A Hong Kong Gallery Celebrates 35 Years of Promoting Chinese Contemporary Art
Hong Kong Central Library is a grandiose building whose architecture is rooted in ancient Chinese philosophy. The arched entryway, for instance, symbolizes the Gate to Knowledge. In celebration of an impressive milestone, it’s a fittingly theatrical venue for one of the region’s foremost galleries.
Alisan Fine Arts was, in fact, one of Hong Kong’s first galleries. Under the leadership of co-founder Alice King, the gallery has aimed to promote Chinese artists both at home and abroad. Over time—35 years, to be exact—they have organized over 100 exhibitions, developing an influential platform for Chinese contemporary and New Ink art. In the first week of December, the gallery kicks off its 35th anniversary with a special exhibition at the city’s largest library.
The celebratory show features 35 works by 35 artists, a curated selection that reflects Hong Kong’s evolving art scene from the 1980s through today. Represented are canonical and diaspora artists from Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan, including the likes of Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-chun, Chao Chung-hsiang and Fang Zhaoling, to name just a few.
Walasse Ting (1929–2010) left for Paris at 19 and later settled in New York, where he was deeply influenced by Andy Warhol’s Pop Art and Jackson Pollock’s Abstract Expressionism. Ting was celebrated for his vibrant portraits of women, flowers, birds, and animals, subjects he often rendered in acrylic and Chinese ink on rice paper, a fusion between East and West.
Likewise, Gao Xingjian, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, resettled in France in 1987. The political refugee has immeasurably contributed to a global cultural dialog, and his ink paintings continue to be a crucial part of Alisan’s program.
Lui Shou-kwan (1919–75), on the other hand, is an artist who stayed in China, becoming a pioneer in the ink painting movement that flourished in postwar Hong Kong. Born in Guangzhou, the artist moved from the mainland to Hong Kong in 1948, building his creative career while working a day job as a ferry inspector for the Yaumatei Ferry Company. He went on to teach and inspire a generation of ink painters, including a few the gallery has represented and exhibited.
While Alisan’s four solo shows dedicated to Shou-kwan all occurred after the artist’s death, the gallery conducted interviews with his children for a special monograph set to be released in conjunction with the anniversary exhibition. The comprehensive monograph also features essays by curators and collectors, plus dozens of artworks the gallery has placed in key museum and private collections over the years, including the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology at Oxford University and the Fine Arts Museum in Boston. Along with the exhibition at Hong Kong Central Library, it stands as a colorful tribute to the substantial work Alisan continues to do for Chinese art.
Alisan Fine Arts’s 35th anniversary exhibition is on view at the Hong Kong Central Library, Dec. 2–8, 2016.