My Highlights from Art Basel in Hong Kong 2014
My selection of artworks embraces a diverse group of contemporary thinkers who recognize and challenge the great issues of our time. Most can be categorized as cultural magpies and intellectual provocateurs—not bound by geography, medium, or audience. The unbridled curiosity that underpins their practices is central to my own peripatetic love affair with Hong Kong.
Christine Sun Kim and Carsten Nicolai use sound—and the lack thereof—as a medium, while Ryan Gander and Hrair Sarkissian use subtle gestures to make resounding work. Adrian Wong and the Propeller Group are anchored in Asia, with ideas that provoke around the world. Each artist selected raises—and sometimes attempts to answer—questions about our time in a voice distinctly his or her own.
Tuan Andrew Nguyen, one of the three Propeller Group founders, is an artist whose work I have been admiring for years. His forays into the creation and exploration of image always yield exciting ideas that are manifested in new ways. Following on from a project where the group engaged leading agencies to “e-brand Communism,” this 3D-printed pendant of Lenin raises many questions about the positioning and portrayal of leaders in our society. It is particularly provocative, given Russia’s current role on the global stage...
Carsten Nicolai has long been celebrated for his visual lexicon of patterns and grid systems. Within this framework, moire is an examination of an effect of data visualization often deemed unwanted, yet brought to the forefront in this visually seductive work. Nicolai’s intervention in the Kowloon harbor front during Art Basel is highly anticipated—α (alpha) pulse will generate a light pattern that will pulsate in a synchronized frequency across the entire façade of Hong Kong’s iconic 490-meter-high International Commerce Centre (ICC)!
Adrian is a Hong Kong-based artist whose influence in the region is already great, and growing globally. His themes range from psychic narratives to absurdist storytelling, implicating his broad range of ideas...and often pets! Using multiple entry points into his work is one of his many skills, as evidenced by the immortalization of the Shun Tak Ferry Terminal grates above into a sculpture worthy of display—and acquisition—at Art Basel in HK.
Hrair Sarkissian is a very important artist—born in Syria of Armenian descent—who is using the photographic lens to explore universal tensions around identity, perception/reality, and displacement. The “In Between” series highlights the hidden paradox that exists between the beauty and constancy of the surroundings and the social realities that they conceal. His work is included in the world’s leading private collections, including the Tate, London, and Sharjah, UAE.
Ryan Gander is a great thinker of our time, whose work I first came to appreciate when producing his film for the Whitechapel Gallery, Is This Guilt In You Too?, with Outset in 2005. Grounded by Northern English roots, he manages to convey playfulness and provocation in his work in a language that transcends geographic boundaries. Ryan’s current residency in Singapore makes this an interesting time to be sharing his unique and challenging ideas with the region. He finds himself in unparalleled company, within the Lisson family of artists.
Dalwood’s paintings draw on the tradition of History Painting to create imagined or constructed places and moments that provoke. I have been a fan since Dalwood’s inclusion in the Saatchi “Sensation” of the ’90s and was delighted to see his revival in the ICA’s “Stay Young, Die Pretty” exhibition, now with new gallery representation by his friends and fans at Simon Lee.
Atul Dodiya is one of the most prominent figures of contemporary Indian art, whose narratives deal with politics, art history and folklore, as well as Indian and North American popular culture. His well-received exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane was the artist’s first solo show in Hong Kong and this installation is a highlight of Katie de Tilly’s expert curation.
Sun Kim combines and transforms the various types of notation that shape her understanding and communication: among them, American sign language, musical notation, English vernacular, and body language. These staffs show no notes, but the sounds are still visible as the lines are full of movement and smears, characteristic of this artist—who was born deaf—whose message is resounding.