came Quiet, Quiet (1999), a sculpture by Yoshimoto Nara, which went for HKD4.84 million (USD627,045), HKD600,000 short of its higher estimate. Southeast Asian artists were also among the top sellers, with Indonesian I Nyoman Masriadi’s Lagi Enggan (2003) selling for HKD3.64 million ((USD471,579). At the evening sale, his more recent work Sangat Tidak Luctu (2011) sold for an even higher price, at HKD3,880,000 (USD502,672).

I Nyoman Masriadi (b. 1973), 'Lagi Enggan (Reluctant)', 2003, acrylic on canvas, 190 x 140 cm. Sold for HKD3.64 million (USD471,579), 3rd in the top 10 lots at the Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

I Nyoman Masriadi (b. 1973), ‘Lagi Enggan (Reluctant)’, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 190 x 140 cm. Sold for HKD3.64 million (USD471,579), 3rd in the top 10 lots at the Asian Contemporary Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Li Chen (b. 1963), 'Floating Heavenly Palace', 2007, bronze sculpture, 129 x 62 x 41 cm, edition 6/8. Sold for HKD2.92 million (USD378,300), 4th in the top 10 lots at the Asian Contempoary Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Li Chen (b. 1963), ‘Floating Heavenly Palace’, 2007, bronze sculpture, 129 x 62 x 41 cm, edition 6/8. Sold for HKD2.92 million (USD378,300), 4th in the top 10 lots at the Asian Contempoary Art Day Sale, 23 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

In the range of HKD2.5 and 3 million were works by:

  • Liu Wei (Landscape, HKD2.44 million – USD316,113)
  • Li Chen (Floating Heavenly Palace, HKD2.92 million – USD378,300)
  • Zeng Fanzhi (Portrait of a Young Man, HKD2.56 million – USD331,660)

Various works achieved around HKD1 to 1.5 million, including Yayoi Kusama, Chinese artists Cai Guoqiang (tenth in the top ten lot list), Peng Wei, Qiu Yacai and young artist Yuan Yuan, whose Copper Door of Savings Society (2009) set a new record for the artist at HKD1.24 million (USD160,648).

The sale also featured other young Chinese artists like Chen Fei (b. 1983) and Chen Ke (b. 1978), who according to Eric Chang “stood out with their charged portrayals of self, youth and existentialism.

HKG_3366_913_01

Liu Kuo-sung (Liu Guosong, b. 1932), 'Scenery of Hong Kong', 1987, detail view of two sections, handscroll, ink and colour on paper, 46.3 x 1278 cm. Sold for HKD16.84 million (USD2,181,701), 1st in the top 10 lots at the Chinese Contemporary Ink Sale, 24 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Liu Kuo-sung (Liu Guosong, b. 1932), ‘Scenery of Hong Kong’, 1987, detail view of two sections, handscroll, ink and colour on paper, 46.3 x 1278 cm. Sold for HKD16.84 million (USD2,181,701), 1st in the top 10 lots at the Chinese Contemporary Ink Sale, 24 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Reviving tradition: Chinese ink

The inaugural Chinese Contemporary Ink Day Sale on 24 November 2014 totalled HKD60.67 million (USD7,862,832) and featured some of the most iconic ink works of the past decades, with artworks by Liu Kuo-sung, Gu Wenda, Liu Dan, Xu Lei and Qiu Zhijie, among others.

The auction is the first of its kind for Christie’s and responds to the increasing demand for ink art, which has experienced a strong revival in the contemporary art world in recent years.

Artnet News also reported Eric Chang as saying that strong interest was shown for art that fuses traditional Asian aesthetics with modern influences during the Asian art evening sale, which justifies the choice for setting up an individual auction that offers many such works.

Qiu Zhijie (b. 1969),'30 Letters to Qiu Jiawa', 2009, a set of three hanging scrolls: L10 - 'You Need to be the Spring of the World'; L11 - 'Do not Believe in Oaths of Eternity'; L12 - 'Do not Let Exaggerated Expressions Become Your Own Burden'. Ink and ink rubbing on paper, each scroll measures 503 x 192 cm. Sold for HKD6.64 million ((USD860,243) at the Chinese Contemporary Ink Sale, 24 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Qiu Zhijie (b. 1969),’30 Letters to Qiu Jiawa’, 2009, a set of three hanging scrolls: L10 – ‘You Need to be the Spring of the World’; L11 – ‘Do not Believe in Oaths of Eternity’; L12 – ‘Do not Let Exaggerated Expressions Become Your Own Burden’. Ink and ink rubbing on paper, each scroll measures 503 x 192 cm. Sold for HKD6.64 million (USD860,243), 2nd in the top 10 lots at the Chinese Contemporary Ink Sale, 24 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

Liu Kuo-sung’s Scenery of Hong Kong (1987), a scroll depicting the changing Hong Kong scenery from morning to sunset, was the top selling lot, going for HKD16.84 (USD2,181,701), more than doubling its higher estimate of HKD1 million and setting a new world auction record for the artist.

A set of three hanging scrolls by Qiu Zhijie broke the world auction record for the artist and came in second, at more than double its higher estimate of HKD2.8 million (USD360,000), going under the hammer for HKD6,64 (USD860,243).

Gu Wenda’s handscroll Mouth Action (1980) came close after, at HKD6.28 million (USD813,604).

Of the fifty lots on offer, ten failed to sell and were all works by Gao Xinjian and Qiu Zhijie.

Gu Wenda (b. 1955), 'Mouth Actions', 1980, handscroll, ink and colour on paper, 44.5 x 555 cm. Sold for HKD6.28 million (USD813,604), 3rd in the top 10 lots at the Chinese Contemporary Ink Sale, 24 November 2014, Christie's Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie's.

Gu Wenda (b. 1955), ‘Mouth Actions’, 1980, handscroll, ink and colour on paper, 44.5 x 555 cm. Sold for HKD6.28 million (USD813,604), 3rd in the top 10 lots at the Chinese Contemporary Ink Sale, 24 November 2014, Christie’s Hong Kong. Image courtesy Christie’s.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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NOTE: Sales totals and prices realised for artworks are inclusive of hammer price plus Buyer’s Premium. Estimates do not include Buyer’s Premium. USD prices are set on daily exchange rates, thus may vary when consulting the results online on different dates.

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Drawings by 100 Indian contemporary artists – in pictures



An exhibition in New Delhi focuses on the medium of drawing spanning seven decades in Indian art.

Gallery Espace in New Delhi dedicates its 25th anniversary celebrations to the development and evolution of drawing in Indian art. Featuring works by some of the most influential Indian modern and contemporary artists, the show surveys the breadth of drawing from 1947 to the present.

Ram Kumar, Untitled, pen and ink on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Ram Kumar, Untitled, pen and ink on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Gallery Espace’s “Drawing 2014: Seven Decades of Indian Drawing”, on show at the Exhibition Hall of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in New Delhi until 28 November 2014, is co-curated by Prayag Shukla along with Annapurna Garimella and Sindhura Jois DM from Jackfruit Research and Design, Bangalore.

Rollie Mukherjee, 'Dilemma', pen and collage. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Rollie Mukherjee, ‘Dilemma’, 2013, pen and collage. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

The exhibition features the work of more than 100 artists, including influential modern and contemporary art practitioners and, according to the press release, “seeks to document, analyse and celebrate several art historically distinct Indian approaches to drawing.”

Manjunath Kamath, Untitled work. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Manjunath Kamath, Untitled work. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

On display is the work of renowned artists such as older painting and sculpture pioneers Tyeb Mehta, F. N. Souza, M. F. Husain, Jogen Chowdhury, Meera Mukherjee and Ram Kumar, and younger generations of multidisciplinary and multimedia artists, including Atul Dodiya, Anju Dodiya, Riyas Komu, Arpita Singh, Birendra Pani, Surendran Nair, Zarina Hashmi, Jitish Kallat and Subodh Gupta, among others.

Somnath Hore, 'Untitled', watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Somnath Hore, ‘Untitled’, watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Atul Dodiya, 'Stag in Traffic'. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Atul Dodiya, ‘Stag in Traffic’. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Drawing has always been special to Renu Modi, Director of Gallery Espace, who opened the gallery at influential artist M. F. Husain’s insistence. She reveals in the press release:

It was the legendary M.F Husain who introduced me to the finer nuances of drawings and the intimate, small format nature of this genre has remained a personal favourite with me ever since. The smoothness of a Jamini Roy drawing, the performative nature of Husain’s own works, drawings by Laxma Goud and Manjit Bawa – these were part of my initial introduction to this genre.

Amitava Das, 'Untitled', mixed media on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Amitava Das, ‘Untitled’, mixed media on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Modi tells Art Scene India about her affinity for the medium:

I feel artists bare their souls in drawings, these are like musical notes, their mental notes. Drawings are also the foundation of any art, any discipline.

Akshay Rathore. 'Introspection', watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Akshay Rathore. ‘Introspection’, watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

KG Subramanyan, 'Untitled', pastel on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

KG Subramanyan, ‘Untitled’, pastel on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Drawing in Indian art history

Drawing can be a form of communication, a sign, a plan, a map or a mark on a surface. It is an essential part of an artist’s training and is used to sketch studies for sculptures, designs and artistic projects, but it also can be a final artwork.

Meera Mukherjee, 'Untitled', ink on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Meera Mukherjee, ‘Untitled’, ink on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Drawing in India has gone through changes and transformations throughout the centuries, from the Jain manuscripts and Ajanta murals dating back 2000 years, to the expression of nationalist sentiment by artists such as Jamini Roy, and the creation of an Indian modernism in dialogue with its European counterpart during the British colonial period, evident in the work of modernists such as F. N. Souza.

Anupam Sud, 'Leave some candles for tomorrow', conte on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Anupam Sud, ‘Leave some candles for tomorrow’, conte on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

From the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, Indian artists started considering ‘art’ as a profession, and experimentation with what was popular in the West overshadowed drawing, making it a less valued form of art.

Krishen Khanna, 'Untitled', pencil on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Krishen Khanna, ‘Untitled’, pencil on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Anju Dodiya, 'Diamond in the Zoo'. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Anju Dodiya, ‘Diamond in the Zoo’. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Drawing as experimentation

With the 21st century and the Indian art market crash, drawing has taken on a new meaning in artists’ practices and is now being re-evaluated. Today, it is not merely a two-dimensional medium, but has transformed to embody a whole new set of forms of visual representation, including performance, installation, video and animation, textiles and embroidery, and sculpture, among others.

Birendra Pani, 'Day Dreamers in Baroda', serigraph drawing on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Birendra Pani, ‘Day Dreamers in Baroda’, serigraph drawing on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

As Modi explains to Art Scene India:

[…] the time of two-dimensionality in art is over, it’s now about functionality, materiality and performative aspects of drawings that are being looked at. […] The approach to drawings has changed so much, they are no longer pen and ink works, or sketches on paper. For instance, in the 25th anniversary show, we have embroidered drawings by Rakhi Peswani, print-based scrolls by Paula Sengupta, very minimalistic works by Somnath Hore, video by Sonia Khurana, installation by Chintan Upadhyay, a sculptural drawing by Riyas Komu…and so much more – but all celebrating drawings.

Nagji Patel, 'Untitled', waterproof ink on archival paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Nagji Patel, ‘Untitled’, waterproof ink on archival paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

In the press release, Curator Annapurna Garimella explains the concepts behind the exhibition:

“Drawing 2014″ [...] seeks to create a pedagogic space, which holds the possibility for theorising an important but under-studied practice in post-Independence art making. The project is also engaged with the prospect of creating a platform where the debate over categories such as “modern,” “contemporary,” “tribal” or “handmade” are historicised and contextualised. [...] “Drawing 2014″ maps the multiple routes that the practice has travelled and celebrates seven decades of experimentation.

Amit Ambalal, 'Untitled', watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

Amit Ambalal, ‘Untitled’, watercolour on paper. Image courtesy Gallery Espace.

 C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: Indian artists, drawing, gallery shows, curatorial practice, events in New Delhi, picture feasts

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Hong Kong-born artist Paul Chan wins 10th Hugo Boss Prize



Chan’s “singular artistic voice” and versatile practice won him the prestigious award.

On 21 November 2014, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation announced artist Paul Chan as the winner of the Hugo Boss Prize’s 10th edition. Chan, born in Hong Kong and raised in the United States, conducts a multifaceted and constantly evolving practice. 

Paul Chan '1st Light', 2005, projected digital animation; artist-authenticated computer, software, and animation. 14 min, color, silent. Installation view at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. Image by Art Radar.

Paul Chan, ’1st Light’, 2005, projected digital animation; artist-authenticated computer, software and animation. 14 min., colour, silent. Installation view at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. Image by Art Radar.

Hong Kong-born, New York-based artist Paul Chan (b. 1973) has just been awarded the tenth Hugo Boss Prize, which includes an award of USD100,000. Additionally, as part of the prize, an exhibition of Chan’s work will be on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in Spring 2015. Chan was chosen by an international jury comprising:

  • Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation;
  • Katherine Brinson, Curator of Contemporary Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum;
  • Doryun Chong, Chief Curator, M+, Hong Kong;
  • Tim Griffin, Executive Director and Chief Curator, The Kitchen, New York;
  • Polly Staple, Director, Chisenhale Gallery, London;
  • Ari Wiseman, Deputy Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

A singular artistic voice 

Since receiving his BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and his MFA from Bard College in 2002, Chan developed an impressive practice ranging across sculpture, animated video, light projection and community-based performance. His influences are intellectual and multifaceted, culminating in a sophisticated, exciting visual language. A 2005 Bomb Magazine article describes the versatility of his work:

[Chan's] drawings and doublesided video projections evince an equal pull to Adorno and to über-outsider Henry Darger, to the Bible and to Sade, to Beckett and to hip-hop, and while Chan remains faithful to old-fashioned charcoal drawing, he enjoys a simultaneous love affair with digital rendering and manipulation.

The artist formally focused on film and video for his BFA and MFA, but his practice transgresses traditional media and defies categorisation. One of Chan’s first major art world successes, for example, was a mesmerising light projection video series entitled The 7 Lights (2005-2008), which combines obsolete computer technology with hypnotising silhouettes to uncannily transform entire rooms.

Unfettered commitment to experimentation

In 2007, in post-Katrina New Orleans, Chan co-organised re-imagined stagings of Samuel Beckett’s famous play Waiting for Godot: the successful collaboration with Creative Time adopted a unique and meaningful community-centric process from conception to completion.

Click here to view a video of Chan’s 1st Light (2005) on youtube.com

Another example of Chan’s extraordinary artistic vision is his daring and provocative Sade for Sade’s Sake (2009), which premiered at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. In this work, the artist created a five-hour 45-minute animated video projection and structured it like a ballad, aligning the rhythm of poetry with the rhythm of sex. The jury for the Hugo Boss Prize aptly praised Chan’s “singular artistic voice”, declaring that:

Regardless of platform, each of Chan’s indelible and at times provocative projects deftly excavates our cultural landscape. We applaud his unfettered commitment to experimentation and look forward to the continued evolution of his practice.

Artist, activist, trickster

According to his Guggenheim biography, Chan worked simultaneously as a political activist from the outset of his career. However, he keeps his political and artistic lives strictly separate. In the Bomb Magazine interview, the artist discusses what he sees as an inherent contradiction between politics and art:

I believe in the project of participatory politics. Without collective social power things won’t change. But I also believe in – I’m fanatical, frankly – about what art means for the future. And I see them as oppositional forces [...] the language of politics [means that] people need to consolidate identities [and] create a social cohesion [...] to make things happen. Whereas my art is nothing if not the dispersion of power. To never consolidate. To always disperse. And so, in a way, the political project and the art project are sometimes in opposition.

Paul Chan, 'Sade for Sade's Sake', 2009, installation view at the 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009. Image courtesy Stunned/Flickr.

Paul Chan, ‘Sade for Sade’s Sake’, 2009, installation view at the 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009. Image courtesy Stunned/Flickr.

Chan goes on to say that whether or not it is true that politics and art are separate, it is productive for him to imagine that they are – “so that [his] allegiances are clear and [he] can work productively at both without reducing one to the other.” He also says that his job is “to diversify whatever political art is.”

Any further than that, the artist remains elusive with regards to his work. Believer Magazine describes him as “a sort of art-world trickster”, and the website of Chan’s digital publishing company quotes him commenting on the Hugo Boss Prize win:

I’m afraid the success comes from a complete misunderstanding of my work.

The Hugo Boss Prize 2014

Whatever Chan is doing, however, seems to be working, because with each project he succeeds in further pushing the boundaries of both medium and ideology. His dynamic oeuvre has certainly contributed to the “evolution of the contemporary visual arts” – the criteria upon which the Hugo Boss Prize has been awarded since its inception in 1996. In addition to a prize of USD100,000, a solo exhibition of Chan’s work will be on view at the Guggenheim Museum in Spring 2015.

Chan is the fourth artist from Asia to receive the Hugo Boss Prize; Rirkrit Tiravanija from Thailand won the prize in 2004, Emily Jacir from Palestine in 2008 and Vietnam-born Danh Vo in 2012. The other four finalists nominated in this edition included Sheela Gowda (India), Camille Henrot (France), Hassan Khan (Egypt) and Charline von Heyl (Germany). According to The Art Newspaper, Steve McQueen withdrew his name from consideration citing a busy schedule.

Michele Chan

563

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Contemporary art in Beijing: Art Radar guide



Make the most of your next visit to Beijing with the latest Art Radar city guide. 

Next to Shanghai, Beijing is the other important artistic hub in China. We bring you a city art guide dedicated to Beijing’s vibrant and ever-growing art scene, highlighting both well-known and smaller but equally engaging galleries and art spaces.

Beijing Centre for the Arts (BCA) in its new location in a traditional-style courtyard building. In the background are artworks by Yan Peiming. Image courtesy BCA.

Beijing Centre for the Arts (BCA) in its new location in a traditional-style courtyard building. In the background are artworks by Yan Peiming. Image courtesy BCA.

Contemporary art in China emerged in the 1980s as an underground movement, with exhibitions held in living rooms and secret locations. Today, it has become mainstream with hundreds of galleries exhibiting works by contemporary Chinese artists and auction lots that fetch millions of US dollars. Works by contemporary Chinese artists are now frequently showcased overseas in art fairs and exhibited in Western art institutions. With thousands of fine art graduates in China each year and the strong economic performance of Chinese contemporary art, it is no wonder that most galleries in Beijing, whether local or foreign-owned, exhibit almost exclusively Chinese contemporary art.

Beijing’s art districts

This guide focuses on two major art zones in Beijing, but will also briefly mention others.

798 art zone

The best known, and now most commercialised area is the 798 Art District. Besides many galleries, there are also cafés and restaurants as well as design and furniture shops in this area. It is characterised by Bauhaus-style factory buildings built in the early 1950s that have been converted into gallery and exhibition spaces. Initially, the district was sought out by artists as gallery space due to its low rent and favourable light conditions. Once bigger galleries moved in and the area was gentrified, rents skyrocketed forcing many galleries to look elsewhere. Tour buses arriving regularly with hundreds of tourists might have also prompted many galleries to move out.

Caochangdi

This gallery exodus partly led to the creation of the other art district northeast of 798, called Caochangdi. Far quieter and with almost no commercial activity catering to tourists, few venture here unless they are serious art lovers. Several high quality galleries can be found here. Many of the gallery spaces and artist studios in Caochangdi were designed by artist/architect Ai Weiwei, including his own.

Tseng Yong-Ning, 'Beautiful Future' (2010-2013),, pen on paper, 75x107cm. Image courtesy Soka Art Center, Beijing.

Tseng Yong-Ning, ‘Beautiful Future’, 2010-2013, pen on paper, 75 x 107 cm. Image courtesy Soka Art Center, Beijing.

When to visit

Beijing’s winters are relatively cold and dry and the summers are very hot and humid. The best times to visit are in the spring, from the end of April to the beginning of June, and in the fall, from the beginning of September to the end of October.

During these months, one can participate in the many events at Beijing Design Week, swing by the Independent Film Festival or browse the Surge Art show. There are many gallery openings during this time as well.

Getting around 

Beijing has an extensive and cost-effective public transport system. However, as a newcomer to the city it might be a bit daunting to navigate your way around it. Taxis are also reasonably priced by international standards. Most taxi drivers only speak Mandarin, so it is best to call the gallery and ask them to give directions to the driver or ask your hotel staff to help you.

Fourth floor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing. Image courtesy of CAFA.

Fourth floor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing. Image courtesy CAFA.

Where to see contemporary art in Beijing

Museums (a selection)

  • Central Academy of Fine Art Museum (CAFA Museum) – The art school’s museum has been in existence since 1953 and moved to its current location in Wangjing in 2008. It is part of the Central Academy of Fine Art campus and is housed in a building designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. Exhibitions include works by members of its academia and students from various art departments, as well as from its extensive and diverse art collection. In order to promote exchange with foreign artists, there are also shows exhibiting the works of international artists. Lectures are frequently held on the premises. Address: No.8 Hua Jia Di Nan St., Chaoyang District
  • National Art Museum of China – Run by the city, this museum has a collection of contemporary art, mainly paintings and some sculpture, many in a more traditional vein by primarily Chinese artists but also some international artists. Address: No.1 Wusi Main Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing
  • Today Art Museum (TAM)Situated in one of the last remaining large red-brick factory buildings in this neighbourhood in the South of Beijing, this private art museum was founded in 2002. It is not situated in 798 or Caochangdi art districts, but has attracted other galleries to open around it and is now the hub of art activity in this part of town. It claims to be China’s first not-for-profit, non-governmental art museum. It promotes established local and emerging artists, as well as some international artists. A dynamic young team of museum professionals coupled with a large and varied exhibition space allows for the showing of as many as eighty exhibitions per year, several running concurrently. Besides its numerous exhibitions, TAM is also active in organising seminars, art education for kids and art publications. Address: Building 4, Pingod Community, No.32 Baiziwan Road, Chaoyang District
  • Beijing Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Founded in 2007 by the artist Qin Feng, it seeks to promote appreciation of contemporary art, both Chinese and international. It holds three to five exhibitions per year, collaborates with international museums and organises seminars. Address: No. 500, Daxing Zhuang Songzhuang Town, Tongzhou District
  • Red Brick Contemporary Art Museum – A non-profit art museum focused on the collection, research and exhibition of contemporary world and Chinese art, which strives to promote the exchange and development of contemporary art. Address: Hegezhuang Village, Cuigezhuang Township, Chaoyang District
Sui Jianguo’s dinosaurs in front of the entrance of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), 798 Art District. Image courtesy UCCA.

Sui Jianguo’s dinosaurs in front of the entrance of the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), 798 Art District. Image courtesy UCCA.

Not-for-profit galleries (a selection)

  • Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) UCCA is an independent, not-for-profit art centre founded by Belgian collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens and opened its doors in 2007. The large red dinosaur sculptures by artist Sui Jianguo in front of its entrance have not only become synonymous with UCCA, but are a point of reference and orientation for the many visitors to 798 art district. UCCA was initially engaged in showing the vast collection of contemporary Chinese art that its founders had collected over the years, but has now expanded its scope and invites artists to create site-specific installations, introduces foreign artists to the Chinese audience, and offers a wide range of public programmes such as talks and forums, art cinema, live performances, workshops, and family and school programmes. Address: 798 Art District, No. 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District
  • Taikang Space This institution supports, funds and exhibits the work of established artists as well as emerging experimental Chinese artists and serves as a research platform for those interested in exploring shifting developments in the contemporary art scene. It receives its financial backing from the Chinese insurance company Taikang Life and keeps adding to its permanent collection of modern and contemporary Chinese art. Address: Red No. 1-B2, Cuigezhuang, Caochangdi, Chaoyang District
  • Enjoy Museum of Art Relatively new to the Beijing art scene, this is a private, non-profit gallery. Shows are often curated by well-recognised names and artworks displayed are by a mix of established and young artists. The gallery often collaborates with art academies, such as in winter 2013, when there was an exhibition of art works by graduate and post-graduate students of the internationally acclaimed artist Xu Bing, then Vice-President of CAFA. Address: B06 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 798 Art District, Chaoyang District
  • ArtMia This non-profit foundation was established in 2006 and is committed to initiating, presenting and supporting Asian contemporary art around the world. Exhibitions are supplemented by lectures and publications. Address: 261 Caochangdi, Airport Service Road Chaoyang District
Interior view of Beijing Tokyo Art Projects. Image courtesy Beijing Tokyo Art Projects.

Interior view of Beijing Tokyo Art Projects. Image courtesy Beijing Tokyo Art Projects.

Commercial art galleries in 798 Art Zone 

  • 798 Photo Gallery Established in 2003, this small gallery is dedicated solely to promoting photography and consistently provides its audience with interesting shows, mainly by local and occasionally international artists. Address: 798 Art District, 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
  • Beijing Tokyo Art Projects (BTAP) Founded in Tokyo as early as 1950, it opened its Beijing branch in 2002 with a focus on promoting works by established and mid-career contemporary artists from China, Japan and Korea. Its mission is to discover new talents and further promote the works of now established artists. Address: Ceramics Third Street, 798 Art zone E02, 4 Jiuxianqiao Rd., Chaoyang District
  • Long March Space One of the earliest art spaces in 798, founded by curator Lu Jie in 2002. It promotes the work of established and emerging contemporary Chinese artists, many of whose works are highly experimental and cutting-edge. The gallery also actively participates in several art fairs. Address: 4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
  • Beijing Commune Founded in 2004 in the 798 art district, the gallery has served as a launching pad for many of China’s now internationally recognised artists and continues to serve as an incubator for a new generation of younger artists. Address: 798 Art Zone, No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
  • Xin Dong Cheng Space for Contemporary Art – One of the early players in the gallery scene of the city, the gallery was founded in 2000. It exhibits mainly Chinese but also western artists. The gallery regularly participates in art fairs and has opened two new gallery spaces in Beijing in the last three years. Address: 798 Art District, Dashanzi, Jiu Xian Qiao Lu No. 4, Chaoyang District
  • Galleria Continua Originally founded in Italy in 1990, Galleria Continua expanded to Beijing in 2005, consistently providing high calibre shows, many of which are site-specific. Although the gallery’s main aim is to promote international contemporary art in China, it also exhibits more established contemporary Chinese artists not only in Beijing, but also in France and Italy. Address: 798 Art District #8503, 2 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
  • Boers-Li Gallery This gallery was founded in 2005 with a roster consisting of mainly mid-career to mature Chinese contemporary artists whose works span installation, sculpture, painting, works on paper, audio work, photography, video, film, performance and digital art. Address: No. 1, 706 Houjie, 798 Art District, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District
  • Pace Beijing The well-known powerhouse New York gallery has since 2008 had a presence in Beijing, with exhibitions by local and international artists. Their roster includes many international heavyweights such as Chinese contemporary artists Song Dong, Yin Xiuzhen, Yue Minjun and Zhang XiaogangAddress: 798 Art District, No. 2 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
  • Soka Art Center – Founded in 1992, the Taiwanese art gallery has been active in Beijing since 2001, promoting not only contemporary and modern Chinese artists, but also artists from other Asian countries. Address: 798 Art District, No.4 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
  • Tang Contemporary Art The gallery was founded in 2000 and has set as its goal the promotion of Chinese contemporary art to Chinese and international audiences. Tang Contemporary Art showcases some mature Chinese artists as well as some international ones. Besides Beijing, it has two other galleries in Bangkok and Hong Kong. The gallery regularly participates in art fairs. Address: Gate No.2, 798 Factory, Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District
  • Hadrien de Montferrand GalleryFocuses on original works on paper by established and emerging, predominantly Chinese contemporary artists. Address: 798 Art District, No 4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District
Exterior of Galerie Urs Meile Beijing-Lucerne, Beijing. Image courtesy the gallery.

Exterior of Galerie Urs Meile Beijing-Lucerne, Beijing. Image courtesy the gallery.

Commercial art galleries in Caochangdi Art District

  • White Space Beijing The gallery’s focus since its opening in 2004 has been the promotion of contemporary Chinese art on the international stage through well-curated exhibitions, participation at international art fairs and publications. It has been successful in actively seeking out and promoting young emerging artists at home and abroad. Address: No. 255 Caochangdi, Airport Service Rd, Chaoyang District
  • Galerie Urs Meile Beijing-Lucerne This Swiss gallery was established in 1992 and opened its Beijing location in 2005 in a complex designed by Ai Weiwei. The gallery promotes international contemporary art by both established and emerging artists from China, Europe and the United States. The gallery regularly participates in art fairs and has a regular and high-quality schedule of exhibitions. Address: No. 104 Caochangdi, Chaoyang District
  • Three Shadows Photography Art Center (TSPA) Founded in 2007, the Centre is the first contemporary art space dedicated exclusively to photography and video art in China. Besides regular exhibitions by both local and foreign artists, it often holds lectures and seminars. One way in which it promotes photography in China is through its annual TSPA Award, which is becoming ever more popular with hundreds submitting their works. In addition, there is the Three Shadows +3 gallery, which acts as the commercial arm of the Art Centre. An extensive library dedicated to photography and a small coffee shop are also part of the centre. Address: 155A Caochangdi, Chaoyang District
  • Pékin Fine Arts – Established in 2005, the gallery promotes Asian contemporary art with regular solo and group exhibitions in a variety of media including photography. The gallery regularly participates in art fairs. Many of their artists are now part of well-known international art institutions. The gallery also has a space in Hong Kong. Address: No. 241, Caochangdi Village, Chaoyang District
  • Platform China An experimental art space working exclusively with Chinese contemporary artists. Regularly holds exhibitions and participates in art fairs. It was established in 2008 and has a second gallery in Hong Kong. Address: 319-1 East End Artzone A, Caochangdi, Chaoyang District

Commercial art galleries elsewhere in Beijing 

  • Red Gate Gallery The gallery occupies two floors in one of the city’s historic Ming dynasty watchtowers. In existence since 1991, this is one of the earliest commercial art galleries in Beijing promoting Chinese contemporary art both at home and abroad. It showcases the works of established and emerging artists. Address: Levels 1 & 4, Dongbianmen Watchtower, Dongcheng District
  • Beijing Center for the Arts – The space reopened its doors after a long time this spring in its new location in a traditional-looking Chinese courtyard house. In the past, it boasted many interesting exhibitions including its last large-scale show in the old location at Qianmen 23, showing works by well-known female artist Lin Tianmiao. It promotes dialogue in the areas of contemporary Chinese art, architecture and design. Address: No. 1 Jade River, Ping An Ave, Dongcheng District
  • Jiali Gallery – A private art gallery that opened in 2012, it is based in the centre of the city. The gallery aims to promote the works of a new generation of Chinese artists who are more open and less restricted by their heritage. Their works are shown alongside artists from other countries creating a dialogue in an intimate setting. The founder has many years’ experience in the Beijing gallery scene through promoting artists who are now some of the biggest names in Chinese contemporary art. Address: 4 Beijixiang Hutong, Dongcheng District

New galleries

  • BM Art – Located a few minutes north-east of 798 north gate, this new gallery was opened in 2012 by a young couple with previous gallery experience. It promotes the work of young artists working in a variety of media from mainland China as well as from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. In addition, they hold regular tea parties for club members where they introduce the works of artists to young and upcoming collectors. Address: No. 5 Huan Tie Li, Chaoyang District
  • Intelligentsia Gallery – A fifty-square-metre contemporary art space in one of the hutong neighbourhoods in central Beijing. Opened at the beginning of 2014, it aims to critique the current state of art and hopes to stir up a debate on what the founders feel is a too inward-focused art scene, where only one kind of aesthetic is acceptable and where art is predominantly produced in order to satisfy a buyer. They look for artists from around the globe including Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia and hold very international shows. In order to promote an intellectual debate to accompany exhibitions, writers are invited to contribute as well. Address: Dong Wang Hutong #11, Dongcheng District
Zheng Zai Dong artist talk at ArtMia Foundation on the occasion of his exhibition “My Mind in Unsullied Langour: Revisiting Then and There”, 2013. Image courtesy ArtMia Foundation.

Zheng Zai Dong artist talk at ArtMia Foundation on the occasion of his exhibition “My Mind in Unsullied Langour: Revisiting Then and There”, 2013. Image courtesy ArtMia Foundation.

Where to stay: Beijing’s art hotels 

  • Grace Beijing – This small boutique hotel is located within the 798 art district and displays some pieces of contemporary Chinese art throughout its premises. Address: Jiuxianqiao Lu, 2 Hao Yuan, 798 Yishu Qu, 706 Hou Jie 1 Hao
  • Opposite House – This very modern hotel incorporates contemporary Chinese art by artists such as Chen Qingqing and Li Xiaofeng in its permanent collection. It also regularly exhibits new works in collaboration with the city’s art galleries. Address: 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang district
  • Hotel Éclat Beijing – Situated close to the Ritan Embassy district as part of the new Fangcaodi Parkview Green environmentally-friendly building, this luxury hotel boasts a large amount of art pieces displayed not only in its lobby and common areas, but also in its suites. In addition to works by contemporary Chinese artists, one can also come across works by Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol. The attached luxury shopping mall also houses many large-scale art pieces throughout the retail areas. Address: No. 9, DongDaQiao Road, Chaoyang District

An emerging trend

A new kind of gallery has started to pop up in Beijing: galleries owned and operated by collectors. It is a venue for them to display and store their often expensive acquisitions of not only Chinese contemporary art, but also art from other countries. Some of these galleries are:

  • M Woods (2014) - located at D-06, 798 Art Zone, No.2 Jiuxianqiao, Chaoyang District
  • EscapeSpace (2013) – located at No. 0103B, Villa 5, Jianwai Soho, Chaoyang District

Nooshfar Afnan

564

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Holiday art gifts: 10 contemporary art books from 2014



First in our 2014 holiday gifts series is a list of some of the most fascinating Asian and African contemporary art books released in 2014.

From anthologies to monographs, each of the books profiled below offer stimulating perspectives on contemporary art from Asia and Africa. What follows, in no particular order of importance, are our picks for potential contemporary art books as holiday gifts.

'Troubling Borders' book cover. Image courtesy University of Washington Press.

‘Troubling Borders’ book cover. Image courtesy University of Washington Press.

1. Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora| Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Mariam B. Lam, Kathy L. Nguyen (eds.)

Published by the University of Washington Press, this unique and provocative anthology features poems, stories, artworks and photographs by 62 immigrant women of Southeast Asian descent. Hitherto unheard voices are brought sharply into focus, and the deeply moving personal stories address social issues such as identity, violence, migration and displacement. The publication is possibly the first of its kind to integrate visual art and literature spanning multiple decades.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s book review of Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature.

2. Steve Sabella: Photography 1997-2014 | Steve Sabella

Palestinian photographer in exile Steve Sabella‘s monograph celebrates nearly two decades of his work. The compilation represents an important slice of personal and political history by tackling topics such as identity, life under occupation and liberation after exile. A moving and informative foreword by well-known Palestinian artist and art historian Kamal Boullata and six essays complete the monograph.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s book review of Steve Sabella: Photography 1997-2014. 

eL Seed, from the "Lost Walls" project. Photograph by Ouahid Berrehouma.

eL Seed, from the “Lost Walls” project. Photograph by Ouahid Berrehouma.

3. Lost Walls: Graffiti Road Trip through Tunisia | eL Seed

Inspired by the public reaction to his work, French-Tunisian artist eL Seed decided to take a month-long personal journey across his motherland, painting ‘lost’ walls along the way. The publication poetically documents the painting of 24 stunning walls and chronicles a journey of discovery. Lost Walls is the artist’s first book and provides unique and rare insight into the world of ‘calligraffiti’ and the Tunisian people.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s recent interview with eL Seed and learn more about the artist.

4. The No Colours | William Lim (ed.)

Artist and architect William Lim has been systematically collecting art by emerging Hong Kong artists for almost a decade. His private collection was revealed to the public during Art Basel Hong Kong 2014 and is now considered a cultural highlight in the city. The No Colours documents the defining collection and includes essays by art professionals and experts such as Birgit Donker, Hu Fang, Fionnuala McHugh and Christoph Noe. Artists featured in the book include Nadim Abbas, Tang Kwok Hin, Tsang Kin-Wah, Lee Kit, Tozer Pak, Kwan Sheung-Chi, Ho Sin Tung, Lam Tung-Pang, Wong Wai-Yin, Kacey Wong and Morgan Wong.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s short review on The No Colours as well as three other books on Asian contemporary art collections.

'Crossing China'. Image courtesy Daab Media.

‘Crossing China’ book cover. Image courtesy Daab Media.

5. Crossing China: Land of the Rising Art Scene | Gérard Goodrow (ed.)

Crossing China is an ambitious overview of the highly fascinating art scene in China spanning 25 years. The publication is conceived as a journey through seven major cities, namely Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Guangzhou. Intertwining art, architecture and photography, the book follows the rapid footsteps of the booming nation’s dazzling creative output and multi-faceted cultural breakthroughs, and explores perspectives of global influence.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s review of Crossing China.

6. Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline | Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen, Nawara Mahfoud (eds.)

Syria Speaks is an extraordinary, moving anthology offering important new perspectives into Syrian art and writing since the country’s uprising. A testament to the courage and creativity of the Syrian people, the book features the work of over fifty artists and writers, including internationally renowned Ali Ferzat, Samar Yazbek, Khaled Khalifa and Robin Yassin-Kassab. The collection encompasses literature, poems, songs, cartoons, political posters and photographs; together they reveal a diverse yet united resilience in times of strife, insurgency and transition.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s coverage of Syrian contemporary art.

7. Contemporary Iranian Art: New Perspectives | Hamid Keshmirshekan

Renowned art historian Hamid Keshmirsekan has produced a masterful, encyclopedic study of contemporary Iranian art. Building an informative and engaging narrative, Keshmirsekan eloquently examines the relationship between Iran’s cultural past, legacies of tradition and modernism, and the issue of contemporaneity with regard to cultural specificity. The book is possibly the first publication to comprehensively trace the history of Iranian art over the last 150 years.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s coverage of Iranian contemporary art.

8. Kinshasa: Tales of an Invisible CityFilip De Boeck, Marie-Françoise Plissart

Kinshasa is an acclaimed collaboration between anthropologist Filip De Boeck and photographer Marie-Françoise Plissart. Based on extensive field research, the book offers a layered history of Kinshasa, Congo, and goes beyond physical urban reality to explore the invisible city underneath: in particular, the imaginative ways in which inhabitants attempt to make sense of their worlds. The beautifully illustrated publication accompanied an exhibition in the Belgian pavilion entitled “Kinshasa, the Imaginary City”, which won a Golden Lion Award for Best Installation Presented by a Country at the 9th International Architecture Biennial in Venice in 2004.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s coverage of African contemporary art.

9. Australian Artists in the Contemporary MuseumJennifer Barrett and Jacqueline Millner 

This research-intensive volume proposes a re-reading of the relationship between artists and the contemporary museum in the Australian context. The authors argue that artists’ engagement with museums has shifted: from the previously predominant practice of utilising museums of fine art to exhibit politically-motivated works, to the performance of political and artistic interventions in non-art museums. Central to the authors’ concerns is the challenge to better connect the museum and its public. The book is essential reading for scholars, professionals and students in the fields of contemporary art and museum studies, art history and in the museum sector.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s coverage of the Australian art scene and artists.

Birdhead (founded 2004), 'The Light of Eternity No.3', 2012, black and white inkjet print, 1 of 36, 50 x 60 cm each. © Birdhead. Image courtesy the artists and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai.

Birdhead (founded 2004), ‘The Light of Eternity No.3′, 2012, black and white inkjet print, 1 of 36, 50 x 60 cm each. © Birdhead. Image courtesy the artists and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai.

10. My Generation: Young Chinese Artists | Barbara Pollack, Li Zhenhua

This exciting publication accompanies a major travelling exhibition currently at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Author Barbara Pollack curated a defining show of post-Mao Chinese art, featuring a whole new generation of artists that emerged after the end of the Cultural Revolution. The volume presents 75 works by 27 young Chinese artists and collectives, featuring, among others, Birdhead, Double FlyIrrelevant Commission, Liu Di and Ma Qiusha.

Click here to read Art Radar‘s review of the exhibition “My Generation: Young Chinese Artists”.

Michele Chan

560

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Internships | The Penumbra Foundation, Gallery of Light Dubai…and more



Looking for an internship in the art world? Art Radar compiles some of the best opportunities for you.

 

Are you interested in:

  • a comprehensive list of internships in the field of art?
  • connecting with other art interns?
  • advice and help for art interns?

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INTERNSHIP New York | Year Long Resident Intern | The Penumbra Foundation – apply by December 15, 2014

The Penumbra Foundation, a non-profit 501 (c)(3) photographic arts and education organisation, is seeking one candidate for a year-long intensive internship. This intern will work closely with all members of the Penumbra Staff and will contribute to the daily office workflow. The ideal candidate will have a strong interest in administrative work and is highly 
self motivated. MORE HERE

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INTERNSHIP Dubai | General Internship | The Gallery of Light - apply by unspecified

The Gallery hosts a rotating programme of curated exhibitions, arts education projects and for funding purposes hosts private hire events. The Gallery internship scheme provides students and recent graduates with practical experience in arts management and
administration. MORE HERE (PDF download)

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INTERNSHIP  Singapore | General Intern | The Substation – apply by unspecified

Working with The Substation provides exposure to the entire arts community in Singapore. The intern has the opportunity to interact with programmers of arts events, artists/performers, as well as to get acquainted with the workings of Singapore’s first non-profit arts centre. MORE HERE

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INTERNSHIP  New Zealand The Museum Graduate Internship Programme | Museum of New Zealand - apply by unspecified

The Museum Graduate Internship Programme (MGIP) is a National Services Te Paerangi initiative that enables a recent Museum Studies graduate to work on a project at a museum or gallery, guided by a professional mentor from the museum or gallery. MORE HERE

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INTERNSHIP Malaysia | Internship (Multiple Positions) | Asiarta Foundation – apply by unspecified

Asiarta has opportunities in art conservation, research and documentation, translation, writing, design, publishing, photography, filming, web design and development and logistical support. MORE HERE

 

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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.