- Hong Kong
- Hannah Rose Symons
A relative newcomer to the art world, Hong Kong is fast proving its worth on the contemporary art circuit. Since hosting prestigious events such as Art Basel’s Asia edition, Hong Kong is firmly on the radar of artists, curators, and collectors alike. With many European and state-side galleries opening in Hong Kong, the city has a wealth of blue-chip exhibitions to see. Here our 10 of the best that took place this summer.
Space Structure at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery
9 May – 26 July
Considered a founding member of the Chinese contemporary art movement, Huang Rui remains a strong advocate of art as a route to confronting social issues, particularly in his native China. This exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, entitled Space Structure, was a showcase of some of Rui’s work from 1983-1986.
Rui’s art, deep-rooted in his homeland, is framed in the context of a roaring metropolis not dissimilar from the landscape of his childhood in Beijing. His paintings bring forth the search for prosperity and voice in a China that is changing. Rui pushes back from the rigid and semiotically dense tradition of Maoist constructivist styles, and instead embraces a heritage that the Chinese have in abundance – one of rich and nuanced expression through simple form.
Ten Million Rooms of Yearning. Sex in Hong Kong at Para-Site
10 May – 10 August
Ten Million Rooms of Yearning. Sex in Hong Kong was a diverse multi-venue exhibition showing an array of local artists, and some international, in an exploration of how the defining structures of Hong Kong, physical and cultural, shape the most private intimacies of its residents. The exhibition showed Hong Kong’s maelstrom of human life in the light of private eroticism; from the pursuit of the personal sexual identity, to the ever-changing landscape of public romance and family values. As expected of such a subject as universal as human relationships, the exhibit intertwined many rich threads, from the interplay of religion and race to social class.
Para Site, G/F, 4 Po Yan Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong, +852 25174620
It Begins with Metamorphosis at Asia Society Gallery
8 May – 31 August
It Begins with Metamorphosis, Xu Bing’s premier solo exhibition in Hong Kong’s Asia Society Gallery, showcased the wide aesthetic works of an artist whose utilitarian sensibilities bring a much needed-sense of context in contemporary art. Bing’s work, from the beginning, has utilized an eclectic mix of media and technique, all with an underlying theme of the yearning for meaning in art and what it should mean to us and our lives in the context of the present, and in the place of history. Many of Bing’s installations have a beguiling sense of tactility that contrasts meaningfully with his collage-like re-use of the everyday signs that dominate our modern environment, yet remain intangible visual clues.
Modern Chinese Woman at Fabrik Gallery
10 June – 11 July
The legacy left by Qui Shengxian’s ‘Mother and Son’ work in China has been compared to that of the attention and acclamation received by Picasso’s work in the Western hemisphere. Now Shengxian brings a selection of his work from two collections to Hong Kong: ‘Sentiment’ and ‘Fashion Baby’. Shengxian takes traditional Chinese dress, seen in portraits from the Qing Dynasty, and brings their form into the 21st century. By utilizing archetypal costume and iconic silhouettes reminiscent of the females ruled by the Great Qing between 1644 and 1912, Shengxian adds a contemporary twist. The expressionist reinvention of each modern Chinese woman in Shengxian’s work can be identified by the recurring red lip.
Mark Bradford – New Work at White Cube
14 May – 16 August
The renowned White Cube Gallery has been famed in its time for exhibiting the likes of Marc Quinn and Tracey Emin. Its Asian Headquarters were delighted, this summer, to unveil New Work; a showcase of American Mark Bradford’s environmentally-conscious and highly textured collage interpretations of Asia’s concrete jungle. Like many who draw inspiration from the vertical city of Hong Kong, home to almost 8000 skyscrapers, Bradford found stimulus in the unique construction and sheer scale of its high-rise buildings. Using original floor plans as a foundation, New Work highlights the continuing housing crisis in this densely populated city and recognizes the merciless, overcrowded living conditions in public housing estates.
White Cube, 50 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2592 2000
Michael Craig-Martin at Gagosian Gallery
12 June – 16 August
Retired Fine Arts professor at London’s prestigious Goldsmiths, Michael Craig-Martin can take credit for influencing some of the greats of our time, including Damien Hirst. This summer, he brought his conceptual work to the Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong’s Pedder Building. Craig-Martin identified the potential for everyday objects to have a place and a meaning in art early on in his artistic career, and he invested in their expressive potential. Many of Craig-Martin’s paintings and installations are universally accessible in their simplicity and familiarity, whilst at the same time inviting a plethora of personal interpretations. From sunglasses to cigarettes, Craig-Martin works to transcribe everyday items into ‘pictorial readiness’. His collection on show at the Gagosian Gallery intended to destabilize and undermine these everyday objects by using unexpected colors as the crux of his work.
Miquel Barceló – Courant Central at Ben Brown Fine Arts
14 May – 15 July
After exhibiting in some of the world’s most esteemed galleries, including Paris’s Museé du Louvre and Centre Pompidou, Miquel Barceló returned this year to Ben Brown Fine Arts for a second stint to overlap with Hong Kong’s Art Basel. It is immediately apparent in the Spanish language titled exhibition, Courant Central, that Spaniard Barceló remains artistically entrenched in his beloved homeland. The majority of Barceló’s work reflects that of Spanish culture and tradition, as well as the geographical physicality of Spain and the Balearics. Relying upon multi-layering techniques to add texture to canvas, Courant Central also featured a selection of Barceló’s paintings and ceramics.
301 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2522 9600
How – Zhao Zhao Solo Show at Platform China
9 May – 1 July
Platform China seeks to promote cultural exchange, focusing on building relationships between artists from the East and West – and what better place to achieve this marriage than in Asia’s World City. This summer, Chinese artist Zhao Zhao exhibited a fresh and candid view of modern-day China through his mixed-medium work. A multi-faceted exhibition, Zhao Zhao utilized photography, painting, installation and performance to convey what he considers a more relevant, younger generation’s interpretation of being raised in Communist China, inspired by his own experience growing up. Dubbed as Ai Weiwei’s protégé after working alongside him for some years, Zhao Zhao has attracted attention from the Chinese government. In particular Zhao Zhao caused commotion with his broken statue of a police officer, the uniform provocatively sporting the date of Ai Weiwei’s controversial arrest.
Chai Wan Industrial City Phase 1, 66 Wing Tai Rd, Hong Kong, +852 2523 8893
Aftermath: Post-Sense Sensibility, fifteen years on at Duddell’s
12 May – September
Hong Kong’s cultural hub Duddells recently reunited the work of the original Post-Sense Sensibility clan 15 years after they were thrust into the limelight through their work on a series of alternative exhibitions in Beijing. Including 18 of the key artists involved in the original pioneering displays at the start of the new millennium, this summer’s exhibition allowed us to reflect on their ground-breaking work in the early 2000s, which involved shocking and scandalous installations for the country and for the time. Now, all the artists have gone on to be successful in their own right, whilst continuing to let their roles in the Post-Sense Sensibility movement inspire their work. Far from an ode to the Post-Sense Sensibility movement, this exhibition displayed a combination of the artists’ current works, whilst giving only a brief nod to the their roots.
Mao Xuhui: Toppled Parent Solo Exhibition at Hanart TZ
13 June – 12 July
Mao Xuhui assumed a leading role in the mid-1980s Southwest Art Group that believed in art which was soulful, moving and drawn from personal experience. Xuhui has received critical acclaim for his Parent Series (1988-1993), which mapped the changing social role of the parent, particularly in Chinese families, and the shift of power in response to the collapse of social order in his homeland. Over time the figures in Xuhui’s Parent Series have undergone an abstraction and taken shape in many different forms, from ‘The Flag’ to the iconic ‘Scissors’ canvas. This summer’s offering at Hanart TZ showcased Xuhui’s most recent work, a continuing response to the same issues which have motivated most of his artistic career.
By Hannah Rose Symons