ArtAsiaPacific Editor Elaine Ng Gives us the Skinny on HK

Elaine Ng is the editor and publisher of ArtAsiaPacific—and it turns out, a somewhat encyclopedic source on the city of Hong Kong. After filling us in on local whispers about public art, like the 50-foot inflatable Rubber Duck until-recently splashing in Victoria Harbour, Ng points us toward Hong Kong hotspots for Tang Dynasty-style gardens and meals cooked by Buddhist nuns. Grab a pen for her list of local art to see and artists-to-watch—they’re worth noting.

Artsy: What’s exciting in the Hong Kong art world right now?

Elaine Ng: At the moment M+, the new museum of visual culture in Hong Kong’s temporary mobile platform, has mounted the exhibition “Inflation!” The inflatable public art show is creating a stir, particularly Paul McCarthy’s Complex Pile (2007), a giant poo that has been inflated and deflated due to unseasonably bad weather. There is plenty of chatter among the public about whether this and the other works, such as a giant cockroach and oversize roast pig, is “art”. Whatever your verdict, the show is a treat to mill around, and to look at these blow-up sculptures on the future plot of land that will be the West Kowloon Cultural District, itself no stranger to controversy. Coincidentally, and perhaps much to the dismay of the M+ curatorial team, is Florentijn Hofman’s 16.6-meter inflatable Rubber Duck, which after floating around the world is now splashing about Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour. It’s conveniently parked at shopping mall Harbour City next to the Star Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. Unsurprisingly, this “work of art” has been warmly embraced by the Hong Kong public.

Artsy: What museums or institutions should visitors make sure to get to?

EN: I would definitely go see M+’s pop-up show to experience the sheer mass of the future site of West Kowloon Cultural District, and then Para/Site to understand what size really means in Hong Kong. Cattle Depot Art Village gives you a sense of the art community that exists outside the art fair circuit.

Artsy: What is the one Hong Kong spot you always bring an out-of-town guest?

EN: I like to take visitors to the Chi Lin Nunnery to experience Tang Dynasty-style architecture and gardens in the heart of the city. It instantly transports you somewhere else without having to “leave the city.” Plus you can have a delicious vegetarian lunch cooked by Buddhist nuns.

Artsy: What’s the best exhibition you’ve seen recently in Hong Kong, and what you are most looking forward to seeing during Art Basel Hong Kong week?

EN: Check out emerging sound artist Samson Young’s solo show “On the Musically Beautiful” at the Goethe-Institut directly across the street from the Hong Kong Convention Centre where Art Basel Hong Kong takes place. Spring Workshop in Wong Chuk Hang, which has an unusually large and stunning space, will exhibit conceptual artist Qiu Zhijie’s work in “The Naming of the Universe.” Another must see is the Burger Collection’s part two of their Quadrilogy series of exhibitions. This installment is entitled “I Think It Rains” and is co-hosted by local nonprofit 1A Space in the Cattle Depot Artist Village. The show includes works from the Burger Collection, along with newly commissioned pieces by local, regional and international artists. 

Artsy: A perfect evening-into-night in Hong Kong means:

EN: Dinner and cocktails at Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Central, followed by late-night drinks at Salon No. 10.

Artsy: What Hong Kong-based artists are you watching right now?

EN: Pak Sheung Chuen, Wong Wai-yin, Ho Sin Tung, Samson Young, and Kwan Sheung-chi.

Artsy: Can you choose 3-4 artworks on Artsy that you feel epitomize Hong Kong and explain why?

EN: Yutaka Sone’s Hong Kong Island (Chinese), 1998 is a white marble sculpture that captures both the density of the city but also the surprising lushness of the large, swaths of unspoiled land. Sone’s Hong Kong Island has a solidity as well as a fragility which also embodies the city’s spirit.

Tsang Kin-Wah’s Untitled-Hong Kong (2007) is “wallpaper” work that intertwines the superficial artifice that so many Hong Kongers are enamored of, along with the locals’ love of Cantonese slang and profanities heard so often on the street, in taxis, on the buses and the MTR underground.

Sun Yuan & Peng Yu’s photographic work Hong Kong Intervention (2009), which documents foreign domestic workers from the Philippines. The artist duo gave them toy grenades to be placed discreetly in their employers’ homes. Almost every middle-class Hong Kong family has a foreign domestic helper who does everything from cleaning and cooking to raising the children, but sadly they are almost invisible as a group of people here, with limited political rights. Sun & Peng highlight the predicament of their situation.

Elaine W. Ng is editor and publisher of ArtAsiaPacific magazine, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

Explore the fair in its entirety: Art Basel in Hong Kong on Artsy.

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