As Art Basel Hong Kong 2015 kicks off, here are Art Radar’s top 10 highlights.
Art Basel Hong Kong has finally opened its doors, featuring a unique selection of the best Asian and international galleries and a plethora of mesmerising artworks to see and covet. Art Radar picks 10 of the top thematic booths to visit at this year’s edition.
The spread and richness of Art Basel Hong Kong 2015 makes it difficult to choose among its countless impressive gallery booths. Nevertheless, Art Radar brings you some highlights from this year’s edition of the fair, veering away from the obvious choices and blue-chip participants by giving particular attention to thematic and solo presentations from the Galleries, Insights and Discoveries sectors.
1. Chi-Wen Gallery
Chi-Wen Gallery from Taipei is showcasing a selection of Taiwanese contemporary artists working with installation, photography and video, including Chang Chien-Chi, Jawshing Arthur Liou, Yeh Wei-Li, Yuan Goang-Ming, Yu Cheng-Ta.
Yeh Wei-Li (b. 1971, Taipei) has created a special project for Art Basel, entitled Antiquity-Like Rubbish Research & Development Syndicate : Sofa Prototype. Yeh collected an abandoned sofa from a factory office in Miaoli in 2012 and started imagining and inventing a makeover plan for it, turning it into a mini museum with the original interiors captured on transparent acrylic panels.
Chang Chien-Chi (b. 1961, Taichung) provides a glimpse into a usually unseen community in his single-channel video Side Chain (1993-2014), a collection of 45 portraits of inmates in a mental asylum in Taiwan.
Jawshing Arthur Liou (b. 1968, Zhongli) has created the Blood Work series (2003-2006) – of which Elements (2006) is on show. Liou boldly confronts his daughter’s leukemia and the disease’s treatment, transforming real, scientific images into an abstract, otherworldly experience.
Dwelling (2014) by Yuan Goang–Ming (b.1965, Taipei) is a fun, surrealistic video, inspired by German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), in which the living room of a middle-class family explodes and then returns intact, highlighting “a lurking sense of anxiety in the mundane.”
Chi-Wen Gallery is also presenting Yu Cheng-Ta’s She is my Aunt (2008) and Yao Jui-Chung’s Mt. Jade Floating (2007) and Long Live (2011) in the Film sector.
2. Grotto Fine Art
Hong Kong-based Grotto Fine Art, which specialises solely in contemporary art from Hong Kong, presents an exhibition entitled “Beyond Representation: Hong Kong’s New Ink Movement”, with five Hong Kong artists: Hung Fai, Wai Pongyu, Koon Wai-bong, Chui Pui-chee and Wong Yeeki. The focus of the presentation is on contemporary ink art.
The gallery highlights the regional particularities of the city’s artists in their re-interpretation of ancient and traditional forms of art, through a looking glass that juxtaposes influences from Chinese heritage and colonialism in Hong Kong.
Contemporary manifestations of ink art transcend the two-dimensional medium of painting to incorporate other techniques and media, such as in the work of Lam Yau-Sum. Yuan (2015) is a mixed media sculpture made with silver and copper wire, water pipes, melted chrome and other metals that creates a virtual landscape of the city’s inhabitants.
Caroline Cheng’s (b. 1963) Butterfly Robe uniquely reinterprets another traditional element of Chinese ancient culture, investing the precious silk dress with yet more historical and cultural significance, using ceramics as a medium.
3. Kalfayan Galleries
The booth of Greece-based Kalfayan Galleries includes the work of Mediterranean artists Rania Bellou, Maria Loizidou, Adrian Paci, Nina Papaconstantinou and Tassos Pavlopoulos, as well as Hrair Sarkissian and Raed Yassin from the Middle East. The gallery emphasises the historical interconnectedness between the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Hrair Sarkissian (b. 1973, Damascus), winner of the Abraaj Group Art Prize 2013, presents a selection from his photographic series titled “Istory” (2011) and “Stand Still”. The artist photographed various semi‐private and public libraries and archives in Istanbul, in which history is simultaneously a recording and an erasure. In “Stand Still”, Sarkissian depicts the shells of buildings that stand eerily in Damascus, Amman and other cities, abandoned after they have been constructed in vast, barren landscapes.
Raed Yassin’s (b 1979, Beirut) “Yassin Dynasty” consists of a series of porcelain works depicting several battles from the Lebanese civil war (1975‐1990) and produced in Jingdezhen, China’s capital of porcelain production since dynastic times. The project derives from “China” (2012), a series that was made possible by the Abraaj Group Art Prize. Yassin references the ancient tradition of recording victories and historical events on vases and ceramics for posterity.
4. Tyler Rollins Fine Art
New York’s Tyler Rollins Fine Art has dedicated its space to a solo presentation of work by Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich (b. 1971, Battambang), who has been working with local materials from his country since 2002. The artist uses bamboo, rattan, burlap from rice bags, beeswax and earth pigments gathered from around Cambodia to make sculptures inspired by bodily organs, vegetal forms and abstract geometric structures. The experience of the genocide in the 1970s informs Pich’s subtle yet powerful oeuvre, which explores themes of time, memory and the body.
More recently, Pich has started to address an increasing interest in abstraction and conceptualisation. Moving away from the free-flowing forms of his work, he began a series of grid-based compositions that utilise the same locally sourced materials. Consisting of bamboo grids, covered with strips of burlap patched with old fabrics and colourful plastic twine strips, they also have layers of encaustic, often coloured with mineral pigments and charcoal.
5. Shanghai Gallery of Art
The Shanghai Gallery of Art booth features a group of Chinese, Hong Kong and Japanese artists that revisit the medium of Chinese ink and landscape painting through a variety of media.
Yang Yongliang’s (b. 1980, Shanghai) monumental works from the new series “From the New World” (2014) are characterised by the artist’s unique digital re-interpretation of classical Chinese landscape painting. The series, titled after Dvorak’s Symphony No.9, feature minute details in an artificially created composition that for the first time includes images of natural mountain formations taken from Iceland and Norway.
Gao Weigang’s (b 1976, Heilongjiang) Superstition 2 (2012-2013) references the classics’ ‘superstition’ that the real world can be represented by using fundamental geometric elements that constitute its form. In an ironical move to satirise painters, the artist transforms the geometric shapes used in painting training courses into fake antiques with a sense of history.
In Water in Dropping – Dance (2014), Zheng Lu (b. 1978, Inner Mongolia) represents water and its significance as an essential element of human existence. The work features Lu’s recurrent theme of static and dynamic existence and emptiness within the use, meaning and emotional value of text and visual.
6. Hanart TZ Gallery
Hanart TZ Gallery has also presented a group exhibition of artists working with and around ink art, entitled “Magic Mountains” and including Cao Xiaoyang, Gu Wenda, Hsu Yu-Jen, Leung Kui-Ting, Lin Haizhong, Liu Guosong, Qiu Shihua, Shen Aiqi, Wang Dongling, Wucius Wong and Xu Longsen.
Xu Longsen’s (b. 1956, Shanghai) landscapes challenge modern architecture with their imposing presence, as seen in his “Pure Spirit” series, Lotus Peak or in his monumental ten-metre-long scroll Beholding the Mountain With Awe No.1 (2008-2009), part of the Encounters sector.
Vision: Change No. 1 (2005) by Leung Kui-Ting (b. 1945, Guangzhou) is an installation of ink, silk and wood that employs the artist’s revisitation of Cunfa, the brushstroke that is the technical foundation of traditional landscape.
Shen Aiqi’s (b. 1941, Hubei) The Mystery Beyond the Universe (2013) sets him apart from traditional shanshui painting practices by including a strong performative element in his works. Shen’s works reflect his emotional and spiritual state at the moment of creation. Using ink and colour on fabric, he brings the traditional two-dimensionality to tangible life in a monumental installation reminiscent of mountains, streams and the subconscious.
7. Athr Gallery
Athr Gallery from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, features a group presentation entitled “Why is the Power Button Always a Circle?”, including the work of Ahmed Mater, Ayman Yossri Daydban, Dana Awartani, Nasser Al Salem and Seçkin Pirim. The theme draws from the historical, social and cultural significance of the circle. The works in the booth address and use the circle to examine disparate subjects, whether terrestrial or celestial in nature: from notions of identity and home, to spirituality and the duality of religious practices, to astronomy and Euclidean geometry.
Ahmed Mater’s (b. 1979, Abha) installation Magnetism (2015) utilises a magnet and iron shavings to represent a core or centre – reminiscent of the Ka’bah or the ‘Cube’ in Mecca – that forcefully attracts a multitude of tiny satellites that symbolise the pilgrims. Mater’s work also reflects the dynamic and harmonious opposition of implicit in both magnetism and pilgrimage – attraction and repulsion.
Dana Awartani’s (b. 1987, Jeddah) series of paintings “Platonic Solids” borrows from an ancient study of shapes at the basis of Euclidean geometry. The Solids are considered the only five ‘perfect’ shapes in three-dimensional space that derive from a sphere. Awartani takes inspiration from these shapes and transforms their three-dimensionality into two-dimensional paintings, each based on the numerical value of the individual vertices of the platonic solids.
In And What If The Circle Disappeared? (2015), Nasser Al Salem (b. 1984, Mecca) carries out a study of the history of the circle in calligraphic traditions. The circle or dot was only introduced in Arabic calligraphy around 45 AH (Hijri calendar), and appears in conjunction with the early spread of Islam and the slow merging of people and cultures whose language was not only Arabic. In the work, Al Salem uses Old Kuffi calligraphy, used prior to the introduction of the dot.
8. Yavuz Gallery
Singapore’s Yavuz Gallery has mounted a thematic presentation entitled “Conversation in the Garden”, featuring new and recent works by renowned Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak (b. 1961, Bangkok), who explores the female body through abstracted motifs of vessels, stupas and clouds in a variety of media. This event also marks the first time the artist has exhibited in Hong Kong.
The Hammock (2014-2015) is a glass installation comprising over 600 hand-blown glass beads – each unique in size and shape – strung together on steel cables to form a life-sized hammock.
Sanpitak started using glass in 2007, after a visit to the studio of glass masters in Murano, Italy. Her Quietly Solid – Blue sculptures take the form of clouds or transparent floating orbs with a blue centre and were blown by glassmaker Master Silvano Signoretto.
Selected works from Sanpitak’s Breast Stupa Topiary series (2013) are also on show, with the largest reaching to three metres high and almost as wide. The stainless steel futuristic trellis-like structures reference the shape of a woman’s breast and that of a stupa – a Southeast Asian Buddhist funerary structure.
9. Mujin-to Production
Mujin-to Production from Japan introduces Tsubasa Kato (b. 1984, Saitama), with a presentation of photography and video works. They Do Not Understand Each Other (2014) takes place on Tsushima Island, located near the border between Japan and South Korea. A Japanese man and South Korean man drive a signboard of a map into the ground. When reading the QR code on the signboard, one realises it displays a Google Map with a pin dropped onto that same desert island.
The video The Lighthouses – 11.3 PROJECT (2011) documents the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the lighthouse in Fukushima Prefecture after the Great Tohoku Earthquake. The structure, which is being pulled up by the inhabitants, was made with parts of houses destroyed by the tsunami collected by Kato for nearly half a year. The victims had cancelled their annual festival, but decided to run it again alongside Kato’s project.
H.H.H.A. (The Home, Hotels, Hideyoshi, Away) (2011) is a performance series that took place in Osaka, where the unemployment rate is comparatively high in Japan. For the videos, Kato created structures that resembled the modeled rooms of project assistants who were temporarily employed by the Osaka government as part of social support for the unemployed. Some of the assistants were the so-called “NEETs,” abbreviation for the “Not in Education, Employment, or Training,” who could not leave their homes. The performance involved pulling down the structures with ropes, but it was changed to re-erecting it or pulling it up, soon after the Great Earthquake struck.
10. Shrine Empire
Shrine Empire from New Delhi has mounted a solo presentation of work by New York-based Samanta Bastra Mehta (b. 1975, New Delhi), which includes four works that are an interplay between childhood imagination, fantasy, commodification and memory.
Mehta, a mother of two, seeks to understand how everyday life and childhood are connected with materialistic settings in which toys and childhood ‘icons’ are created, marketed, sold and presented through a variety of channels.
In the installation The wall of Objects and Other In-destructibles, Mehta uses a series of vintage toys and objects on which she pasted decoupage images from her printed drawings, constructing a re-telling of a modern day fairytale.
Deritrus, a collage of vintage photographs, gold leaf and cut paper, juxtaposes the photographs with images of her drawings as well as toys, such as action heroes, cartoons and images from pop culture. The work reflects on the ubiquitous and constant bombardment of childhood icons, heroes and retail merchandise in contemporary family homes and lives, cultivating a culture of consumption.
In Home? Whom?, like a matrioska doll, a large wooden cage/doll’s house contains within it another cage/doll’s house, which in turn is a receptacle for intimate ink drawings within two glass domes. The drawings and decoupage recount scenes from early childhood memories, when Mehta spent four years travelling the world on a ship.
For those unable to visit Art Basel Hong Kong 2015, the Fair’s catalogue can be found online here.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
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- One decade of Art Fair Tokyo – March 2015 – the 10th edition of Art Fair Tokyo opens in late March and will present contemporary art, antiques and crafts, in addition to the “Artistic Practices” exhibition
- Finalists for Sovereign Asian Art Prize 2015 on show in Hong Kong – March 2015 – works by the 30 Sovereign Asian Art Prize finalists will be exhibited in Hong Kong from 11 to 13 March 2015
- Mobile M+: Inaugural moving image programme explores mobility and migration – February 2015 – Hong Kong’s M+ launches its inaugural moving image project exploring themes of contemporary migration, mobility and home through works from the museum’s growing moving image collection
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