Thursday, May 2, 2013

Art journal #159: Donation to M+

Museum gets 'kissing guards' from first local art donor

NewsHong Kong
Museum's first local donation is a performance work posing questions about art and politics
The West Kowloon museum has received its first donation from a Hong Kong collector, who hopes to challenge people's ideas about art and politics with a performance work featuring two security guards kissing.
Hong Kong collector Alan Lau has donated performance work Guards Kissing to the yet to open visual culture museum M+.
Created in 2002 by British-German artist Tino Sehgal, who was shortlisted for the prestigious Turner Prize last week in Britain, the work is a "constructed situation" where a pair of museum guards - two men, two women or a man and a woman - kiss each other when a visitor enters an exhibition space.
The live encounter comments on different issues, said Lau, who has been collecting contemporary art for eight years. He said the work posed questions such as whether witnessing a public display of affection was an intrusion of private space.
"This work also comments on issues around LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] rights," he said, adding that performers were paid the minimum wage so the work also brought up the minimum wage issue.
"In response to [pro-Beijing lawmaker] Chan Kam-lam's remarks, does art really have nothing to do with politics?" Lau asked. Chan drew criticism last week after he warned the West Kowloon arts hub at a Legislative Council meeting not to confuse art with politics.
The acquisition of the work was a challenge as there was no invoice for the purchase from the artist's side.
"The artist is anti-object. He sold the concept. There's no documentation. No receipt. No other records," Lau said.
He said he hoped for the "transaction" to take place at the Venice Biennale at the end of June and expects the artist to give verbal instructions for the performance followed by a handshake witnessed by lawyers. He declined to reveal the cost.
Lau's donation was among those made after Swiss collector Uli Sigg donated 1,463 works of Chinese contemporary art to M+, which also bought 47 works for HK$177 million last year.
Lau, a management consultant and a member of the Tate's Asia-Pacific Acquisition Committee and the board of Para Site Art Space, said he was surprised to be the first Hong Kong collector to donate to M+. He said he hoped the art donation culture here could be further developed.
M+ executive director Lars Nittve said the "extraordinary" donation fitted with Hong Kong's guard culture. Sehgal's work "makes you think about the relationship between the museum and you, and your behaviour as a cultural consumer", he said.
The M+ building design will be announced in summer.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Art journal #158: Arab Express at Mori Art Museum

Another survey of Middle East art - clearly a big 'trend', after its almost over-exposure at dOCUMENTA (13), and then more recently at UCCA in Beijing (which I have to go visit and see too!). Indeed it is the 'more interesting' region with all the political upheaval going on, hence the global spotlight?

Art journal #157: TEMA HIMA: the Art of Living in Tohoku at 21-21 Design Insights

Very emotional show spotlighting the earthquake-affected area of Tohoku. It is about slow living, how tradition lives on (and might be lost after the earthquake), and the beauty of handicraft from making confectionery to knives to textile. The videos showing the meticulous details and laborious processes artisans go through to make things were mesmerising - give total new appreciation to everyday objects. The show ends with a corridor lined with photos of hands, all nameless, but attributed to the objects these hands make. Each hand has its own scars, and the marks of time and dedication to history and tradition. On exit, visitors were allowed to buy wooden apple boxes (now stacked up in the atrium of the museum) hand-made in the region. Was so excited that I immediately bought one, so I will be taking one home after the show ends. I am looking forward to receiving mine in HK and taking a piece of Tohoku tradition with me!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Art journal #156: The Queen: Art and Image at National Portrait Gallery

The Queen is such an iconic image for us in HK that is ingrained in our head without us very consciously aware of it? Her portraits of course hanged in government buildings, but it is the stamped, the coins, that we see everyday. It has really just became an image. It signifies an era that is past. She indeed has lived among us for many years. How she is presented by photographers and painters over the years is really interesting. In the early days of coronation, she is this bemused girl looking at the world with a distance. Then she was  increasingly seen as dealing with “the problem of her responsibility”. Then come family life and attempts to make her look DTE and close to public. Then it is the unforgiving media frenzy starting in the 80s into the royal life that led to people questioning the value of the monarchy. She shifted to the side with Diana glowing in the middle of photos at the same time. Respect for the Queen hit a low with Princess Diana’s death. Then it is her comeback – depiction of her as someone with wisdom, resilience, but still desolated and under the burden of history and responsibility. Though holding it up extremely well as the rock for many in the country when the world is fast-changing and (at least parts of it) is falling apart. Chris Levine’s photo of her is by far my favorite.

Art journal #155: Summer Exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Art

Didn’t know what to expect from the Summer Exhibition at Royal Academy of Art, thought it is just another group show. But it’s a selling exhibition! Artists can submit works (some are invited), then the works are curated/grouped. People can go in and mark down what they want and pay. Prices are up from a few hundred GBP. Masters’ works like that from Kiefer are present in the oeuvres, creating an interesting high/low range. Was amazed at the works’ quality – honestly will put many gallery shows to shame. And there are red dots on many of the pieces now that it is close to 3 weeks since the opening. What a superb way for people to buy affordable art! When can we have something like that in HK?

Art journal #154: Vitra Campus, Basel

Vitra Campus is the playground of the founding couple. Its really an amusement park of starchitect structures! The Herzog de Meuron, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Tadao Ando all came to build on site. HdM building with the framed scenes from the green outside is an amazing setting to show Vitra’s furniture! The most unexpected and best-fun part of the ArtBasel trip!

Art journal #153: Diamen Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern

Clearly Tate has a fantastic eye (and permission to scroll through his studio, no doubt) when it comes to choosing works for the Diamen Hirst retrospective. Great early works that showed how his practices and ideas evolved over time – the colors, life/death, etc. The dead animals in boxes always create awe. The live butterfly room was quite a treat to see. But perhaps he is so overexposed, we are now numbed to even the greatest concepts since we have seen it so many times, and he himself repeat it so many times too? The “Sothebys room” was controversial – one where he sold work directly via auction house instead of through galleries, and all those glitter, diamonds…is just suffocated and certainly in your face. I recalled seeing his mother/baby sheep installation in Saatchi Gallery and that was the first time I was intrigued by cotemporary art. So perhaps indeed Hirst is part of the reason why I got started in collecting now! 


Art journal #152: Yoko Ono at Serpentine Gallery

More respect for Yoko Ono’s work after seeing her show at Serpentine Gallery “To the Light”. The curator was honest – she was chosen because she’s globally known, and her works suggest hope, positivity, which is fitting with the London Olympic season. The “cut piece” was interesting, but pales in comparison to what a Abramovic has done. There are little delights, but seem to be just that – little interesting ideas. Guess she’s more a product of chance, right place right time (John Lennon, peace theme, etc), and not a true deep, reflective contemporary artist in the artist’s sense? 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Art journal #151: dOCUMENTA (13)

First time to Documenta. Found it far better than Venice. Art scattered across in Karlsaue Park is a lot of work/walking, but great way to see art outside white cubes. Curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev's four themes were ambitious: on stage, under seige, in a state of hope, in retreat. And the idea of having satellite events in Kabul, Cairo, Banff is stoke of genius - makes me want to go to Afghanistan to see that part of the show! There's a lot of focus on Middle East - is it just Europe, or the world is losing interest in Asia? Guess there's a lot more upheaval that part of the world than over here (which is a blessing of sort). 

Idea of having a "brain" in Rotunda, which is "not a curating concept" but a set of works that inspire artists is...contrived but brilliant at same time. The Lee Miller photos of herself bathing in Hilter's place after he killed himself is performance art! Visitors to Friedrichsplatz were greeted by Ryan's breeze (didnt know wind can be artwork!). Kader Attia's "repair" installation is captivating. Mario Garcia Torres's search for Boetti's One Hotel is poetic. Middle East in the spot again with Khaled Hourani's record of how a Picasso work traveled to show in Palentine, and all the problems that go with a country without proper borders. Mark Lombardi's sketches is speculative detective work? "Reskilling" seen in Goshka Macuga's tapestry work - there's a clear return of workmanship like textile, etc. beyond concepts. The deadly sleeping sickness flies from Pratchaya Phinthong on show is all but a small part of a community project - shouldnt art all be this way? 

The Geoffrey Farmer in Neue Gallerie is getting tons of attention. But I dont get the Roman Ondak at all...? Wish I had more time for the Wael Shawky animation (reminded me of Natalie Djurberg) - the use of "camera" is interesting! 

In Documenta-Halle, Julie Mehretu's monumental drawings were lovely. I actually liked the Moon Kyunwon and Jeon Jooho video though I know many didnt care too much for it. And is Yan Lei really the flash in the pan? Its a eye catching installation, certainly better than what I saw in ArtHK.

Karlsaue Park has engaging works. 

Art journal #150: Art HK 2012

It was bigger, I do think better, but almost too big. Didnt think sale was all that fantastic though - certainly not for everyone. Goes to show that bringing the right artworks (as in not necessarily "the best",  but certainly what the market "wants") from a commercial angle is still critical for galleries. But of course am very proud to see HK achieving this status - ArtHK is clearly the most important art fair in Asia already, just 5 years into it! 

Art journal #149: Art-collecting

信報 2012年6月13日
楊天帥 文化專題
香港藝術藏家系列②七十後劉家明勇於接受前衞藝術挑戰與劉家明(Alan Lau)見面前,曾在不同場合聽過其名字。別人對他的評價,幾乎一律是:「他對藝術很熱情!」談到這一點,他笑說:「對啊,我是很熱情的。做每一件事都需要熱情嘛。何況,藝術是一門很大的學問。」眼前的他皮膚黝黑,一臉陽光氣,看上去似運動員多於收藏家。當然這兩種身份其實沒有衝突。而實際上,他從事的是科技行業。上星期本版訪問的林偉而(William Lim)是Para/Site的聯席主席,今次訪問的劉家明則是Para/Site的司庫。擁有約七到八年收藏經驗,比林偉而少兩三年左右。他強調自己經驗尚淺。「其實我很少叫自己做收藏家。」然而談起藝術來,如數家珍,充滿熱情與熱誠。另外,或許是年輕的關係,對藝術接受能力特別強。信: 《信報》劉: 劉家明信: 能談談你的藝術背景嗎?劉: 幾乎沒有。(笑)只想到讀中學時很喜歡看外國藝術書籍,例如畢加索、莫內等。也不是煞有介事地看,不過是中學生,對什麼都感興趣罷了,看過便算。後來去英國念大學,儘管到處都是藝術機構、博物館,卻幾乎一間也沒去過。不感興趣啊,只依稀記得到過Saatchi Gallery,他們專門做概念藝術(concept art)的,例如Damien Hirst的鯊魚(The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,1991,由一條虎鯊標本製成)那種found object(尋獲物)。以前一直以為藝術就是一幅畫,看完後便想:原來這樣也可以是藝術!念完書回港工作,數年後因為辦公室搬遷,想買一兩件藝術品點綴新環境。那時候透過一位朋友認識九龍皇帝。因為覺得他是我們的集體回憶,便買下了。這成為我第一件正式的收藏品。從那時開始,我對當代藝術愈來愈感興趣,想要認識更多。我關心的主要是內地與香港藝術,大概是因為與自己的根有關吧。信: 只收藏香港與中國藝術嗎?劉: 大部分是。當然其他國家的也有,但很少。信: 除地區外,題材上有特定選擇嗎?劉: 有數個範疇我特別感興趣。第一是文字,所以我喜歡收藏曾建華、九龍皇帝、徐冰、邱志傑等的作品。雖然這些藝術家風格完全不同,但文字是其共通元素。九龍皇帝的作品,在中環上班的人天天會看見,很有標誌性。徐冰的作品,看似中文卻不是中文,裏面摻的是英文文字元素。還有一個人不得不提,就是周俊輝。他的作品是繪畫電影畫面,電影畫面自然會有字幕了。我聽他說,港產片同時具備中英文字幕,其實是很奇怪的。有時候兩種語言內容還不搭調。當你兩種語言都懂,便會看到趣味所在。偏愛文字與中國題材信: 為什麼這麼喜歡文字?劉: 其實沒有分析過——可能是作為一個七十後,見證過香港樂壇起飛,對歌詞有深刻感覺吧。另外我也喜歡關於中國城市化的題材,這也是因為我目睹了中國起飛、經濟發展、社會變遷的過程。當中我特別想提及曹斐,她是一個廣州新晉女藝術家,做很多攝影與錄像藝術。其中一件關於Cosplay。她曾跟隨一班內地Cosplay玩家,拍下一輯關於他們的短片,談的是中國人新一代如何在一孩政策下尋找自己的問題。雖然王廣義做的同樣也是關於中國城市化的藝術,其作品表達了中國消費主義抬頭的現象,但因為曹斐是1978年生的,比我還小幾年(劉家明生於1974年)。她經歷的中國,與王廣義不同,所以即使題 材近似,內涵也不一樣。不過要是問我這一刻最喜歡哪件作品,那還是艾未未的Colored Vases。有些作品是會令你愈看愈喜歡的,這一件便是。它具有很多層次的意思,看得愈久愈有味道。我和一些藝術家都覺得,藝術還是不要太直接的好,不然一看便明白一切,「僅此而已啊?」很容易會悶的。艾未未的作品很有批判性,探討的是新舊、真假等價值觀問題。你想,那可是一個公元前五千年的甕!當它在你家中大廳出現,已是一件很震撼的事。然而艾未未還把它浸入顏料中,改變它的身份(identity)……真的很有趣。對了,身份認同與尋找也是我很感興趣的主題。周俊輝的作品,就有很強烈的香港身份元素在內。最近我還為自己開了一個新主題,那就是科技。對科技的興趣,很大程度上源於工作。曹斐有一件作品,名為RMB City(《人民城寨》)是以六、七年前流行過一陣的Second Life創作的。Second Life是一個程式,讓你在網上設計一個分身,體驗另一段人生。曹斐透過RMB City,審視真假的問題。比方說,當你在Second Life與別人談戀愛,角色是假的,但感情是真。那到底整件事孰真孰假?另一個藝術家就是Jon Rafman。有用過Google Street View嗎?他把Street View的影像剪下來,當做藝術品。為什麼呢?因為攝影這一行為本來是很主觀的,最客觀的攝影,卻是Google。它把攝影機放在車上,邊走邊拍。Jon Rafman藉此反映客觀社會發生的事。我現在買藝術品,總是會考慮,它在我的收藏間,到底是一個孤兒,還是與其他藏品有所聯繫?我想,藏家主要可分成兩類,一類是Uli Sigg那種,他是前瑞士駐華大使,收藏品就像中國當代藝術百科全書,應有盡有。當然他也可以把藏品分類,不過那是先收藏,後分類的。我不是百科全書,藏品終究只能反映自己的個人興趣。自嘲資訊癮君子信: 你對藝術的興趣,與教育有關嗎?劉: 無關。我以前在英國主修Engineering,Economics and Management。在香港讀中學就更死板了,只能選文科或理科。我是後者,更和藝術無關。香港教育無法讓學生認識藝術。這是一個很大的問題。我聽外國朋友說,他們自小對藝術已培養出一定知識與鑑賞力。希望將來西九M+等機構成立後,情況會改善。為什麼我對藝術這麼感興趣呢?因為它讓我認識歷史。我以前中史很差,總是不及格(笑),但我發現藝術能幫助我了解,1949年中共立國後怎樣,文革又發生了什麼事……對於我來說,藝術是一道通往歷史的大門。信: 要是小時候完全沒有接觸,現在懂得這麼多恐怕很不容易吧。劉: 我想這是性格使然。(笑)我常自嘲是資訊癮君子,總是沉迷於了解不同東西。信: 試過看不明白一個展覽嗎?劉: 有啊。其實這得看策展人的功力。如果策展得好,應該是能看明白的。當然,觀者也要開放自己的思維。信: 你是怎樣學習藝術知識的呢?劉: 第一,讀關於藝術的書;第二,用腳去跑,用眼睛去看,多去博物館與畫廊;第三,多與愛好者溝通;第三,多與畫廊互動。第四點特別重要,很多人會說,畫廊不過是賣畫的商店而已。確實,只為賣出個好價錢的畫廊是有的,但也有很多gallerist(畫廊從業員)肯跟你討論,會教你許多看藝術的不同方法。我很幸運,在學習過程中認識到幾位gallerist,成為我的啟蒙老師。例如內地的維他命創意空間,他們是少數能打入ART BASEL的內地畫廊,經營的藝術比較前衞偏鋒。我跟他們(的管理人)成為好朋友後,認識了許多藝術品。不了解香港收藏生態信: 你與維他命創意空間是怎樣接觸的?劉: 其實畫廊有時候就像藝術家的經理人,一如藝人接show會有各種各樣的考慮,不是什麼都接,畫廊也一樣,你想買畫,他們也要先看看你是什麼人。剛才我說過很欣賞曹斐吧?一次我上網時,看見她所屬畫廊是維他命,便給他們發了一封電郵,表達自己的興趣,說希望能買她的作品。他們給我回覆說,既然你有興趣,不如見見面,就這樣,我們認識了。後來熟絡後,他們告訴我,見面是想了解我的底細,確認我是真的喜歡,還是想炒賣。(笑)信: 要是你拿來炒賣,不僅對畫廊、對藝術家的名聲不好,就是商業上也會產生壞影響。劉: 對,藝術家作品升值太快,是會出現問題,因為如果二手市場(拍賣)太旺,轉手太快,一手市場(畫廊)反而會滯銷。信: 藝術媒介上,你有沒有特別偏好?劉: 我很少收藏繪畫,比較多奇怪東西。(笑)我有很多錄像,很多照片,很多概念藝術……我總是期待,藝術啟發我以新觀點看事物。所以,較之於漂亮的東西,我更重視作品的概念,希望它可以在思想上挑戰我。有一件藏品,甚至只是一張紙(類似一份合約)。那是白雙全生命中的一天。基本概念是,他會跟着我二十四小時,圍繞我的生活做一些創作──這就是我所知的全部了。那麼我上班,他是不是跟着我上班?我睡覺,他又怎樣?都不知道。信: 買白雙全那張紙的時候,一點猶豫也沒有嗎?劉: 也有一點。(笑)不過因為我已經認識他的作品,也就沒有太大擔憂。其實我對前衞藝術,起初也有戒心。事實上白雙全那張紙,其中一種含意便是挑戰藏家。當一個藏家連藝術品是什麼都不知道,還有沒有膽量買呢?我也算是年青一代嘛,如果連我也不接收挑戰,開放思維,就沒有人這樣做了。另外,我覺得在收藏一段日子後,單單是擁有作品已經無法滿足我。我希望參與。不過我知我沒有那種創意。好像William(林偉而 ,他既收藏也創作,我不能,但我還是希望能介入。所以我會喜歡白雙全那張紙,因為它讓我參與創作過程。曹斐的RMB City也是,我在那個虛擬世界,曾經是市長(笑)。第一任是Uli Sigg,第二任就是我。RMB City整個創作過程是貼近社會議題的,那時候雷曼兄弟爆煲,於是我也在RMB City提出許多關於經濟的構思。我曾經出席交接儀式和發表講話,(笑)仿效了奧巴馬2008年的就職演說,在台上談論如何拯救經濟。信: 你在香港收藏界應算是最年輕的一分子了吧?劉: 肯定有更年輕的人在收藏,我只能算是比較年輕吧。不過,其實我也不認識收藏圈到底是怎麼一回事,資訊太少了。香港的收藏生態如何?大家取態怎樣?我都不知道。只知道本地當代藝術藏家不多。反而大家似乎對現代藝術較有興趣,如朱銘、朱德群、趙無極──我想香港收藏家,其實整體而言還是比較保守的。本版連續六周的星期三推出「香港藝術藏家系列」報道,本周為第二周。撰文:楊天帥 攝影:郭錫榮

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tat Ming forever

There's nothing quite like Tat Ming in HK. No one has earned the status or has the mandate to talk about political, social issues in their songs like Tat Ming has. Their concert is not just about nostalgia, their songs still felt contemporary after 20 years, with the latest context infused into their presentation. Tat Ming forever!

A great write up on the show in Winifred Lai's blog

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Art journal #148: Lee Bul "From Me, Belongs to You Only" at Mori Art Museum

Didnt really know Lee Bul's body of work, only seen the metallic architectural inspired sculptures before. With little expectation, I was pleasantly surprised, its a good show in chronological fashion starting with her body suits used in early stage performances, to pinned up dead fishes at MOMA, to Cyborgs/Anagrams (which I love!) and later the series of mirror-infinity objects.

The Cyborg works evoke an immediate image of futuristic perfection, but are all headless and has only one arm and one leg. This reminds of Venus de Milo, but instead of standing on a platform it is hanged from the ceiling again showing the gap between ideal and reality.

The recreation of the artist studio (esp the 50 models of her dog in various materials that she made) helped build up to the work in the last work which is also an emotion climax, "The Secret Sharer" - a dog made of mirrors and which is vomiting crystals. What dreams and inner emotions is it trying to share with us?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Grazing Goat

Had sworn off boutique/chic hotels for a while. They are often barely functional - poorly lit, small space, noisy lobby, etc. Also, I hardly spend any time in hotels anyways when I travel no matter if its for fun or for work. So Grazing Goat was a 'retry'. Didnt disappoint. Its a Public House (apparently thats where the word Pub comes from). There's no reception - you check in at the pub (yes its noisy/crazy when I checked in at 8pm that night). Its just 8 rooms, they want to make the service really friendly and personal. Some waiters/service staff are less than cheery, but the main person that greeted me seems to enjoy what he does (maybe he's the boss?). The decor is nice, wooden floor, nice fixtures; sort of Swiss chalet with a Scandinavian sensibility. Apparently featured in Monocle - way to go!

Art journal #147: Hajj Journal to the heart of Islam @ British Museum

Had always been fascinating by Middle East culture esp after the many trips to the region (maybe even 'too often' - have done Turkey, Jordan, Egypt in last few years). BM did a solid job in showing how the Hajj was 'one of five pillars of Islam central to Muslim is the pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim must make at least once in their lifetime if they are able'. The 3m people (out of 1.6bn Muslims) that travel half way cross the globe to Hajj makes it the 'largest peaceful gathering of mankind' annually.

And of course the contemporary art displays (with installations, drawings etc) adds a great dimension to what would have been 'just' a NatGeo type of exhibition! Very smart of BM to have done so.