HONG KONG – By now we have more information about the various special exhibitions and programmes being produced in association with, around and loosely in relation to Hong Kong’s second Art Basel next week. One of the earliest reveals was at the beginning of April when Art Basel and Chief Curator of Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Yuko Hasegawa, released the full list of artists participating in its 2014 Encounters group show. The annual Encounters exhibition is to be presented amongst the Art Fair’s booths and is an opportunity for fair organizers to broadly interact with the audience in a uniquely playful way through large scale works of the hottest artists making a mark today, with the sponsorship of their respective galleries.
The Art Fair’s mainly business-centered approach to presenting art keeps it all generally formal, but several days of this kind of “business” can cause Art Fair fatigue; the organizers hope these 17 Artists can help alleviate this. Curated by Hasegawa, the full list of participants includes works by Yu Cheng-Ta, Marta Chilindron, Michael Lin, Yan Xinguang, Gu Wenda, Lee Wen, Kishio Suga, Atelier Van Leishout, Yeesookyung, Morgan Wong, Wang Jianwei, Tobias Rehberger, Miyanaga Aiko, Shen Shaomin, Rebecca Baumann, Sun Xun and Xu Qu.
STPI - Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Sun Xun, 鯨邦是人間樂土 – Jing Bang is a Heaven, 2013. Photos courtesy of Singapore Tyler Print Institute and the artist.
“This year I have received many proposals for works that create a public space or are participative projects,” says Hasegawa of her selection. “And I am interested in how [the artists’ studies] are visualized in a contemporary art form as well as in the way that history, knowledge, custom and habit transform into the visual form.” Hasegawa also points out how Encounters this year allows her to think about the global gesture but within a site-specific approach: “We have diverse forms of collective and social consciousness, [that] artists are responding to... with various approaches to history and memory, for instance, the project by Tobias Rehberger, [presents] a re-creation and appropriation of Bar Oppenheimer, a bar in Frankfurt, which the artist frequents. Made entirely out of unglazed, open-pored bone china, the bar will consist of walls, shelves, a counter with overhead structure and lights, and traditional Chinese stools.”
iPreciation, Lee Wen, Ping Pong Go-Round, 2013, Presented at 'The Realm in the Mirror - the Vision out of Image' At Suzhou Jinji Lake Art Museum (2013). Courtesy the artist and the gallery.
London- and Beijing-based Hong Kong artist Morgan Wong, presented by Pearl Lam Galleries, finds exhibiting at this year’s Encounters a great opportunity not only to showcase his work but also as an opportunity for him to engage the audience interactively. “I am delighted that this work can be realised in the scale that is needed to create a stage of contemplation for visitors, especially during Basel week, which will be so busy for everyone,” says Wong.
Other artists like Hong Kong’s Gallery EXIT artist, Yang Xinguang, is happy about his participation in the show, but surprised at the same time, “Previously (my work) has been considered not appealing or glamorous. However, I’m very happy about the shift in attitude and I believe people who love my work are great collectors.”
Gallery EXIT, Yang Xinguang, Blue, 2013. Courtesy of Gallery Exit and the artist.
Asked about their thoughts on the collectors that come through Art Basel, STPI / ShanghART’s Sun Xun thinks that today’s generation of collectors are generally the kind that develops with the artists over time and prefers to keep a close relationship with them. Sun is also happy with the visibility he’s gotten through his gallery and the fair over the last two years. “I believe Art Basel is a good opportunity to build up communications with collectors and artists around the world,” he says.
Although one would think just zeroing in on seventeen artists is complex enough, Hasegawa has space issues, acoustics, size, and openness to contend with in relation to the works. “It is a huge open space and we cannot make new walls within that space. The work’s presence have to be strong independently and I have to select proposals with these conditions in mind,” she says, “My aim is to create a situation which is between institution and market, looking, learning and buying together.”
JJ. Acuna is a Hong Kong-based architect, interior designer and blogger who writes about Asia, travel, art, design and style. Follow him on Twitter @thewanderlister.