DESIGN ART COLLECTIONS PUBLIC SPACE ASIA
In search of alternative ways of getting your art fix? The Wall Street Journal brings to light some hidden cultural gems in its “Free Art Series”, showcasing art in public spaces across the Asian continent. We discuss their selections below.
Amidst the towering skyscrapers of Wanchai, a bustling district in Hong Kong undergoing massive urban regeneration, there is a much overlooked oasis of calm. Nestled in a quiet courtyard within the Hong Kong Arts Centre complex is a striking piece of iron sculpture. At 3m tall, Legacy Mantle dominates the landscape.
The sculpture is the second in an edition of six produced by Sui Jianguo, the Chairman of the Department of Sculpture at Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. It is a cultural reference to the Mao era and the tunic jacket is symbolic of those worn by the leader himself. The object has been well received, featuring in both local and international exhibitions, as well as on the auction circuit. Intrigued by its symbolic imagery, the sculptor has continued to experiment with its aesthetics in different mediums and sizes.
Known for its dramatic skyline, groundbreaking architecture and melting pot of cultural influences, Singapore is an ideal getaway for the aesthete. The Wall Street Journal uncovers the city’s secret art centres, housed within hotels across the metropolis.
Hotel Fort Canning
Set in a colonial house on a beautiful hilltop location, the art of this establishment pursues a historic theme exploring the cultural roots of the island. The designers of Hotel Fort Canning, DP Architects, sought the expert eye of Dr. John Miksic, a specialist in Southeast Asian archaeology.
In this small-scale exhibition, Miksic curates a selection of artifacts from local excavation sites corresponding to four transitional periods in the history of Singapore. The objects, displayed in four separate glass topped pits, are the centerpiece of the lobby and evoke an interest in this small but culturally rich land.
The St. Regis Singapore
While it is a common for luxury hotels to invest heavily in art, The St. Regis Singapore stands out from the crowd with an exceptional collection of objects. Spearheading this project is Cecilia Kwek, the wife of businessman, Kwek Leng Beng.
Over eighty pieces of art are on display throughout the hotel and some of the famous names lining the walls include Jasper Johns, Picasso, Marc Chagall and Frank Gehry. The collection features works by international blue chip artists, but emerging local artists are also well represented. Highly trained hotel staff are on hand to give visitors 30-45 minute art tours.
The New Majestic Hotel
Chairs are unique art objects, encapsulating in their design both a decorative and utilitarian function. It is these everyday objects that have fuelled Loh Lik Peng‘s bizarre collecting passion. The Singaporean hotelier’s taste leans towards Danish and American objects from the mid-nineteenth century and part of his extensive collection is displayed in his five hotels.
The New Majestic Hotel in Singapore houses over thirty of these pieces, which are placed both in the lobby as well as in selected rooms for the pleasure of his guests. One of the more unusual pieces is a fully functioning barber’s chair, of which there are four dotted throughout the hotel: one in the lobby and three in the Attic Suites.
Following the footsteps of cities like New York and London, both of which have had a long history of collecting, commissioning and displaying art on their underground public train systems, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation sees their new metro network as a blank canvas.
The company is welcoming help from creative minds throughout the city to fit the fresh construction with art with the aim of promoting the visual culture of this Indian metropolis. Plans have already been made to house an art gallery and an open air theatre at the Mahatma Gandhi Road station. The metro was originally set to open on 4 April 2011, but due to setbacks in its progress it is likely that it will not open until June.
Hotel Eclat‘s Taipei-based boutique establishment is a secret treasure trove of art, housing pieces from the private collection of its Hong Kong developer, George Hwang. The hotel’s collection boasts an eclectic mix of modern and contemporary art from both Eastern and Western traditions. A few artists to look out for are Jean-Jacques Henner, Gao Xiao Wu and Jia Gang, and the star piece is the pair of monumental bronze statues, Mercurio and Alma del Quijote by Salvador Dali.
Art and the city: A round-up
The rise of art in public spaces throughout Asia reveals affluence in the region, as well as the growing interest in art on all levels. The bulk of these works are displayed in hotels, catering to both an international and local audience. Although works by established Western artists and Chinese contemporary art have dominated collections, pieces by local Asian artists are emerging within this sphere.
Additional points of interest include the Hong Kong-based Langham Place Hotel‘s extensive collection of Chinese contemporary art, curated by Angela Li, and The Wall Street Journal‘s 24 hour art tour of Singapore’s hotels.
What secret public art spots in Asian cities do you know of? Reveal them to our readers by leaving a comment below.
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