The 13th edition of the Frieze Art Fair 2015 (14-17 October) presented over 160 leading contemporary galleries from just under 30 countries.
Art Radar contributor Rachel Marsden roved through this year’s Frieze Week in London, from the art fair to satellite events. This is her pick of six stand-out moments featuring new art from Asia.
1. “The Rural Poetics” curated by Gland at Leo Xu Projects, Booth H20, Frieze London
This group exhibition by Leo Xu Projects examines the cultural ecology of Beijing’s artists’ villages and artist communities, specifically the practice of artist establishment in rural areas. Their unique and provocative visual language is seen as an effect of contemporary globalisation and redevelopment, harking back to avant-garde ideologies with nostalgic sentiments to the artists’ communities before them.
The exhibition looks at the rural as a site of the home and studio, a site of inspiration and material resource, beauty and simplicity. Leo Xu Projects’ booth at Frieze Art Fair 2015 becomes a space within a space as it houses, alongside other multi-media artworks, a constructed, wooden folding screened frame entitled Rural Poetics (2015), a structure encased in mirrored and pictorial acrylic coverings by artists Li Shurui, Guo Hongwei and Yang Xinguang – a recreation of a contemporary rural vision.
‘The Rural Poetics’ is instigated by Gland, an alternative space founded by young Beijing-based artist Guo Hongwei at Heiqiao Village (Black Bridge Village), Beijing, China. The exhibition is a real commentary on cutting-edge contemporary Chinese art practice today, a clear prerogative of Leo Xu’s practice since the establishment of his space in 2011.
2. ‘q0’ by Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho at Gallery Hyundai, Booth F3, Frieze London
Founded in 1970, Gallery Hyundai has been a driving force in the development and understanding of contemporary Korean art. Shown in a dedicated viewing room, away from the main booth space, this film of natural, cosmic and spatial wonder continues Moon Kyungwon and Jeon Joonho’s research into the meaning and role of art across space and time, the human condition and its uncertain future, by exploring a created realm of pure existence through 13 short stories.
The title ‘q0’ is a computer programming term that refers to an essential and higher yet unknown code, also integral to astronomy, as it is a measurement tool for the open or closed nature of the universe.
Using a clam shell to symbolically represent ‘q0’, you are taken through the relic’s repeated past, present and future reincarnations in different realities, relationships and temporalities. Never sure what the purpose of the clam is for, you continue watching the multiple, vibrant desire-filled journeys unfold in the hope that one of the stories will solve the ambiguity. Moon and Jeon have created a distinct synergy of practice since 2012, currently representing Korea at the 2015 Venice Biennale.
3. ‘Srinagar II’ by Praneet Soi at Experimenter, Booth G29, Frieze London
Located in the heart of the Kashmir valley in India, is the city of Srinagar. For this project, Indian artist Praneet Soi continues his research into the city’s urban fabric, set against the violence, loss and longstanding misrepresentation of greater Kashmir. Through a multi-media approach, he questions the misunderstandings of historical legacy; reflections into Srinagar’s portrayal in the public domain, and the delineation of conflict zones including the cultural history of disputed territories. He translates this into a practice of abstract patterns and intricate motifs, geometric clusters and vegetal designs, appropriated as if an archive of the landscape of the city. It is an enquiry of connections between forms and images, migration and residence, time and space, borders and conflicts.
When speaking to Prateek Raja, co-founder of Experimenter, I asked what his perspective was on the art market for contemporary Asian art today. He replied:
Contemporary Asian Art today and Asia itself is poised at a crucial moment politically, economical and otherwise. The developments in Asia and its global influence are therefore felt in the world of art as well. Asian artists are being represented more and more in important exhibitions, biennales and museum shows all over the world and are finding homes in collections that have a global relevance. Therefore from the point of view of influence on the market, it has a certain weight in its impact.
4. ‘Enter the Dragon’ by Zhang Ding with Casual Sect versus Chrononautz at ICA Theatre, The Mall, London (12-25 October 2015)
This external event to Frieze Art Fair 2015, is an installation and series of performances making reference to the final scene from one of the most noteworthy martial arts films Enter the Dragon (1973) by Bruce Lee. Communicating Lee’s understanding of Eastern philosophy to Western audiences, Chinese artist Zhang Ding appropriates this notion by creating what he calls a “mutating sound sculpture”.
Zhang is known for his multi-media intervention and performative practice, which investigates societal issues through sensory perception, play and absurd contrast. For Enter the Dragon, he has covered the ICA Theatre walls with reflective materials, suspended sound panels and rotating mirrored walls set as a boundary between the stage and audience, letting you get only periodic glimpses of the performers at play. Acting as a tag team, performers and musicians of any genre are invited, through an open global call, to use the stage for tandem improvisation, experimentation and self-reflection, in turn giving the audience complete, light blinding, sensorial immersion.
On the night I attended, the space was turned into an abstract collaborative sculptural disco of electronic, noise and heavy metal music by Chrononautz (UK) and Casual Sect (UK). Instigated by ICA and K11 Art Foundation, performances take place every evening until 25 October 2015.
5. ‘The New Museums: Coming Soon to a City Near You’, Frieze Talks, Frieze London (15 October 2015, 1pm)
Adrian Searle, arts critic of The Guardian chaired a panel discussion in the Auditorium at Frieze London with directors and curators from four global institutions with ambitious in-progress or new buildings. He questioned them about their understandings of the social and cultural role of museums and their potential to instigate social change.
One of the four speakers, Tobias Berger, Director of Central Police Station, Hong Kong, was firstly asked ‘Why does China want Western style museums?’ Berger was quick to respond, clearly pointing out that first of all it’s not Mainland China, and that there are regions and cities in China and Hong Kong that have no cultural outputs of museums, art galleries or creative organisations. Berger said:
When building a museum for the future, we don’t know what audiences we will get or what art will be made. We know what it was, but we don’t what it will be. Art will get bigger and we can see education getting bigger and we also know there is an incredible hunger for good contemporary art in Hong Kong and in Asia. The building is not the museum. The museum is the relationship between the audience and art. The building is the environment…I think we will redefine what the idea of art is, with more focus on architecture. There will be a redefinition as to what a museum is there for…
Other speakers included Maria Balshaw (Director of Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester), Anton Belov (Director of Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow), and Donna De Salvo (Director of Whitney Museum of American Art, New York).
6. ‘Documentary: from National Geographic to BBC’ by Guan Xiao at Antenna Space, Booth H32, Frieze London
This site-specific installation by young Chinese artist Guan Xiao was created especially for Frieze Art Fair 2015. The three sculptural assemblages are a continuation of works of the same conceptual vein examining mankind’s contemporary relationship with nature, Chinese and global identity politics, and the growing prevalence of global image circulation. Presented in front of a series of camouflaged screens, the sculptures become consumed by their decorative backgrounds and absurd, in part kaleidoscopic, patternation, which include shapes from traditional Chinese root carvings and exotic animals.
The booth is to act as an international portal and viewing platform linking to Antenna Space’s Shanghai base referencing the interchangeability and the inter-objectivity between the audience and objects, ultimately, how artistic form follows the roots of natural appearance. Antenna Space is a new gallery in Shanghai’s m50 art area where since its establishment in 2013, has been dedicated to the support and promotion of the next generation of artists with a clear China focus.
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