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Cosmin Costinas, Executive Director, Para Site Art Space, Hong Kong, April 16, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

April 16, 2015

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Mariagrazia Costantino, ‎Artistic Director, OCAT Shanghai...
Our contributor series explores the ideas of gallerists, artists, directors, curators for an insight into the development of the international art scene......

April 09, 2015

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Interview with Heri Dono...
One of Indonesia’s most well-known contemporary artists, Heri Dono, was recently at STPI for his first artist residency at the Singapore institution. The Artling interviewed him to find out more about his creative process during the residency and his upcoming single-artist installation at the Indonesia Pavilion for the Venice Biennale. This is your first residency at STPI, how have you found it so far? What have you found to be some of the challenges of working with paper and printmaking? I know you use it for some of your other works, but how have you incorporated this into your works created at STPI? I’ve known of thisstudio since 2003, but this is my first time of the residency program here. Thisis a new experience to explore not just print but also explore three-dimensionalprints, with the different kinds of paper – like you can create very thick orvery thin paper. I have also explored combining paper and prints with metal, or different media. So you are bringing in your mixed media aspects that you use in your other works into these paper ones? Yes, it’s been a very interesting aspect that the people here [at STPI] and myself have tried to explore as much as possible. There are many possibilities to create through both conventional and unconventional methods. What has been your process from coming into the studio – did you come in with ideas from the beginning on what you wanted to create or did you come up with ideas as you talked to the printmakers? I started my residency with an idea, but I also try to work in an organic way. From one sketch, we can develop to other possibilities – it can be a three-dimensional work, or two-dimensional, or a mix of all of them. The schematics develop as there are different techniques and preparations for the works. Heri Dono with Chief Printer Eitaro Ogawa in the STPI artist studio. Image courtesy of the artist & STPI   What do you think is the importance of residencies like STPI in evolving the arts scene in Asia? I think it is important because people only know about etchings or lithography, the conventional ways of print. But the meaning of print is a lot more complex. You can create three-dimensional prints, and it is not only about the texture or the form, but also about the paper itself. I think in this area, in Southeast Asia, paper is very important. But in the hierarchy, it has become like a caste – paper gets a lower quality than canvas or other materials. A residency like this is important so that people know that in the history of art, paper and print has always been important. It existed 1,000 years ago, and people can still continue to keep it and collect artworks on paper. You were one of the first Southeast Asian artists to break onto the global arts scene. How have you seen the perception of Southeast Asian art change over the years?  Southeast Asia has developed a lot, not just in the arts but it has also progressed in its economic situation. Many countries in the world now look at Southeast Asia, and can see the meaning of economic creativity. In Southeast Asia it is very important – the idea is now of value, so we have to respect the ideas. In this situation in Southeast Asia, I think people started from respect for the level of technique in the art, to the level of the philosophy of the art, and now it goes into the respect of intellectual property – to respect all ideas of artists. A lot of your works have very strong Indonesian motifs, like wayang kulit, and other political themes that relate to the country. Your works have also shown very broadly overseas, how have international audiences reacted to that? Do you think that they understand it or do you feel that you need to give them some background to the works so that they understand the different layers?  Well, actually no one can avoid sociopolitical issues. If the price becomes higher, we have to accept it because of the sociopolitical issues. No one can avoid that. From the Ramayana and Mahabharata stories, they also have a context of the sociopolitical issues between the two kingdoms of Pandavas and Kauravas. A lot of folklore also has sociopolitical issues in their content. For the international audience, many other countries also have sociopolitical issues – like the Occupy movement. Now in Europe, they ask the artists to be concerned with their situation, not only to make abstract works. They have to be concerned and involved in their situation. Many artists have already made minimalist works, so we have to ask the artists to give consciousness to the people to make life better. So they can understand the content, or the symbols when I create the works. Heri Dono at the STPI artist studio. Image courtesy of the artist & STPI   So you think that it shows through, because the audience can relate to those different aspects, even if they don’t know the specific situation in Indonesia?  Yes, I think they can relate to the symbols of the artwork. I think if the artist gets their ideas from sociopolitical issues, it is not necessarily propaganda. But the symbols can send a message from the artist – not in political practice, but in the political consciousness. The exploration becomes a symbol – like Mahatma Gandhi became a symbol. The symbol becomes universal afterward because the symbol is not meant to reflect life separately. Art is a medium that people can be united under, from different religions, from different races. Artists are about egalite – they accept many different cultures, in an equalizing way. You have a great sense of irony in your works: you juxtapose the playfulness of your cartoon and comic book characters, with the social commentary that you are making underneath. What role does that irony play in your works?  Well actually, if you see in the traditional theatre or culture, the playful role is the servant or the clown. They can communicate with the king or the landlord in every traditional form. In Indonesia we have Punakawan [characters in wayang kulit], like Semar, Petruk, Bagong, or Gareng – they are all clowns. But they are gods as well. They transform as humans, and they look ugly in form but they can communicate with many levels of people. So they can listen directly from the people, and they can also criticize their king. They are on the level of gods but transformed as humans. So artists are like the metaphor of that. The ideas are not human, they are from our ancestors, and we give this message to the people. But we do not force people to follow this. We just give the platform and information that there is such a matter, and offer a solution. You started with painting, and have now moved on to the installation works that you are probably most well known for. What made you switch between media?  When I was a student in 1980s, I tried to see the formula in Asia. They have the concept of Mandala – in Mandala there is no perspective about subject and object, no distance between subject and object. In Asia it only exists between subject and subject, because the distance between the macrocosmos and microcosmos does not exist – the elements (water, air, fire, earth) exist in both. The concept of colonialism always starts from the distance between subject and object. In Europe they have the concept they call Terra Nullius where they try to discover regions beyond their continent. But when Admiral Cheng Ho travelled all over the world, he didn’t conquer any countries. He wanted to share, because all are equal, all are subjects. So from painting in two dimensions, I started to create works in three-dimensions and create installations. The issue of installation works is the atmosphere. The art and the audience are in the same space – it’s like Mandala. The concept is not separate. I think if Asian artists create installation works, it doesn’t mean that they are following the trend of contemporary art to create installations, but it is more based in the Mandala perspective. Heri Dono in the STPI workshop. Image courtesy of the artist & STPI   Your works were just announced to be shown in the Venice Biennale for a one-man show for the Indonesian Pavilion, congratulations! Can you tell me a bit more about the Trokomod? Yes, they are all completed and are now on the way to Venice! The Trokomod is the acronym of ‘Trojan Komodo.’ The story of the Trojan horse from ancient Greece – where they tried to attack the fortress from inside by hiding soldiers inside the statue. Now, the Trojan horse has become the issue not to give war, but to give knowledge. In this work, it is like how Southeast Asia is sometimes. There is a lot of misunderstanding in global issues. When people talk about East and West, in Europe, they don’t talk about East and West from a geographical globe, but from the geopolitical perspective of capitalist or socialist countries. In Southeast Asia, we are like a blank spot for modern or contemporary art – we are only seen as traditional, classic, or even primitive. That is not a fair perspective. So I put the Trokomod in the Arsenale in Venice. In the beginning, the Arsenale was used to create weapons. It was also used to store spices in Venice – after the fall of Constantinople, Europeans started to trade directly with Southeast Asia, instead of getting their spices from Turkey. At that point, Asia had already contributed to Europe’s development by introducing machinery and agricultural tools, noodles, gunpowder, etc.  The Trokomod is not about creating war, but about understanding. It has a periscope, so people can go inside. About 5-8 people can go inside, and see the atmosphere around the work. There are 9 boats floating on the ceiling of the space. There is a gamelan in every boat, and some lanterns with the heads of angels. It is about the maritime culture in Southeast Asia. It was the beginning, and how we built ourselves up. There is also a running text in the chest of the Trokomod – and in the cockpit there are two pilots in the head of the Trokomod. There is batik on the ceiling inside the Trokomod, and there are symbols of many religions, to show it as uniting. There are also artifacts from Western culture like the wigs (the artificial hair for the judge) and an early version of the pistol, and a few books from Karl Marx and many different things. Westerners used to always see Asia as an ethnographic region, but these are the European artifacts. And these are all your own collection? Yes. When I was in Europe I used to collect. For me, when I was there in 1990, I saw an artifact as an ethnographical object, a part of history. And now I’m bringing them all back to Europe. You’re very active in the contemporary arts scene, are there any young Indonesian contemporary artists that we should look out for? Yes, there are many young Indonesian artists that explore art and more that are becoming interested in the context of sociopolitical issues. There are too many to list!    ...

April 09, 2015

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Interview with Naohiko Kishi & Takahiro Kaneshima of Art Fair Tokyo...
Japan’s largest gallery show closed a few weeks ago, running from the 20th to the 22nd of March 2015, with a record number of 55,000 visitors. The Artling interviewed Art Fair Tokyo’s Executive Producer, Naohiko Kishi, & the fair’s Program Director, Takahiro Kaneshima, to find out more about how the fair has changed since its inception and where they see it going in the future.   Art Fair Tokyo is now in its 10th year. How has the fair changed since it was started in 2005? ARTFAIR TOKYO used to be NICAF, which was held eight times from 1992 until itchanged its name to ART FAIR TOKYO and took on a larger commercial dimension. Thenew incarnation of the fair was held for the first time in 2005. Then we had around 80 gallery booths and some 30,000 visitors, whereas now there are close to 150 booths, including galleries, corporations and partners, with some 55,000 visitors. We have also developed the fair to be a platform examining art in a variety of ways, putting efforts into projects like the Artistic Practices series, talks, and workshops. In five years’ time the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in Tokyo. The Games are not simply a sporting event and we aim to integrate our fair with them to form a large festival of culture and sports. With our tenth anniversary now here, we are entering a new phase where we need to consider how the fair will engage with the upcoming Olympics. Rimpa Pop, © ART FAIR TOKYO, Photo Munetoshi IWASHITA  Are visitors to the fair mostly from Japan? Where do some of your most active collectors come from?  Visitors from Japan are in the majority, but this year we held the fair right after Art Basel – Hong Kong, so there was an increase in overseas visitors compared to last year. Many of our collectors do indeed live in Tokyo but depending on the season, collectors come to Tokyo from all over the world and often purchase expensive artworks. Do you see the fair expanding further to include more non-Japanese galleries? We believe they will increase. With the government’s measures to increase inbound tourism, the weakening of the yen, and the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, not only overseas tourists but also affluent visitors to Japan will increase. We often hear people talking about their hopes to develop business models within the culture unique to Japan, so overseas exhibitors will surely increase in the future. © ART FAIR TOKYO, Photo Munetoshi IWASHITA    Do you think you will continue to include antiques and crafts-work alongside artworks at the fair?  We will continue with this policy. We feel that a major difference between ART FAIR TOKYO and other art fairs is its Japanese-ness. It features a wealth of artworks that can only be seen here in Tokyo, from antiques to crafts that have matured through the cultural influence of Europe, America and Asia, as well as the modern art that expanded from this. This has become a major characteristic of ART FAIR TOKYO. Antiques and crafts are a necessary element of our fair. Do you see Japanese collectors starting to collect art from other regions? Or are they still quite loyal to Japanese artists? Since 2012 we have included a section in the fair called Discover Asia (for our 2015 fair we unfortunately could not include it due to being too close to Art Basel – Hong Kong), and by continuing this program we sense that Japanese collectors are, little by little, developing overseas perspectives. Many Japanese collectors also went to Hong Kong this year and I feel that we are proactively joining up with the global trends of the art world. SCAI The Bathhouse, © ART FAIR TOKYO, Photo Munetoshi IWASHITA   Have you seen an increased interest in Japanese art from the international art world recently and do you see the fair as more locally -focused or international? Interest in the international scene is increasing. As a fair, the focus has indeed been mostly on Japan until now, but though we are always exploring the question of what is a “Japanese” art fair, it is not the case that we are aiming to specialize only in Japan. As we head towards 2020, we want to develop the fair further while maintaining our awareness of this Japanese character. How is the art scene in Tokyo evolving? Are collectors more keen on Contemporary works or are they more inclined to collect traditional pieces?  It used to be the case that only people related to the art scene would purchase certain artworks, but over the past few years the scope of collectors has opened up and there has been an increase in the number of ordinary people collecting art, including regular office workers and employees. The types of art being collected are also all on the rise, with people who previously only had an interest in antiques now also taking an interest in contemporary art, while young collectors who only had interests in contemporary art also starting to collect antiques. This is a very ART FAIR TOKYO-esque phenomenon. Contemporary Diversity, © ART FAIR TOKYO, Photo Munetoshi IWASHITA   What are some of the challenges that you face with the art scene in Tokyo? What do you think of your role as an art fair within that art ecosystem?  The art scene in Japan has until now been heavily supported by public investment, but every year government budgets are reduced. Today the situation where public agencies collect art is facing difficulties, meaning there is an urgent need for an art eco system appropriate for Japan, one that can stand on its own feet without relying on national or regional governments. As part of this, I feel that one of the roles for ART FAIR TOKYO is to further integrate the private sector that purchases art (both individual collectors and corporations), while building a framework for supporting art through the strength of the private sector and by enriching the layers of the art market.    ...

April 01, 2015

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Alice Mong, Executive Director, Asia Society Center Hong Kong, March 26, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

March 26, 2015

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Veronica Chow, Managing Editor of Bazaar Art Hong Kong...
Our contributor series explores the ideas of gallerists, artists, directors, curators for an insight into the development of the international art scene......

March 18, 2015

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Magnus Renfrew, Deputy Chairman, Asia and Director of Fine arts, Asia at Bonhams, March 11, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

March 11, 2015

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Interview with Do Ho Suh...
The Artling had the opportunity to speak to internationally-acclaimed artist Do Ho Suh while he was in Singapore working on his residency at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI). We found out more about his new body of work and his plans for the upcoming year.   You’ve just completed a second artist residency at STPI, can you tell us more about your approach to your works this time around? This is my second residency at STPI, I already had an exhibition in 2011. The idea of using thread for the drawing came when I did the first residency, literally the first visit. I had three weeks here, and for two weeks we were just exploring different things, and I actually didn’t know where my work was going to go. They [the STPI staff] suggested many different things. And the idea of using thread came up because I’ve used fabric in a lot of my other works. That’s how it started, and it worked really well. We have ended up actually doing a lot of thread drawings since then. The scale & the complexity of the image has increased this time though. The images got more complex, as well as the color, and it has evolved quite a bit in my mind. And the way they also saw the drawing has been changed, or advanced in a way. All of a sudden, I have tons of ideas for making thread drawings. It’s been quite successful in many ways for STPI and me, with the thread drawings. I’ve come several times for this residency. Sometimes I can stay longer, like three weeks, or sometimes it’s 3 days or 5 days. I try to accomplish as much as possible during my residency. We’ve been working day and night. Imagery-wise, I had an archive of images from my drawing that have been sitting in my sketchbook.  From how far back? From way, way back. It was kind of doodling, and never realized as a work of art. They turned into the thread drawings. The thread and the way the thread reacts to the water and the wet paper, creates a very peculiar quality of line and appearance. The drawings that I made in the sketchbooks over the years, they are very simple line drawings, and I realized they would work well with this particular technique.  But those thread drawings are often technical drawings for my larger scale installation work. Most of them are sort of accents on my thoughts or interest in very profound philosophical questions that I had at the moment.  Do Ho Suh, Myselves, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist & STPI. © Do Ho Suh What kind of philosophical questions?  Like for this piece – I was thinking about how we are all interconnected and also the idea of reincarnation and karma. I was thinking about people I would meet or I have met throughout my life. If you believe in reincarnation then the people that you know and that you meet in your present life, you knew them before. For different reasons, and they all reincarnate. Not always 100% but a lot of them are reincarnated in the same area. Hindus believe that you get to know roughly 3,000 people in your lifetime. I’m very intrigued by the fact that they came up with this number – how did they do that? If you read the Hindu literature or philosophy, they often come up with very specific numbers. But then, the strange thing was… I started to collect the signatures from family, relatives, friends, and also – I think it goes back maybe 20 years ago – I had guestbooks for my exhibitions. I asked the audience who visited my exhibition to sign it, so they were somehow connected to me through my work, even though I hadn’t met them.  I started to work with these signatures, and incidentally, there were 3,000 signatures. These are all coincidences, it wasn’t done on purpose. Sometimes these people in your life help you to get somewhere, but at the same time you can have a problem with them. Whether it’s good or bad, you feel connected to these people, and sometimes it’s kind of tangled in human relationships. That’s what life is all about. So I’m trying to visualize and think about the rather difficult questions, and that’s what my sketch is about.  I use the word ‘entangled,’ when you think about it, they are entangled threads. A web of relationships.  Yes, it’s a perfect way to express the idea of ‘inter-connectedness'… Exactly. A lot of accidents happen as you work on the thread, when it goes onto the paper as well. That works perfectly with this idea. I’ve been using a lot of linear elements in the drawings, lots of lines. For these drawings, the lines are either progressing and suggests a direction that goes up or is coming down. It’s a figure but it’s kind of botanical like a tree so it grows. That suggests a sort of progression of life. It also suggests the life before me, which is the heritage, the history, the culture and the knowledge that has been passed on to me from generation to generation which you cannot visualize. You can’t see it, and you always think you’re an independent person or being. But I try to show things that aren’t really visible. This is the human relationship I try to visualize with the lines.  My question has always been how can I make invisibility visible. That is an overarching interest of mine, I’m a visual artist so I have to make something visually.  Various other themes come in, that generates these images. At the STPI residency, I have made a few architectural pieces, but most of them are figurative.  A lot of your works created during your residency do seem far more figurative than the rest of your works, is there a reason for this change?  Yes. As you go and as you develop different techniques and vocabularies, you just try to make it differently. Unlike a painting… Well that’s what I like about drawing – if you paint on the canvas, you can always scrape off and go over it – but with drawing it’s only the one layer. And thread drawing is almost like that. You put a lot of effort into it, but once it’s on the paper, you can’t change it.  The sewing stage is quite different from when it’s transferred to the paper. When the thread is transferred to the paper, the thread comes together. It’s hard to prevent, and I know what’s going to happen to some degree.  Do you anticipate it and adjust your schematic drawings? Or do you want it to be by chance? Yes, I try to control the thickness of the line. But this sort of loop, you can’t control on the sewing machine. Once it’s transferred to paper, it also looks different as it’s darker when it’s soaked in the water. When it’s completely dry, it gets lighter. So you have several layers that you have to predict how the work changes.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it brings happy accidents. A lot of times it looks different from what you anticipated. So with the same image I try to do what I originally wanted to do, but sometimes the happy accidents can lead to some other directions.  We’ve been very productive. I’m very excited about the next exhibition, it’s going to be quite different. A lot of the new body of work, and the scale is much bigger and the images are going to be much more complex.  Detail view of Suh’s work in progress. Image courtesy of the artist & STPI. © Do Ho Suh What makes you work with fabric and thread in so many of your works? It came from the necessity, I have to say that I didn’t have any particular reason that I liked using fabric. It was more of a conceptual decision to use the fabric in order to create something three-dimensionally.  It was a conceptual decision to make transportable, translucent architectural space. That has a reference to clothing. Fabric works really well for so many reasons.  Thread I haven’t given that much thought, because I just automatically use it. Like I said, STPI people saw it and they are coming from a different angle, so they sort of separated fabric and the thread and suggested that I work on that. Sometimes you work on such a material for such a long time, you don’t really think about it and then realize that you use the material all the time.  Can we talk about your new paper works? This is the new body of works created at STPI. I have been wrapping space with fabric, and for several years I have also been doing wrapping of space with paper and actually rubbing it.  Those fabric and rubbing pieces are my personal spaces that I’ve lived in, either Korea, New York or London. But I’ve been to Singapore, and in particular STPI, many times already and stayed in the same apartment upstairs, so it’s familiar. Slowly I’ve started to see the space differently and it really became part of my life and part of my existence.  You spend so much time here and make works that are part of you. So I think my last visit I decided to do something like this in the STPI space, so these are the objects that are coming out of the wall in the studio and the objects that you may touch every day in order to get in and out of the space.  I’ve been doing this with my New York apartment and my Korean house, and it’s called the “Specimen Series”. It’s not the entire space, it’s just small elements. As the title explains, it’s a kind of scientific approach – like a pseudo-science as if I go out in the field and collect insects. And then you name it, and you collect insects and make a specimen. There’s a formula on the label, when and where it was collected and by whom.  This space is a shared space, it’s not just my own studio. There are so many artists that come and go, and everyday many times a day they touch these things – to flip a switch, to turn the lights on. There are probably many layers of history on the surface of these objects. I want to bring these invisible connections or memories that these daily objects possess.  How do you usually do the ‘rubbing’ of the objects? Is it while the paper is still molded onto the shape? Yes, these are just test samples. I’ve been using pencils and crayons for my other rubbings, but we’re trying to use the spices from local markets. You can almost smell it. The light switch is a light switch, it could be the same anywhere. It’s a gesture to bring a local element to the work. At the end of the residency, hopefully I can have this sort of collection of objects. And for me, it is a sort of gateway to visualize the space without being here. It’s almost the same as my desire to carry my spaces with me.  Do Ho Suh, Flowers, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist & STPI. © Do Ho Suh You’ve moved around a lot… Do you feel rooted to any particular place, after being in New York for so long but also growing up in Seoul? Yes, it’s interesting because it’s been 5 years since I moved to London from New York. I’d been living in New York for nearly 20 years. The move was not based on my career, it was for personal reasons. It was quite difficult, I’m still not completely comfortable. But having family and children makes everything so different. I feel like London is my home, but whenever I go back to New York, the minute I arrive in my neighborhood in New York City it’s so instant. You remember it? No, it’s not so much remembering… I don’t know how you feel about it, but when you go somewhere you have to pack and mentally prepare yourself to go to different places. I’ve been travelling to so many places throughout my life. Still, you have to shift your gear when you go somewhere else. For example, if I go to Paris, I have a little anxiety. Most of the time it’s a good thing, but you have to be mentally prepared for it. But New York, it doesn’t happen. Even Seoul, because it changes so fast, it feels quite foreign and it takes a few days to adjust. But in New York…. That’s the beauty of New York – no matter how much it changes the sense of it is the same, isn’t it? Yes! I don’t know what it is. The people are the same, they’re so neurotic. And you start to see the differences. There is a certain thing that New York offers you, they are a very welcoming city to strangers and guests.  Because of having my family in London, I feel London is sort of the traditional notion of home in my mind. Getting married and having a child, it coincided with my move to London. It’s a lot of change, but still I hardly go out beyond where we live. My studio is in the same building as my apartment. I was actually thinking about that the other night.  I was completely new to London, and my daughter was born. And by pushing her pram, we both started to explore and learn the neighborhood at the same time. So that might be an interesting idea for my next project as well. It has taken me much longer for me than I expected to get familiar with the surroundings.  I have experienced London in a different way than I did in New York. New York was right after grad school, where my career started and I was in my 30s. It was a different time and place. But London is for family, so I see the space in a different way. Also through the eyes of my children.  Have you created anything of your London home yet? Well I finally found a corner or part of my studio and apartment that I find interesting enough to turn into fabric architecture. It’s not the entire space, more a fragment of it. It’s kind of like an entrance area, it’s not like a lobby – I mean, it’s a small apartment – so it’s like an entrance area. I decided to call it ‘Hub’ – so you go in and you can go to the living room, the bathroom, the utility room or upstairs. It’s a small space, you feel isolated, but every wall is actually a door.  I’ve been interested in these spaces, like doors, staircases and things like that. It’s less obvious than the other elements that I have worked with before, but after living in the space for five years I start to see that. They’re slightly different configurations, even though the studio and the flat are in the same building. The entrance of the space, so that’s going to turn into the fabric of the piece.  For smaller projects, it started as a play or some kind of device that I used to play with my daughters: that might be something interesting to turn into a work of art. My life is slowly guiding to a new body of work.  Do you have any projects coming up? I constantly have exhibitions and projects, and I have a couple of museum exhibitions this year. I have a solo show in Cleveland coming up, and I have quite a large group show in Lyon, France. And then early next year I have another museum exhibition in Cincinnati. I may come back here [to STPI] in late June or July. I’m leaving tomorrow after two weeks here. I just saw some of the works that we’ve made during this residency in frames. They look really different in frames than before. I am very excited for the rest of the works.    ...

March 06, 2015

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Interview with Shuyin Yang...
The Artling interviewed Shuyin Yang, Associate Specialist in Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Southeast Asia Region, at Christie’s, ahead of the auction house’s upcoming ASIA+/First Open Auction during Hong Kong Art Week. Yang shares with us her thoughts on Asian Contemporary art and the direction she sees it going in the next few years.  Over the past 5 years, where have you seen the most sales growth within the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary art department?  Christie’s Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art department has seen significant overall growth since 2010, but perhaps the most remarkable vibrancy can be noted within the Southeast Asian art region, particularly for modern art from Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, as well as the rise of contemporary Southeast Asian artists such as Ronald Ventura and I Nyoman Masriadi. Southeast Asia is still a growing market, compared to the relatively more mature Chinese art scene, therefore prices for top quality artworks have seen a favorable response due to regional collecting demand, leading to a rise in market interest and confidence. This cyclical effect combined with increasing awareness for emerging art markets has created global attention for the Southeast Asia sector. Within our most recent Hong Kong auctions in November 2014, we posted strong artist records for SEA 20th Century artists such as Le Pho, Jose Joya, Thawan Duchanee and Singapore pioneer artist Cheong Soo Pieng, whose rare 1951 portrait of a Chinese opera singer, ‘Making Up’ sold for HK$5,920,000 (US$ $766,964). Do you see artworks/artists from any particular region or country gaining popularity in the next few years within the genre of Asian Contemporary Art?  Instead of discussing specific regions or countries independently it would be more relevant to note that collecting taste and demand within Pan-Asian art has become increasingly discerning, and the works which are presently most sought after may not necessarily be ‘blockbuster’ works but rather compositions which display a crucial combination of quality; rarity; historical, social or academic relevance; and also demonstrate specific high points within the artist’s career. ‘Making Up’ by Cheong Soo Pieng is an example of an artwork which meets all these criteria, despite being an early small format canvas and atypical of his more broadly known Balinese series. Traditional ‘blue chip names’ such as Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-Chun, Sanyu, Zeng Fanzhi and Yoshitomo Nara will continue to command prices at the top end of the market. We have also observed increasing interest in abstract art, ranging from the Sino-French masters such as Zao and Chu, to the Gutai group, Korean minimalists, for example Lee U-Fan, and Southeast Asian abstract expressionists such as Fernando Zobel and Jose Joya. Christie’s has seen such interest especially from young Asian collectors and have started the ASIA+/First Open auction in Hong Kong in part to cater to such demand. In addition, we’ve also observed increasing interest in Contemporary Chinese ink, which highlights abstract forms of traditional calligraphy and brush painting. Cheng Soo Pieng, Making Up, 1951, oil on canvas. Image courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd. 2015  What do you think is the role of an auction house in cultivating an emerging art market such as Southeast Asia? In order to generate enthusiasm and collecting interest within an emerging market, firstly, collectors must feel that they have a span of choices to select from; and secondly, understand how works from a specific region, such as Southeast Asia, fit together in regional art history and chronology, as well as within the larger international context. An auction house is well equipped to deliver these two aspects, as we handle a broad and diverse range of material, produce fully researched catalogues through the combined expertise of our specialists, and also take a global viewpoint when positioning artworks at auction. An auction catalogue is a fantastic resource for a new collector attempting to gain an immediate overview of a regional art scene, and the subsequent prices achieved are also a good barometer of the market climate at that given moment. At Christie’s, we also advocate art education and awareness by organizing open-to-public exhibition tours, lectures and seminars; for example the Christie’s Art Forum series which takes place in several international locations and features respected guest speakers from within the industry. What would you advise collectors who are still hesitant about diversifying into Southeast Asian art at the moment?​ Globally, Southeast Asia may appear to be a new or emergent market. However, if you study the social and cultural history of the region, you will realize that the proliferation of the art scene here is actually not a new phenomenon and has been in the making for several decades. The evolution of modern Southeast Asian art has been a carefully considered and sensitively expressed process by artists influenced by the socio-political fabric of their respective countries, and they have laid down established bodies of works which have reached a point of full artistic maturity. The only ‘new’ aspect within this region is the rise of the commercial market in tandem with the strengthened Southeast Asian economies, and perhaps also the increasing number of art-focused museums and institutions. Given that the foundation is firm and artworks are of high quality, collecting modern Southeast Asian art is relatively low risk taken against a long-term view of what consists stable art holdings. Speaking of contemporary artworks, while this is still an ‘in-progress’ category as the artists are living and variations can happen, collectors are at a distinct advantage due to the amount of available information, whether it is background material on the artists, price research, accessibility of primary galleries, art fairs, and auction houses, so they can be fully equipped to make sound acquisitions that augment their collecting vision. What is the most exciting part of your job?​ Definitely the vast range of artworks I handle: modern and contemporary art across the Southeast Asian countries of Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam; as well as Pan-Asian and Western masterpieces. Interacting with artworks from warehouse to auction, researching their histories and stories, experiencing the emotional process of the artist during creation, and occasionally stumbling across rare treasures hidden for decades in someone’s attic (again – Cheong Soo Pieng’s ‘Making Up’, which is why I am so fond of this work!) which are then celebrated in a record-breaking auction sale, all make this an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling job. Biography Shuying Yang is a specialist in the Asian 20th Century and Contemporary Art department, with a focus on the Southeast Asian region. She joined Christie’s London in 2009 as an Associate Specialist Trainee, working in Post-War and Contemporary Art, Old Master and British Paintings, Chinese Works of Art and South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art. In late 2010, Shuyin was seconded to Christie’s Asia and currently works on consigning and selling for the biannual Hong Kong auctions. She is especially interested in contemporary and emerging art, photography and new media. Shuyin holds a Masters in Art History and Archaeology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.  Upcoming Events Christie’s ASIA+/First Open auction 15 March 2015 (Sunday), 3pm James Christie Room, 22/F Alexandra House, Central, Hong Kong From works on paper by established artists to sculptures, installations and works in new media, ASIA+/First Open presents in-depth dialogues between different artists, which demonstrates a comprehensive view on how different art movements inspired artists and shows the diverse narratives brought together by Christie’s global specialist teams.    ...

February 26, 2015

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Calvin Hui, Fair Director, Gallerist, Feb. 12, 2015...
Our Conversation Series features intimate interviews with leading experts from around the world: collectors, curators, artists, gallerists, and museum directors....

February 12, 2015

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