The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Leelee Chan

Claire Voon
Sep 11, 2020 8:00PM

Leelee Chan

B. 1984, Hong Kong. Lives and works in Hong Kong.

Leelee Chan, Protector (守护者), 2018. Courtesy of the artist and Capsule Shanghai.

Leelee Chan, Pallet in Repose (Portal) [凝伫之盘 (引道)], 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Capsule Shanghai.


Like a keenly observant corvid, Leelee Chan is drawn to the inexplicable marvel and potential of urban detritus. She collects abandoned mass-produced goods while walking along the streets of Hong Kong, combining these with organic matter, such as seashells and branches, to build sculptures that call attention to the curious artifacts of the Anthropocene.

One would be forgiven for failing to immediately identify the polystyrene packagings, cardboard fruit trays, umbrella ribs, and other discarded objects that Chan shapes, paints, and arranges into beguiling assemblages unmoored from time and place. More than responding to the excesses of consumerism, her works contemplate the assigned value of individual, everyday things, seeking to summon some unseen but essential essence of each one, and preserve it.

Chan, who is represented by Capsule Shanghai, has increasingly gained attention in Hong Kong and beyond since she moved back to East Asia’s art capital in 2016. Recent exhibitions include group shows at Blindspot Gallery and the highly watched year-old gallery Mine Project, as well as inclusion in the inaugural triennial of Beijing’s X Museum this past May. She is the latest artist to be selected for the competitive BMW Art Journey, presented by Art Basel and BMW, during which she will research ancient and future craftsmanship to further her practice.

The Artsy Vanguard 2020

The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.

Claire Voon

Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Leelee Chan, detail of “Pallet in Repose (Portal) [凝伫之盘 (引道)],” 2019; Leelee Chan, “Endless Consumption (无尽的消耗),” 2015–17; Portrait of Leelee Chan by Janelle Chiang; Leelee Chan, installation view of “Reverse Conductor (「倒」電體),” 2018, in “Rehearsal” at Tai Kwun Contemporary, 2018. Courtesy of Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong. All images courtesy of the artist and Capsule Shanghai.