by Rahul KumarMar 22, 2023
The recently concluded 2022 edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong in hybrid format saw the participation of 130 leading galleries from 28 countries and territories. Besides the spectrum of exhibitions presented by galleries, Insights and Discoveries sections highlighted public programs with the local artists to forge connections between the city and the globe. Adeline Ooi, Director Asia, Art Basel, mentioned in the press statement, “It has been truly exciting to work with Hong Kong’s art community and our local partners to offer dynamic public programs to share with the city. We are honoured to work with M+ to present Ellen Pau’s brand-new site-specific moving image work, the first major public co-commission project to light up the museum’s LED facade.” Additionally, this year’s edition also featured the Fine Art Asia Pavilion, with the show ARTique curated by Eric Leung Shiu Kee. The 20 contemporary artists invited for the show reconfigured the antique elements across mediums.
The Artist Tram Project by the artists Cherie Cheuk Ka-wai, Stephen Wong Chun-hei, and Shum Kwan-yi was commissioned by Art Basel and co-presented by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. Their works were displayed on the exteriors of Hong Kong trams: the public transport system is known globally. The moving artwork navigated the island to engage with the public and find a varied audience. The site-specific moving image work The Shape of Light by Hong Kong-based moving image pioneer Ellen Pau was co-commissioned by Art Basel and M+, supported by the lead partner UBS. The Shape of Light surveys the possibilities of the immaterial and the material forms by the transformation of the element of light into digital objects. The Heart Sutra, a popular sutra in Mahayana Buddhism, is featured in the installation with the aid of sign language. The video underlines the mysticism of the concept that ‘form is emptiness, emptiness is form’. The natural elements - fire, water, and light - are reinvigorated with the computer-generated animation.
The six large-scale installations presented by select exhibitors, including free-formed work by Hsu Yunghsu, presented by Liang Gallery, articulated the abandoned nature of body and spirit. The Ink Studio had Beijing-based artist Bingyi who with The Birth of Black Holes, Birth of Geology, Birth of Water talked about her land and weather projects. Hanart TZ Gallery presented a 40-channel speaker system installation sounding the heartbeat of artist GayBird. Knitting the themes of memory and fabrication together was the work of the artist Movana Chen, presented by Flowers Gallery. Alisan Fine Arts highlighted Angel Hui Hoi Kiu’s work – an indication of Hong Kong’s Goldfish Street. The artist Ming Fay’s Garden of Life through the cycle of life and death drew together the eastern and western philosophies.
Pace Gallery at Art Basel Hong Kong 2022 with its participation underscored its long history and global program while featuring the works by the prominent 20th century figures and leading contemporary artists. To mention, the Asian artists in Pace’s program included Zhang Xiaogang, Song Dong, Hong Hao, Yin Xiuzhen, Li Songsong, and Qiu Xiaofei from China, Yoshitomo Nara and Kohei Nawa from Japan, and Lee Kun-Yong from South Korea.
But it was the NFTs by Zhang Huan, Glenn Kaino, and Lucas Samaras in its booth that garnered all the attention. The NFTs were an extension of the gallery’s support for the advanced studio practices and boundary-pushing digital projects led by the artists. In an interview with STIR, Leng Lin, Partner and President, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul says, “The public's current viewing and buying patterns of artworks have not completely changed. The public still mainly relies on the conventional model, but they are also willing to accept the challenge of NFT, a new art trend. For the public, buying NFT works is also a way of learning.”
Axel Vervoordt Gallery booth, under the Insights section, presented a range of works by the multidisciplinary Japanese artist Norio Imai. It showcased installation, painting, experimental film, and photography from the 1960s-7os to the present. Imai is synonymous with the immense white monochrome works, and is also known as one of the youngest members of the Gutai Art Association, since he joined at the age of 17 in 1965. The works traced his journey as a Gutai member. The body of work produced by Imai is built on his maverick attitude that ushered in the wave of new industrial sensibility to the Gutai group. The creative experiments conducted by Imai – onto canvas, photograph, video and sound - expanded the definition of: be it materiality or time.
With the Discoveries section, Jason Haam participated in Art Basel Hong Kong with a solo booth of works by Cheikh Ndiaye. The paintings by Ndiaye reassess the socio-political history of urbanism in West Africa against the ongoing economic development. The paintings are a visual translation of the relationship between formal and informal architecture, while the people perform their daily chores. The documentary approach of the artist could be read as a stark contrast as well as an overlap of boundaries between the spaces: public and private, interior and exterior.
With the onset of new realities on consumption and viewership of art in the post-pandemic world, Art Basel Hong Kong 2022 successfully led the way forward.