2015.03.12 Thu, by
Horses Still Racing, Dancing Still Carrying On: 2015 Art Basel Week in Hong Kong

It’s that time of the year again: Art Basel lands in Hong Kong this week—bringing along with it a flutter of art openings, dinners, parties and talks, with collectors and scenesters flocking in. Artworld insiders look on the week-long string of events with anticipation (and no small degree of dread); socialites look forward to multiple costume changes; and for the rest, well, there’s always free champagne and canapés. And ART.

Astute observers might also note something amiss. Indeed, the fair has now moved from May to mid-March (and later in the week as well); fog has replaced rain and instead of the balmy subtropics, there is a very mild chill. Perhaps this sensation extends more generally, however. Just last September, student-led protests erupted here to demand universal suffrage in the choice of the leader of Hong Kong; for months, students camped out in Admiralty with tents which were only cleared late last year. The pro-Beijing Hong Kong government has won the waiting game, by attrition. Yet the tension has now resurfaced in strange, proxy forms, taking the form of personal animosity towards Mainlanders (the recurring protests against Mainland shoppers are one example). This could potentially take on a toxic form in the future, with ill omens for Hong Kong’s relationship with the Mainland.

For now, the rarefied, merry-go-round realm of art stands above it—even if most of the local Hong Kong art community participated in the protests to such a degree that certain artists have been blacklisted from exhibiting on the Mainland. As Deng Xiaoping promised Hong Kong, “The horses will go on racing, and the dancing will carry on.” Visitors might be forgiven for thinking it is still the same Hong Kong of eating, shopping and money-making—in some ways, it still is. But beneath the surface, it is also a changed place.

Shows already open:

For early birds, shows already open include at Spring Workshop “Days push off into Nights”, which includes Elmgreen & Dragset, Cevdet Erek, Lee Kit, Job Koelewijn, Jewyo Rhii, and Magdalen Wong, and looks promising along with the riddle embedded in the exhibition concept: “There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters?”; at Para Site, in a new Space in Quarry Bay, “A Hundred Years of Shame – Songs of Resistance and Scenarios for Chinese Nations” is on view. Perhaps equally ambitious, Osage’s “South by Southeast”, looks at relations between Southeast Asia and Southeastern Europe.

HK image

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Supported by the billionaire-scion Adrian Cheng (K11 Art Foundation) and David Chau, an important Mainland collector, Xu Zhen’s “Twenty” show will be unveiled at Qube in PMQ (35 Aberdeen Street). Incredibly, this is Xu Zhen’s first solo show in Hong Kong—the celebrated Shanghai-based artist is a real rising star in biennales, kunsthalles, and art fairs globally. Further west in Sai Ying Pun, a new arts hub, SOHO 189 (189 Queen’s Road West), opens. Pearl Lam Galleries will open a second Hong Kong space with a show featuring Ren Ri’s beeswax sculptures, with neighbors like Leo Gallery (with an exhibition curated by Huang Du, featuring the conceptual/installation artist Gao Weigang and the new-media artist Lin Ke, among others) and Galerie Huit.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The big-time local collector Adrian Cheng brings Hong Kong another show, “Inside China”, which had previously been shown at Palais de Tokyo in Paris (in a co-operation between K11 Art Foundation and Palais de Tokyo) at the K11 Art Foundation Pop Up Space (G/F Cosco Tower, Grand Millenium Plaza, 183 Queen’s Road, Central). Elsewhere, the Goethe-Institut will host “Statements: New Painting from Germany” (14/F, 2 Harbour Road, Wanchai), while in the same building, the HK Arts Centre (2 Harbour Road, Wanchai) has an exhibition featuring collectors… Of course, there is also the Asia Society Gala and Dinner.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Things come into full swing on Thursday. K11 Art Foundation, Pilar Corrias and Leo Xu will present “The Tell-Tale Heart” at Chi Art Space (8/F, New World Tower 2, 18 Queen’s Road, Central). Dealing with narratives and story-telling, the show features aaajiao, Ian Cheng, Cheng Ran, Guo Hongwei, Koo Jeong A, Ken Okiishi, and Rirkrit Tiravanija—Rirkrit will perform with dim sum (instead of Thai curry) in an “anthropological and archaeological way”.

Swing by Duddell’s “Hongkongese” show before heading over to the openings at Pedder Building. While Pearl Lam Galleries will be focusing on “Yi Pai” artists, others in the same building have mostly decided to bring in foreign artists. Gagosian will be showing Rudolf Stingel, while Simon Lee will be exhibiting the Arte Povera artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. Of particular note is Lehmann Maupin’s Alex Prager photography exhibition. Prager’s practice flits between the realm of film stills and fashion photography, but the recent works on show seem to masquerade as documentary photography. The photo caption information would imply that they are recent, yet there is a sense of the uncanny, a slight disjunction, a sort of temporal typo in the wardrobe department, or the flaw of the extreme perfectness with which the figures are arranged that would indicate the images are staged.

Away from the Pedder Building but still within walking distance: Edouard Malingue, in a new and bigger gallery space, shows Wang Wei, a Beijing-based artist with a practice of dealing with spatial interventions (memorably building a brick box in Long March Space). Beatriz Milhazes’s first Hong Kong solo in White Cube will also be highly anticipated, coming on the heels of her first solo museum show at the Perez Art Museum Miami. In a way, this follows more generally on the wider interest in South American abstraction from Neo-Concrete onwards, from Lygia Pape and Hélio Oiticia to Jesús Rafael Soto—here, with a good dose of the Baroque and of Pop. Up in Galerie Perrotin, the photographer JR will share space with Gregor Hildebrandt, a rising art star in Europe, with wall-based and sculptural works that play on music and images, with abstract and representational pictures—composed of thousands of tape ribbons from (now anachronistic) music cassettes—winding together a matrix of associations, personal and historical.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Art Basel opens! And Cao Fei will begin beaming a sound and light piece “Same Old, Brand New” across the harbor from the ICC building across the harbor in Kowloon. Art Central, the keenly-awaited new satellite fair in Hong Kong launched by Art Hong Kong’s founders, also opens.

At 10 Chancery Lane, a performance  by Huang Rui entitled “Black and White Cats 49, Then?” is inspired by Deng Xiaoping’s practical attitudes towards economic reform, but takes us into a kind of Yves Klein’s-eque numerological cult with a host of numbers signifying different things. For instance, seven women are painted and their bodies are used to make rubbings on the canvas. The significance of the numbers is related to political events, for instance 7×7=49, 49 being the date of “liberation” and the number of days it takes for the Buddha to be reborn etc. etc. The Asia Society will feature Yashimoto Nara.

For those interested in the overall development of all things M+, the “SNEAK PEAK OF THE M+ MOVING IMAGES COLLECTION” should provide some valuable intell. The collection (unsurprisingly) showcases Hong Kong-centric topics and issues surrounding concepts of “home” (no doubt a perennial theme in the SAR) spanning mediums from films and documentaries to artist videos and photography. Speaking to the theme of home is Clara Law’s 1996 film Floating Life which tells the story of familial dislocation (one probably familiar to many Hong Kongers) of parents trying to maintain relations with their children spread across two continents while living in Australia.

After dark, the brave could attend Modern Media’s annual scrum in the Grand Hyatt lounge; those with more tempered appetites (who like cigars) can make for DAVIDOFF’s poolside event (with Dita von Teese).

Saturday, March 15

Perhaps an interesting development is the “Chai Wan Mei Art and Design Festival 2015” a vibrant mix of guerrilla art installations, performances, pop-up exhibitions and mobile elements—think literal here—tricycles, carts and containers which will infuse an element of “street” into the highly polished activities in Central and Wanchai. Organized by Peter Lau, Katie de Tilly and Claudia Albertini, the festival has drawn in a number of collaborators in the albeit small HK art circle including Map Office, which will be recycling industrial materials from a nearby building to create a music and performance platform in a nearby car park with a neon installation by Rirkrit Tiravanija and a performance by Didier Faustino, the Portuguese born French architect, known for his “Double Happiness” installation—a swing set raised to billboard height—where the “swingers” appear to dominate the landscape, pursuing their individual desires yet maintaining a certain rhythm and relation to each other and their urban surroundings.

Hong Kong-based curator Inti Guerrero also delves into issue of urban interactions with his “Videos and Words from a Post-Industrial City” which features artists such as Carlos Amorales (MEX), Cao Fei (CN), Liu Chuang (CH) and Kacey Wong (HK)—their works interspersed between the industrial buildings along with neon light installations. Also in the realm of video is Hitomi Hasegawa’s “Immediacy” which examines how artists negotiate various electronic media and features artists Masanobu Nishino, Map Office, Adrian Wong, Hikaru Suzuki and Li Xiaofei. Overall there should be plenty to see, it just takes some willpower to fight the current of free champagne and venture out into the frankly not-very-wild wilds of Sheung Wan.  For night owls, the Chai Wan Mei Chai Wan Nites Art Party is on Saturday.

Later on…

As the week progresses highlights include, on Sunday, opening receptions at local Hong Kong galleries and non-profits including Gallery Exit and Spring Workshop; there are the annual Fotanian studios tours. And at night, a rooftop party at Blindspot gallery.  Short films and talks continue throughout. On Tuesday March 17, don’t miss Randian Editor-in-chief Daniel Szehin Ho in the Salon entitled “Publishing Asian Editions”, plus Randian associates Laura Tucker leading “Digital Geographies: Net Art” in China, and Kira Simon-Kennedy on “Cultural Residencies in China”, both as part of Asia Art Archive’s Open Platform.