If ‘happy is the new rich,’ then AllRightsReserved is finding a way to share the wealth. Creative Director of the Hong Kong-based studio S.K. Lam discusses his views on the connections between art and everday life, and the need for continued interaction and dialogue.
AllRightsReserved is well known in Asia and throughout the world for its monumental installations in cities in the region – collaborations which have brought Florentijn Hofman’s giant inflatable rubber duck to float in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour in 2013, or KAWS’s 37-meter-long Companion sculpture traveling and relaxing in twelve cities, including Seoul, Taipei, Sydney, Osaka and Auckland. People flock to these art projects, drawn by the spectacle as well as the shared experience of witnessing something extraordinary.
Connecting communities through art has become more important now than ever. Sotheby’s has joined forces with AllRightsReserved for a charity online auction to lend a hand to families hit hardest by the spread of COVID-19. Contemporary Showcase: MEET AllRightsReserved features limited-edition collectibles and unique works by some of the most sought-after artists and designers of our generation. AllRightsReserved will donate all proceeds to TWGHs “Share Love & Fight the Epidemic” Donation Campaign for Short Term Financial Aid, in support of families with members who have lost their jobs or businesses due to COVID-19.
Many of the works included in upcoming auction are not typically the art seen on the walls of museums – for example, Hofman’s Rubber Duck HK Tour Sculpture or Doraemon STAND BY ME wood sculpture. Can you discuss how you’ve come to select the lots in the charity auction and what these works represent to you.
S.K. Lam: Having been in the creative industry for eighteen years, we have curated different styles of projects. The upcoming auction will be our first collaboration with Sotheby’s, and the focus of our efforts will be to present iconic art collectibles to the world. The lots we have selected for this sale are emblematic of our favorite collective memories of the studio since its establishment. Therefore it means a lot to us to organize this charity auction that seeks to help support the local families who are most vulnerable and likely to suffer from the worse financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – whether it means loss of jobs or drastic reduction of income. We’ve invited several artists, with whom we’ve worked together for many years, to create new works specially for this charity auction. These artists share the same values we hold dear, and through our beloved creative practice we all hope our humble efforts will be effective in providing a contribution and some level of comfort to the community during such difficult times.
You once said in an interview: “Everyone is born with the ability to appreciate art and all art can find its audience” and that “a piece of [installation or brand] work is art, no matter what. The only thing that changes is time, and audience.” Expanding on that, what in your experience has been the most significant change over time and audience? Have people become more accepting of different styles of art since AllRightsReserved began?
S.K. Lam: Everyone is born with the innate capacity to appreciate things – no matter what it is. Any art object will find its admirers. Our world is complicated. Any given person might be influenced or even changed by events big or small in our everyday lives. People and art essentially interact mutually and together they evolve. Art reflects the phenomena of an era, and it lends you a view and access to the space of ‘others.’ Definition of beauty and objects of appreciation vary from era to era, while people’s pursuit of art advances with the times. Therefore touching the hearts of the contemporary audience or to strike a chord relevant with them, is one important element of consideration during our creative process. It motivates us to explore new horizons with the spirit of innovation.
Art has many different aspects, it urges us to reflect upon ourselves and our very own existence. In the past we have created large-scale public art projects, which could indeed easily capture the attention and imagination of the general public. These spectacles can create hype or mass fervor, which in turn can bring people closer to art. Moreover, public art installations are not just about generating the buzz or excitement of viewing, but more importantly they also seek to create dialogues with people in their daily lives. Therefore, we curate projects keeping in mind considerations of the relevant geographical location and cultural background to create surprise and motivate resonance.
"Happy is the new rich!"
AllRightsReserved is known for its projects carried out on a monumental in scale to attract attention and serve the public or community. How do you choose the projects to embark on? Please share with us the decision to donate the proceeds of the auction to Tung Wah Group of Hospitals?
S.K. Lam: ‘Happy is the new rich!’ The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of many. For us, projects have been delayed or postponed, and we are thankful that the impact on us has been relatively small. At the same time it has made us realize the importance of living in the moment and generating happiness.
Our hope is always to spread happiness through creativity. Of course, creativity will not follow one single formula. We choose the projects we like and try our best to elaborate all creative ideas and details. Every new project is a challenge. We tackle the work head on. Our efforts need to be relentless, especially as we analyze different situations carefully and find ways to coordinate with other teams. Only in this way can we transform our ideas to reality. Imagination is an endless resource. We can be tap into this more and more every time. Ultimately, when you exceed the ordinary and reach the level of extraordinary, you become a surprise to the world.
The ability to appreciate beauty and wonder in our lives is inborn. We are therefore capable of sensing the world around us and creating things of value in many ways. Humans are also born to think. Besides a passive sense of appreciation, what can we do actively to leave behind a world better than we found it? Both planning a project and doing good deeds are important, so our hope is that maybe art lovers have the opportunity give back to the community while collecting what they love. The money we raise this time may not be a big sum, but it can make a difference and inspire more of us to help those in need. In our view, philanthropy rests not on the shoulders of philanthropists only. Every person can do more to help each other stand together, and to bring out the spirit of fellowship. Especially in such difficult times, the collective effect of positive works can exert influence on the public and encourage those who have the capacity and are capable of giving, which in turn will benefit more people.
When you create the idea for an installation, how do you view the connections between local culture and the artist?
S.K. Lam: To create themed installations for a city is intriguing work. To do so is to provide a very specific viewpoint from the position of an observer who has witnessed the development of a city from a day-to-day basis. To me, the foremost significance of a permanent public installation is to grow together with the city, while also calling attention to specific happenings of that locale. Tourists who come to see or know the sculptures may not initially recognize the artist, and only will they later discover details about the work. The artwork itself might arouse curiosity and motivate people to explore. People without such previous knowledge might just walk by the exhibition venue and encounter the different artworks on a daily basis, and this, perhaps, can foster an exciting interactive relationship.
Every installation project is unique. One must understand the local culture thoroughly in order to draw inspirations and ideas from it. Respect for local traditions is important, because it is the way you find that wavelength so that a work of art will perfectly resonate with the public. Apparently, people have their opinions on the good or evils of doing so. I normally shun critical approaches and tend to be more constructive during the process. I’ve found that in doing so, this attracts like-minded people and opens the door to meeting new friends who share similar ideologies.