Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A Big Dose of Art

Tang Jie's Stone Story at Art Central this year
The two biggest art fairs are back in Hong Kong again -- Art Central and Art Basel.

I got a quick peek of both and will give a few highlights here.

Art Central located at Central Harbourfront is a neat venue, featuring over 100 galleries, 75 percent of which are from Asia Pacific, though ironically, not many Hong Kong artists are featured.

Performance Art at Art Central
Nevertheless, it's a good place to check out emerging artists from the region. On the whole on a few things grabbed me. One Indonesian artist partnering with a Hong Kong gallery, produced a large canvas of graffiti-like art, very colourful and cartoonish.

But get this -- the work is carved up literally into squares and for HK$300, a person can buy a piece of the art. You can buy more than one square of course, but there's another interesting part -- you can consign the piece(s) that you have bought back to the gallery to resell to another person. And if it's sold you give a 10 percent commission back to the gallery.

That is the commercialism of art at its purest.

Already there were a few squares cut out of the far left hand side of the piece... what would you do with a square piece of art? Is it still art if it's a section of it?

One piece that is particularly impressive is called Stone Story by Tang Jie. It features rocks that are suspended from wires that lightly "fall" onto a large drum below. They fall rhythmically one after the other and then come back up again. It's a combination of old -- the rocks and the traditional Chinese drum, to the new of technology manipulating the rocks.

Does he look like Mao Zedong? Like the body in Beijing?
We also saw a performance artist, Anida Yoeu Ali with The Red Chador: Ban Me! She wore a red sequinned chador, or fabric that is a full-body robe covering her body, and carried the sign "Ban Me".

Over at Art Basel at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, it's overwhelming to try to take in all the art on two floors, but definitely one of the most provocative is Summit by Shen Shaomin.

There are five "corpses" of Communist leaders in history -- Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro. They are all apparently life size, and quite life like. Oh my mistake -- Castro is not encased in a glass coffin, but on his death bed apparently faintly breathing! I missed that clarification.

In any event one must wonder what mainlanders think of their great leader as a piece of art!

Murakami's Tan Tan Bo aka Gerotan... is one of his new works
Another provoking piece is Not a Shield, but a Weapon by Philippine artist Pio Abad. There are 180 handbags that are copies of late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Asprey handbag.

These ones were all made in Marikina in the Philippines, which used to be a thriving area for leather manufacturing. But because of trade liberalization policies introduced by Thatcher, Marikina has been in decline ever since.

There's also a colourful ovid shaped object sitting on a mirrored surface. Entitled Deductive Object by Kimsooja, the piece is inspired by the Indian tradition of Brahmanda stones that are polished into an ovid shape.

Here it's a large one painted in traditional Korean colours called obangsaek.

Deductive Object by Kimsooja
And for those looking for big names, Takashi Murakami is here with a large piece, and we spotted a few Picassos for sale.

So this is a critique of only the fraction of the things that can be seen at Art Central and Art Basel... if I have time I'll go check out Art Basel further...


  1. If you had to choose just one art fair to go to (and had to pay for the ticket), would you opt for Art Basel or Art Central?

    1. I didn't look very carefully at Art Central because I was there for work, but it's definitely not as pretentious as Art Basel, while there's way more to see at the latter... I didn't see much at Art Central that caught my eye, but then again I didn't look very closely either. Sorry not much help!

    2. Hmmm... well, I was at Art Basel earlier today (or should I say yesterday since it's now past midnight!). Had a good time but also was so exhausted by the sensory load of it all. So don't think I can take attending two major art events in such a short period of time, so will pass (again) on Art Central this year!