Art for Breakfast 2019
Amidst a view of lush greenery next to our Lippo Amphitheater, we kicked off our inaugural Art for Breakfast series with renowned critics and curators discussing what caught their eye during the chaos of Hong Kong's infamous art fair week. Art for Breakfast aims to be a meeting point at the start of the art day by seeing through the eyes of another. Each session took place daily from March 27 to 30 at 9:30 to 10:30 am at Asia Society Hong Kong Center.
On March 27, Enid Tsui, a Senior Culture Writer for the South China Morning Post focused on exhibitions on view at local art spaces and galleries, as well as the Hong Kong outpost of David Zwirner. Her highlights included seeing Lam Tung Pang's first solo exhibition Saan Dung Gei at Blindspot Gallery, a "[visual] long form novel" showcasing his tactile recent three-dimensional medleys of paintings and installations, many of which featured Lam drawing directly onto wood with charcoal. She also praised the curatorial rigour and imaginative world-building of Para Site's sprawling Opera for Animals, spanning two floors and featuring over forty artists. In addition to noting German artist Neo Rauch's painting virtuosity on view at his solo exhibition Propaganda at David Zwirner, she closed with stressing the continual lack of exhibitions featuring non-male artists, noting that the re-staging of the seminal Eau de Cologne at HART Hall was one of the only presentations she saw during art week that exhibited women front and center.
Stephen Little, the Florence & Harry Sloan Curator and Department Head of Chinese Art at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, also mentioned Neo Rauch in his presentation on March 28. A veteran curator with decades of experience, Little recalled re-configuring the entire layout of the Honolulu Academy of Arts' Claire Booth Luce Gallery in 2005 to make room for Rauch's wall-sized, monumental oils on canvas. Recounting the excitement of presenting a groundbreaking, mid-career artist to Hawaiian audiences for the first time, Little felt a sense of nostalgia upon seeing Rauch's work again, fifteen years later, in the setting of Hong Kong. Taking place the morning before the Vernissage of Art Basel Hong Kong opened, his presentation focused on the importance of tangible encounters in his curatorial profession. Lamenting young curators' over-reliance on screens, he advocated for curators not to forget the power of encountering an artwork in person, one-on-one, with no screen in between.
Visiting from Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), Diana Freundl (Associate Curator, Asian Art) and Zheng Shengtian (Adjunct Director for the Institute of Asian Art) opened our March 29 session with a confession: they were particularly focused on architecture during their visit, as VAG recently announced expansion plans to open a new gallery designed by the Swiss-based architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron. Discussing the firm's approach to transparency and layers in the recently-opened Tai Kwun Contemporary, as well as their approach to contrasting horizontality and verticality in plans for the highly anticipated M+ Museum, Freundl emphasized how much a city's architecture impacts an individual's experience of everyday life. Zheng, reflecting on the March 15 passing of the radically influential curator Okwui Enwezor, recalled being at documenta XI in 2002 and meeting with the then-emerging photographic artist Yang Fudong. Zheng recalled Yang's humility and graciousness, as he shyly showed Enwezor and Zheng an early series of shots for his video artwork Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest (2003). According to Zheng, Enwezor praised the artist's clarity of vision and strongly encouraged him to continue with the series. Now considered a seminal work in the Chinese video art canon, the piece marked a watershed moment in the development of a then nascent scene.
To close our inaugural Art for Breakfast series, our own Tan Boon Hui, Asia Society Vice President for Global Arts and Cultural Programs, and Director of Asia Society Museum, brought his rich knowledge of contemporary Southeast and East Asian art to the stage. Tan opened his presentation by reflecting upon the term 'Asian art' itself, and how our understanding and perception of Asian art is influenced by nexuses of power that predate the conception of contemporary art. This reflection led to his observations on Present Passing: South by Southeast, an exhibition he saw at Osage Gallery in Kwun Tong, Hong Kong. Tan praised the curators' (Patrick D. Flores & Natasha Becker) critical approach to curating work from a region that is often both overlooked or misunderstood, as well as their selection of a diverse range of artists in Southeast Asia. His other highlights from art fair week included seeing Minjung Kim's painstaking, post-Dansaekhwa works at Gallery Hyundai at Art Central, most notably her mixed media on mulberry Hanji paper work Story (2007). Tan praised Kim's deep understanding of materiality and the power of mark-making. He also mentioned Hong Kong artist Cheuk Wing Nam's presentation of sound-system works in the Projects section of Art Central, curated by Ying Kwok. Citing our 2017 exhibition Breathing Space: Contemporary Art from Hong Kong, Tan announced that Nam's blossoming career is one he is excited to continue following closely. He closed his presentation by highlighting Asia Society Museum's inaugural Triennial of Asia, which aims to spotlight emerging and established artists of Asia.
Our sincere thanks go to our wonderful speakers and staff who made Art for Breakfast possible. We hope to see you next March for another delicious and enlightening experience!