Insiders' Art Basel Hong Kong Picks

By Chiu-Ti Jansen

HONG KONG - Why overwhelm yourself with a sprawling array of more than 3,000 art objects offered by 245 galleries at an art fair when, in fact, you only need to take home the memory, or the physical object, of one mind-shattering piece? I took pictures of a few style-conscious art lovers (myself included), each with their favorite piece from the first Art Basel Hong Kong, and noted how they explained their picks.

Stefano Tonchi with Do Ho Suh’s Closet-I (2003).

Stefano Tonchi, Editor-in-Chief of W magazine and the honoree of the upcoming annual gala of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, is enamored with Do Ho Suh’s Closet-I (2003). Shown at Lehmann Maupin, Closet-I is made of translucent white linen and part of the artist’s series of works that explore the question of displacement and identity through architecture or household objects stitched together with lightweight fabric. “As a fashion editor, I have always been fascinated by closets,” Stefano explained. This closet, made of the same material as the wearable objects that it is supposed to house, is a portable home that transcends geographical boundaries. Growing up in Seoul and then becoming a cultural transplant in both New York and London, Suh represented Korea at the 2001 Venice Biennale but is currently living a semi-nomadic existence. This sensation of navigating between foreign space and native space resonates with Stefano’s own experience of growing up in Italy and making New York his home.

Veronica Chou with Liu Wei’s Truth Dimension No. 7 (2013).

Veronica Chou, President of Novel Fashion Holdings, which owns Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and Pepe Jeans London, and Iconix China, told me that she could not turn her eyes away from Liu Wei’s Truth Dimension No. 7 (2013) at Long March Space because its simultaneously “very busy and very simple” structure engages her imagination. Liu’s works manipulate ordinary objects repeatedly until they become abstract, digital-like patterns. Named by Forbes as one of the most powerful businesswomen to watch, Veronica believed that she could envision how this painting, with its rich texture and color scheme, would inspire a fashion trend because both art and fashion have the power of “transforming creativity into something beautiful.”

I have a hard time in deciding between MadeIn Company’s Play 20101 (2013), an oversized sculpture shown by Long March Space, and Damien Hirst’s Cocytus (2012), a pictorial encyclopedia of insect specimens shown by White Cube.  

Myself with MadeIn Company’s Play 201301 (2013).

Made of leather, latex, metal and chain, Play 201301 employs the visual vocabulary of BDSM to simulate a punk’s cathedral that seems to undermine the boundary between the process of torture and that of religion.  MadeIn Company is an art-production corporation formed by Chinese conceptual artist Xu Zhen in 2009. It questions many existing assumptions about the distinction between an individual artist fronting the artworks produced by a large number of assistants and a collective sharing the credit of artistic creations. I find Play 201301 more than an intelligent play on the tension between the erotic instinct and the death instinct; it is also visually captivating.

After his In and Out of Love being slammed with “butterfly massacre” and “artist kill[ing] 9,000 [butterflies] in the name of art,” Hirst’s latest entomological exercise Cocytus catches wildly beautiful insects (such as beetles and butterflies) and wildly unpopular pests (such as cockroaches and spiders). The right and the left portion of the composition mirror each other in perfect symmetry, just like the perfectly symmetrical wings of each insect.  Where does the order of nature end and where does the order of culture begin?  What is an acceptable scientific practice and what is an unacceptable art practice?

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