Bilijana Ciric’s curatorial triumph at Times Museum in Gwangzhou – I am pitching to review this exhibition. It was seminal, provocative and its poignant political activism set a tone of open critique of the institution at a global level.
We then travelled across the city to the Times Property Museum, a 100% privately funded major contemporary art space where curator, Bilijana Ciric was opening her major 30-artist exhibition, One Step Forward: Two Steps Back. This exhibition is a critique of the institution from the perspective of the artist and historically positioned over a 30 year period. I had met Bilijana in Toronto during the Toronto International Art Fair, and had attended her book launch on a similar theme. The work about Thai migrant workers berry picking in Sweden was especially poignant for me, as was the installation of Jean Hubert Martin’s Les Magiciens de la Terre (the seminal 1989 Paris World Fair that signaled to the world that Eurocentricism in contemporary art was no longer absolute).
Next to Times Museum is a small alternative artist education space founded by Xu Tan. We met some of his “disciples” and had a tour by one of the artists of his installation in the space.
Xu Tan introduced me to the whole community of regional curators and curators from Shanghai and Beijing – this was in important opening and officials, dignitaries from a number of consulates had flown in for the event. I ended up being invited to dine at the head table with the lead curator of the Times Museum, the curator and a number of international artists. I was also able to meet some of the Hong Kong contemporary art leaders at that same dinner – and having been to their galleries, and seen the recent exhibitions, was able to make meaningful connections.
On July 2 we spent the morning and early afternoon at a privately run Gwangzhou arts centre and video research library – we spent a couple of hours sharing our portfolios with the artists who work in the centre. I came away with a strong sense of the breadth and scope of what is happening on many levels in the non-commercial contemporary art scene in this vibrant city.
Siya Chen, Yam Lau and I had a guided private tour of the OCT Art galleries. The shows were by an artist couple: Inga Svala Thorsdottire (Iceland) and Wu Shanzhuan (China). The exhibition, What a Form: A Reportage, was minimalist, yet provocative – and challenges its audience to consider the dynamics of form and space, and the journey to discovery – quoting Wittgenstien heavily – and drawing on Euclidian geometry. (images will be posted on my blog later this evening).
I suggested cold-calling one of the artists in residence at the OCT, an American, Adam Avikainen. Adam ended up coming to lunch with us, and then decided to join us in Guangzhou. Adam is an emergent, yet internationally exhibiting conceptual artist – and we spent some time having him discuss his portfolio with us. He was preparing for a group show at OCT Terminal. Adam was open about the pitfalls of working with a super star curator, with whom he is currently working – Anselm Franke.
We also toured the local Fine Art Museum, the Design Studios of OCT and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Shenzhen. The photo’s are highlights.
Let me start by saying in reached 52C with the humidex the day I spent in Bangkok. It’s an incredibly easy city to get around in by cab or “tuk tuk” – and I literally got taken for a ride with the usual tourist scam (the government has declared a special day, all temples are free, you just have to visit the government emporium…) It was fun – hot, but fun. I bought a new set of clothes for under $10 in the market I sweat so much. It’s a beautiful city – and catching the Wat Po (one of the three main attractions of Bangkok, and the only one still open by the time I regrouped) was an experience of a lifetime – this is the LARGE reclining buddha, and all the amazing ceramic roof tile work and light poles – giving Jingdezhen a run for their money! In the evening I googled great vegetarian restaurants in my area, and found myself at a LOVELY vegan place, and ended up sharing a table with three lovely young women, interns at the United Nations – an unexpected pleasure.
I can’t explain the feelings I have when an artist truly makes an indelible mark on my soul. There have only been a handful, at least in the ceramic sculpture sphere – Brian Kakas, Wouter Dam, and Eva Hild. Yesterday I happened upon a solo show of Eva Hild at Gallery Nilsson et Chiglien – apparently Hong Kong’s only contemporary ceramic art gallery. I couldn’t believe it! I mean I was determined to find this other little gallery, and had been wandering trying to find it for some time when I just saw the vinyl on the glass out of the corner of my eye. It took me a few seconds to register, and when I walked into the gallery I was standing amidst over twenty of Hild’s works – and I felt an intimacy with the artist that is hard to define. I felt as if I had made some kind of psychic connection with the artist without her physical presence. (She had been there in person two weeks prior for the opening, and I’m kicking myself for not having known, but things happen for a reason…). The young woman, Elizabeth, who managed the gallery struck just the right chord –she was informative and respectful of my viewing experience, but in the end we found we too had a connection, and before I knew it, it was time for me to head back to Kowloon Tong. I bought the catalogue – not something I do lightly while travelling for nearly five months – every book is a considered acquisition, and means giving up something else in exchange. Eva Hild is astonishing. Her work is transportative. It is a dream of mine to meet her and have a chance to just sit down and “talk shop.”
The last few images are a charcoal grey Wouter Dam – a beauty, and a few others…
I went to the Hong Kong Museum of Art today and spent over an hour on the contemporary art floor – and was blown away. I have an insatiable appetite for getting inside the mind of a conceptual artist, and for me, really well-curated contemporary art is one of my greatest joys. This exhibition was one of those moments in time where I just lost myself in the flow of ideas, images and creation. The moving images, the film pieces were brilliant as well – the letters spilling into the body parts, and the large letters, you can’t tell the scale from the images, but they are at least 12 meters high – and they are the seasons. The same artist did a virtual “Real Life” movie of Central Park – of her imagination based on the seasons, complete with visitors – and of course, there were the rows and rows of ink bowls – telling us that uniformity is beautiful, nothing is dull, everything has a plain genesis… and the ceramic gloves and underwear, crumpled on the ground underneath the clothes line. Brilliant!
In Hong Kong there’s no incongruity in placing fine art in the middle of a mall. Mall’s are sacred places, almost places of worship – certainly places to be revered, and to plan a cultural event around, and increasingly to exhibit fine art. The Splendour of the French Table: Heritage and Modernity throughout the centuries. This was in Elements, a massive mall at least 3 times the size of Yorkdale or the Eatons Centre – there were three installations, one in Earth, one in Fire and one in Water.
I went to two ceramic exhibitions in Macau last weekend: Fantasy World – Chinoiserie at the Macau Museum showcased the influence of Chinese Orientalism on European ceramics from the mid 17th Century – and then the flip side, Chinese ceramics influenced by Europe. Fascinating – I learned about Queen Anne of France (1689 -1714) just because she liked hot pink – now that’s a monarch after my own heart. Enjoy the images:
Once again, mall culture meets fine art – 11 pieces scattered throughout the mall – FANTASTIC exhibition of this master’s spatial compositions the ordinary turned extraordinary. My camera battery died. Here’s the link to more infer: http://www.frenchmay.com/visual-arts/eventdetail/97/-/pablo-reinoso-living-sculptures
Beaudrillard – yes, this is the “simulacra” cultural theory philosophy guy – the one who turned postmodernism on its ear. This was an exhibition of 50 of his photographs, selected/curated by his wife. A loving and touching memorial to a great mind – I bought the catalogue, because I was so moved by his artist statement that was written only in French (everything else was translated in Portugese, English and Cantonese.) I have to post part of the poem and translate it clumsily:
C’est le livre qui te lit
C’est la tale qui te regarde
C’est le monde qui nous pense
C’est l’objectif qui nous fixe
C’est l’effet qui nous cause
C’est le language qui nous parle
It’s the book that reads you
it’s the television that watches you
It’s the world that contemplates you
It’s the object that determines us
it’s the effect that causes us
It’s the language that speaks to us…
See some of these images – the one with the chicken parts is Toronto, the one with the ice on the stairs is Montreal.