During this year’s Salon “How Does an Artwork ‘Go To Work’?” of Art Basel Hong Kong on 17 March, Johnson Chang Tsong-zung, Director of Hanart T Z Gallery, extrapolated the “Three Art Worlds” analogy from the recent publication edited by Valerie C. Doran and the 30th anniversary exhibition of the Gallery last year.
Summing up in the literati tradition, the socialist state and the global capital world co-existing in China from the 1900s to present day, the research sets out to uncover what artworks do to the outside the art circle in its own right.
“An artwork is enshrined by its exchange value in this Fair, and during our discussion recognised as an object of inquiry,” Chang mused. “The daily Chinese utensils with Mao icon back in those days may not be artwork as we call it, but they perform this certain function to transform the world outside the art circle, envisioning how society should go forward and become.”
Chang went on to compare the Occupy Movement with the surge of protest art to the idea of literati gathering. Yet despite the various forms of art exchanges, the comfortable co-existence with the three art worlds in our times could be tricky.A Facebook post by local artist Otto Li in November last year exposed the alleged censorship of his work Faces of Representative in the exhibition “Conforming to Vicinity – A Cross-Strait Four Region Artistic Exchange Project 2014” by the University Museum and Art Gallery of HKU (UMAG), featuring artists from Taiwan to Macau. On a local newspaper, renowned art critic Prof. Oscar Ho Hing Kay described the decision as a violation to both the curators and artist. Meanwhile, spatial concerns regarding artwork arrangements, as expressed by the artist, were cited as the reason for the artwork’s withdrawal, according to the official response of the UMAG.Li’s computer-modelled portrait busts of Fernando Chui Sai-on (current Chief Executive of Macau), Leung Chun-ying (current Chief Executive of Hong Kong), Xi Jinping (current President of the People’s Republic of China) and Ma Ying-jeou (current President of the Republic of China), linked the number of democratic votes in proportion to its population with the facial clarity of the each bust.
On the front of international artistic exchange, the HK-Austria bilateral agreement was signed on 9 March 2015 and Austria became the 14th country with which the Hong Kong government has concluded a joint declaration on cultural cooperation. As Consul General, Austrian Consulate General of Hong Kong and Macau, Dr. Claudia Reinprecht suggested, there have already been strong links established between some Austrian and local art institutions, from the School of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design to the Academy of Performing Arts and the UMAG.
“One focus is the enhanced exchange of young artists from all disciplines,” she said, addressing how the relationship between art and bureaucracy get along in her holistic, human-centred philosophy. “Another aspect is to contribute to our on-going cultural dialogue, in turn instilling substantial elements on urban innovations.”
She compared how in Hong Kong there is much more the expectation of a lean government and more is left to arrange for by the private sector, yet creating a space where people can develop best according to their strengths and ideas is not something you can commission or order. The Museums Quartier Vienna for example, with some 70 art institutions under one roof, attracts 4 million visitors every year.
“It is a space that allows for creativity and innovation with a strong bottom-up element, being very active with cooperating local organisers and existing events like the Rainbow Parade, Dayclubs for babies to fashion presentations, making it a meaningful urban living and discussion space.”
Behind its success is the existence of a long-term overall Smart City development plan, Reinprecht explained, whether from the solar power plants under an innovative crowd-funding scheme to promote renewable energy, to the ambitious new project of creating green spaces every 300 metres from every address in Vienna.”Innovation does not happen in the centre of a given discipline but on the fringes on the overlapping edges of different disciplines,” she noted. “It is also about the quality of a certain place and the predominant cultural and social attitudes: Are you allowed to innovate? Are you allowed to fail?”
Along the line of cultural exchange, the exhibition “Desiring the Real: Austria Contemporary Art” recently concluded at the UMAG with works by 25 established and up-and-coming artists — now among the government art collection of Austria with other 40,000 art items from over 70 years.
“The Austrian curators worked actively with the Director of the Hong Kong University Museum and Art Gallery, Dr. Florian Knothe, to make this exhibition fit in the Hong Kong context,” said Reinprecht.Particularly in a foodie mecca like Hong Kong, one of the highlights of the exhibition for Reinprecht is the close interaction between the audience and the immersive art by Rainer Prohaska on 11 March 2015.
“Projects like this present hands-on experiences and exchange with foreign artists and contribute to Hong Kong’s development towards a Smart City,” observed Dr. Florian Knothe.
Self-reflection and social dialogue are the themes in a run of exhibitions with political relevant artworks from projects displayed in “Refuse the Shadows of the Past” last year to “Conforming to Vicinity” — which greatly benefited from artistic exchange and scepticism, according to Knothe.
The lines of inquiries on artistic exchange are also elaborated in detail at the current exhibition of the Osage Gallery curated by Anca Mihulet and Patrick Flores, putting together an intriguing narrative that both contrasts and connects Southeast Asia with Southeastern Europe.In South by Southeast: A Possible Coordinate published by the Romanian Cultural Institute, Patrick Flores wrote that “the two articulations of the south east, one in Asia, the other in Europe both rendered proximate in such a way that they converse across distance and form vectors of relations that craft robust narratives of the contemporary and of history”.
The exhibition South by Southeast at Osage Gallery closed on the 3rd of May 2015.