Preview: 6 highlights from Asia Now art fair, Paris

2nd edition of Asia Now, a boutique art fair dedicated to Asian contemporary art, is the latest to join Paris’ list of October art events.

The Parisian edition of Asia Now, 20 – 23 October 2016, intends to create a France-based platform for commercial and “intellectual exchange” for the Asia-Pacific art community. Art Radar previews 6 must sees and speaks to Director Alexandra Fain about the fair in its second edition as well as curator Magda Danysz about the special project exhibition “Women’s Independence Art Show”.

Asia Now, 2015. Photo credit: Jean vertu. Image courtesy Asia Now.

Asia Now, 2015. Photo credit: Jean vertu. Image courtesy Asia Now.

Breaking stereotypes of the commercial Asian arts scene

Asia Now positions itself in opposition to some of the stereotypes associated with contemporary art from the Asia-pacific region: a range of smaller and non-profit galleries have previously participated with lesser known artists. Last year the range represented by the 18 galleries was broad and inclusive: ARNDT from Berlin showed works by Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho and Filipino artist Rodel Tapaya, while Chengdu’s A Thousand Plateaus Art Space showed Chen Qiulin and Yang Shu for the first time in Europe.

This year the number of galleries participating has risen from 17 to 34, representing artists from more than 13 Asian territories including Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam. Talking to Art Radar about Asia Now in its second year, Co-founder and Director Alexandra Fain says:

Two years is still a short period for an art fair and we are still part of a learning process. However, we feel that as Asia Now coincides with FIAC, European collectors and collectors from different parts of the world are given an opportunity to view contemporary Asian art and to gain a new understanding of what it means. We hope to put young contemporary Asian artists on the radar of collectors, art institutions and other important stakeholders within the art ecology and to place these works in major international collections.

Asia Now Paris 2015. Photo credit: Clara Segui. Image courtesy Asia Now.

Asia Now Paris 2015. Photo credit: Clara Segui. Image courtesy Asia Now.

“Special Projects” at Asia Now and a focus on women artists

The 2016 fair programme will include a group exhibition entitled “Chimeres: Visions of South East Asia” curated by Hervé Mikaeloff with Matthias Arndt focusing on East Asian art from countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia, which include artists like Eko Nugroho. The London-based non-profit The Centre of Attention/News of the World will showcase artists exploring the theme of globalisation, with a performance work from Singaporean artist Teow Yue Han and screenings from the Vietnamese Hanoi Doclab exhibition. Speaking to Art Radar about the special projects at this years fair, Alexandra Hain states:

What is really interesting this year is that we have an outstanding selection of female artists, and they stand for almost 30 percent of our exhibiting artists something which is actually quite uncommon for the fair scene. On top of this we have a project called A Women’s Independence Art Show curated by Magda Danysz, commissioned by Etam to celebrate its 100th anniversary, will present the works of 10 artists including Li Hongbo, Stella Sujin, and Liu Bolin. So it seems that this year we can really focus on woman in the arts – a theme which is very relevant and also close to my heart.

Art Radar previews six highlights from among the galleries and non-profits participating in the fair.

Teow Yue Han, 'Performing the Smart Nation'. 2016. Multimedia installation. Courtesy of the artist and news of the world.

Teow Yue Han, ‘Performing the Smart Nation’. 2016. Multimedia installation. Courtesy of the artist and news of the world.

1. The Centre of Attention/News of the World – Performance by Teow Yue Han

The Centre of Attention/News of the World is a non-commercial and not-for-profit curator’s research studio curated by Pierre Coinde. Its programme evolves sporadically, driven by the imperative to, as they say on their website, “reveal thinking processes in contemporary visual media”. At Asia Now they will host a performance by Singapore interdisciplinary artist Teow Yue Han (b. 1987). His work could be considered new media, in its exploration of gesture and interaction as they operate across various media, from dance to the internet.

Teow Yue Han’s installation at Asia Now, entitled Performing the Smart Nation, interrogates the notion of “Smart Nation”, a phrase used around the world and especially in Singapore to measure and celebrate the level of immersion a community has in their use of communications devices. The curatorial statement on the News of the World website explains:

With a prosperous economy and 99% of its households ‘connected’, Singapore is deploying a strategy which brings together government, private sector and citizens working as partners towards a sustainable algorithm-based future. Can a nation be governed by algorithms, where all is quantifiable -and quantified-, for which the whole is the sum of mass data? The artist projects the viewer into this near-future, visualising human-technology interactions. How do bodies move within this apparatus of interfaces and sensors? What can or cannot be quantified? How are the citizens of a Smart nation connected, mobilised and even integrated within this new urban development?

At Asia Now, News of the World will also be showing six short documentary films produced by Vietnam film collective Hanoi Doclab.

Click here to watch ‘Needle Sound’ by Kong Chun Hei on Vimeo

2. Gallery Exit – Kong Chun Hei

Hong Kong artist Kong Chun Hei is interested in all aspects of the process of drawing: how repetition constitutes and constructs meaning as well as how disruption or expansion can extend the significance of a given action beyond all recognition. In a practice that stands between conceptual art and drawing in an expanded field, his work often explores the limits of the act of drawing itself: the work Needle Sound (2011) is a record player that simultaneously makes and records the sound of drawing. The grooves on the LP are the actual analogue imprints of sound waves.

Beside the record player is the collection of LP’s, which constitute a collection of sound of drawings in a domino effect. On the artist’s website Kong Chun Hei explains:

Every time a record is ‘read’, friction from the needle erodes the grooves and eventually ‘cracklings’ come through. As the two sounds are played at the same time, the work exposes both a description of the disc (the drawing) and the object itself.

At the fair Gallery Exit will show a range of conceptual and drawing works.

Gaston Damag, 'Homage to the Culture of Rice', 2013. Installation shot. Image courtesy The Drawing Room.

Gaston Damag, ‘Homage to the Culture of Rice’, 2013. Installation shot. Image courtesy The Drawing Room.

3. The Drawing Room (Makati City) – Gaston Damag

The Drawing Room is a contemporary art gallery in Makati City, Philippines, which features artists from the Philippines whose respective practices investigate the complementary and often merging position between their work and lifestyles. At Asia Now they will be presenting the work of France-based Gaston Damag. Damag’s roots are in the indigenous Ifugao culture. His practice is focused around researching the way in which ethnographic objects are framed and understood.

He is known for fusing ethnographic symbols of his material culture in the Cordillera region in the Northern Philippines with diverse modern industrial materials such as steel, glass and neon lights. Damag in interested in superimposing the frames we use to codify visual arts to approach the material cultures of communities removed from the western canon, as opposed to contributing to the ethnographic gaze.

Trevor Yeung, 'Cacti', 2016. Blowfish, clay pot, sand, 16.5 x 13 x 13 cm. Image courtesy of artist and Blindspot Gallery.

Trevor Yeung, ‘Cacti’, 2016, blowfish, clay pot, sand, 16.5 x 13 x 13 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Blindspot Gallery.

4. Blindspot Gallery – Trevor Yeung

Hong Kong artist Trevor Yeung might be described as a “bio-artist” due to the use of botanical, biological and chemical processes in his art. The artist is perhaps more cynical with regards to the spectacle of mainstream bioart, writing on his website:

[I] do not use phenomena from the natural world as metaphors in a romantic tradition, rather [I] project emotional and intellectual scenarios on biological substitutes, which I manipulate and alter with a full acceptance of the artificiality of nature.

His recent exhibition “The Sunset of Last Summer”, which Art Radar featured in preview highlights of the Hong Kong South Island Culture Day in September, explored the nostalgia experienced as a result of a recent failed relationship through a series of installations and photographs. Nostalgic and utopian, Yeung’s art stands productively between the comic and the cynical. In the same artist general statement Yeung explains:

[My] own limitations in sociability and the emotional realm are often morphed into elaborate fables in which more than receiving satisfaction, [I] perversely continue to enact the failures and imperfections that are my main driving force.

Blindspot Gallery will be showing new and older works of Trevor Yeung’s as well as works by Hong Kong artists Angela Su, Ren Hang, Leung Chi Wo.

Wang Sishun, 'The Wrong Body 2', 2011. Gold, 5.7 x 4.6 cm. Image courtesy MadeIn Company.

Wang Sishun, ‘The Wrong Body 2’, 2011, gold, 5.7 x 4.6 cm. Image courtesy MadeIn Company.

5. MadeIn Gallery – Wang Sishun

MadeIn was a company established in 2009 by Xu Zhen, which subsequently founded the Madein Gallery in 2014. At Asia Now they will be presenting the work of Beijing-based artist Wang Sishun (b. 1979, Hubei). Wang Sishun applies a Dadaist methodology to his installations and sculptures; he decontextualises objects and reforms them into something new for the purpose of his creations.

In his site-specific, immersive installations, he further stresses this transformation in the placements of these materials, ensuring that each object interacts and engages with the other in a subtle narrative. “The Wrong Body” series explores the delicacy and strength of representations of the human body, producing often absurdly massive or tiny models of the human.

Stella Sujin, 'Patchwork of 18 drawings', 2013, watercolour on paper, 37,4x107,5 inches. Image courtesy the artist.

Stella Sujin, ‘Patchwork of 18 drawings’, 2013, watercolour on paper, 37,4 x 107,5 inches. Image courtesy the artist.

6. Special Project – “A Women’s Independence Art Show”

“A Women’s Independence Art Show” will present the works of ten artists including Liu Bolin, Stella Sujin and Yi Zhu. The exhibition was commissioned by Etam to celebrate its 100th anniversary and is curated by Magda Danysz, who will also be at the fair with her gallery, Magda Danysz Gallery. Speaking to Art Radar about the genesis of the exhibition project, Magda Danysz explains:

When Alexandra and I met for the first time, it was immediately very clear that it was a great chance to include contemporary artists and let them express their vision of women independence. Alexandra was then joined by supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova, who for many years has been the spokesperson for Naked Heart Foundation, which supports efforts to eradicate child abandonment in Russia and build inspiring and accessible play facilities for children of all abilities across the country and internationally. After months of research, selection and preparation we set our mind on a list of artists who were asked to create artworks related to the theme. Some of the artists are famous, some are emerging, the whole idea was to also give them a stage to express themselves.

The exhibition was first shown at K11 non profit art museum in Shanghai. On closing at the fair, the artworks will be sold at a charity auction, the profits of which will be donated to the Naked Heart Foundation charity. Speaking to Art Radar about what the “Women’s Independence Show” hopes to bring to Asia Now, Danysz stated:

Because the Women’s Independence show is very international and diverse it echoes with Asia Now’s mission of reflecting on the international pan-Asian art scene. The Women’s Independence show includes artists from China and Korea and because they are young contemporary artists they are the true image of what is happening in the arts. Artists are bound to reflect upon our society, and the Women’s Independence is something that matters… Asia Now becomes also a platform for more intellectual exchanges.

Rebecca Close


Related topics: Art tourism, Business of art, Asian artist, Fairs, Southeast Asian

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