Sunday, 20 May 2012

Artistic Afternoon

Flowers That Bloom at Midnight by Yayoi Kusama
This afternoon I checked out the ART HK 2012 or Hong Kong International Art Fair at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre.

Just as I was about to head to Wan Chai, there was a massive downpour of rain; it's no wonder so many people went to the show to shield themselves from the wet elements but also avoid another shopping mall.

As a result the place was packed, but thankfully big enough that visitors were moving in the two large exhibition halls on two different floors.

My friend YTSL and I saw several works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol, albeit not necessarily top grade pieces, but they were originals nonetheless.

Choi Jeong Hwa's Breath Flower - Red Lotus... it really moves!
She observed that in previous ART HK shows it was a huge deal to have one small Picasso. Now the pieces seem to be coming out of the woodwork. Perhaps as galleries all over, particularly in Europe and New York are flocking here to gain new clients, they are taking everything out of their storerooms to see what will sell.

There were some really odd pieces like Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa who created Breath Flower - Red Lotus -- a giant "breathing" red flower, its petals opening and closing every 10 to 15 seconds or so. For a moment I wondered if I had wandered into another version of the Little Shop of Horrors.

Another floral theme was by Yayoi Kusama, an eccentric Japanese artist and writer who made giant polka-dotted flowers called Flowers That Bloom at Midnight that were of an absolute delight to the many children who attended the fair today. 

Crane by Brazilian Vik Muniz
Also impressive was a piece entitled Crane by a Brazilian artist called Vik Muniz who made an installation that was photographed. There were probably thousands of coloured paper cranes made and they in turn created a massive paper crane shape. I'd thought it was an Asian artist who did that, but instead was someone from South America. Go figure.

We also saw two or three of Hirst's spot paintings and a round piece featuring an orange painted background and hundreds of red butterfly wings carefully placed all over this circle. It was simultaneously awe-inspiring to see the delicate butterfly wings, but also horrifically morbid to see them extracted from their bodies.

There were also some special installations for the show, including Ai Weiwei's Cong, one of his artistic statements on the Sichuan earthquake four years ago.

On the outside are 123 framed letters Ai's studio received from various ministries of government regarding the investigation into the May 12th earthquake. According to Galerie Urs Meile's description, the letters are all of a similar nature, refusing to disclose any information regarding the quake.

Ai Weiwei's Cong is about the Sichuan earthquake in 2008
Meanwhile inside is a cocoon-like feeling with 5,196 names of the children who died, listing their name, sex, age, what grade they were in and from which school. The students seem to be grouped according to their school and from the oldest to the youngest. The age range was about 16 to 17 to about two and three years.

Ai seems to mock the Chinese government for the formality of the letters complete with special red chops by framing them, while the authorities don't even recognize the dead or even try to find out why the students died when we all know the schools were shoddily built thanks to corruption.

Another curious piece is what looks like a giant "diamond" made from pieces of a shipping container. By Yin Xiuzhen, Black Hole represents the journey of commercial products in today's world of global exchanges. The "diamond", weighing 6.5 million carats, symbolizes perfection, luxury and desire as it emanates coloured light from within.

Everyone is chasing the China and Hong Kong market, with many galleries opening up branches here. We shall soon see if interest really translates into sales, or it's all hype and false hopes.


  1. Interesting write up.

    So were the works you mentioned in your blog entry those that personally impressed/impacted you the most? If not, which did?

  2. I particularly liked Ai Weiwei's piece because of its meaning, but also Crane for its execution and Black Hole for its concept.

    Do you agree?

  3. Hi again --

    The Ai Weiwei piece is powerful once you know the story behind it -- but just looking at it by itself, it's hard to get the meaning. "Crane" didn't catch my eye as much as it did yours and "Black Hole" I completely missed!

    For my part, I really was blown away by the works of Navin Rawanchaikul. Also was awed by the workmanship behind Tomoko Shioyasu's papercut "Root of Heaven" and found Leandro Erlich's "Cloud" really cool.

  4. I thought the idea for Black Hole was neat, but the execution was a bit rough around the edges for a "diamond"... I just thought Crane was really neat, though no profound concept behind it.

    I saw Navin Rawanchaikul's works which were beautifully done, but not the others you mention.

    Already looking forward to next year's Art HK!