Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Art’

Art Basel /Hong Kong, May 2014

June 23, 2014

Maybe as B.B.King once warned “the thrill is gone”, or perhaps there are other reasons, but this year’s iteration of the Art Basel Fair in Hong Kong has lost some of its shine since its 2013 inception. With 162 exhibitors on two floors, compared to last year’s 245 exhibitors on three, this year’s event felt notably diminished.

Art Basel /Hong Kong 2014, as last year was composed of three sectors:

The Insights sector showcases 47 projects from Asia-Pacific* regional galleries who provide themed, art-historical, or solo exhibitions from the work two or more artists from within the region.

Delights to be found include these two somber works in sculpture by Jaume Plensa.

The Discoveries sector highlights 27 presenters, introducing the work of one or two emerging artists, with new work, preferably created specifically for the event.


Finally, the Encounters sector includes 17 large scale, sculpture and installation projects created by principal artists from around the globe, selected by the Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, and curator of the Sharjah Biennial 11, Yuko Hasegawa.


Hurting the event more significantly is the fact that a catalog documenting the exhibitors, artists, and the sectors was not distributed as usual. In its place was a publication, A Year 44, which instead documents the 44 year history of the Art Basel milieu across the three sites in Miami, Florida; Basel, Switzerland; and Hong Kong.


As a result it was not possible to ‘look to the catalog’ to fill in the memory of installations and featured works, overlooked, or noted only in passing. Because of this, I will only present here those works, which I focused on from a small selection of galleries. This selection in no way suggests that there were not other galleries, or artworks worth a mention, it only presents the limits of my endurance and the time frame of my visit.


Certainly, there were many wonderful pieces from both newer and older, established artists mixed among the booths. It was the discovery of these works that made the visit worth while. A nice example were the two sculptural works from South African artist, William Kentridge I discovered at Marian Goodman’s booth. More familiar with Mr. Kentridge’s films and drawings these works were, for me, new and novel. A treasure uncovered.


Other items of interest included Gu Wenda, Metamorphosis a composition of Human hair, glue and rope, it is a cleaver play with ancient Chinese and Western calligraphy.


There were a couple of installations that drew lots of attention, most significant was artist He Xiangyu’s The Death of Marat, 2011 a tongue in cheek reference to the Jacques-Louis David painting of 1793, which documents the murder of French revolutionary writer and critic Jean-Paul Marat. Xiangyu’s installation consists of the life-size corpse of artist, activist Ai WeiWei a cultural figure outspoken in his critique of Chinese politics and vocal on social issues.


A second installation The Comforter by Patricia Piccinini consists of a wax figure of a young girl of perhaps 12 sitting on the floor of the exhibition hall. Her life-like replication could be mistaken for a living girl, except for the fact that she is cradling in her arms a rather grotesque creature. As one draws closer to the work facial and body hair on the girl herself give a clue that she is also an aberration.



Other finds were at James Cohan Fine Art with a sculpture by Yinka Shonibare. A legacy piece from 1985 by Jean-Michael Basquiat, which remains today as gritty and contemporary as the day it was painted was presented by KUKJE Gallery. In a nearby gallery, Galerie Side 2 the Basquiat was nicely contrasted with an artwork entitled, Jesrsey by Udomsak Krisanamis.






Lin Tianmiao had more of her excellent sculptures at Galerie Lelong’s this year. Last year, my 2013 Art Basel review, also to be found in this blog, provided an introduction to her great work. Another new find was Claudio Parmiggiani presented by Meessen de Clercq Galerie. Parmiggiani creates smoke ‘drawings’, which include the skull shown here. The drawings that struck me most from Parmiggiani were a series of bookcases, on view in a catalog of Parmiggiani’s work. The smoke rendered books in these drawings retained a haunted presence, evoking for me Micha Ullman’s memorial to the Nazi book burnings placed at Bebelplatz in Berlin, Germany.


He An could be found at Galerie Daniel Templon with examples of his recycled signage, which bracket the work of Choy Chun Wei, who also works with text on interwoven segments of fabric shown by Wei-Ling Gallery.



* With a region including Asia, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent galleries may originate from countries from Turkey eastward to New Zealand.