A Closer Look at the Asian Art in Frieze London 2015

Zhang Ding's installation in his first solo show at ICA London 2015. Photo by Mark Blower
Kazuyuki Takezaki 88,2015 paper, panel, colored pencil, oil, acrylic, door 186x288cm
KA-PA-15-16, Kaoru Arima, Black Hood, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 162 x 130cm
ZHANG Ding, Enter the Dragon, Performances, 2015. © ZHANG Ding
ZHANG Ding, Enter the Dragon, Performances, 2015. © ZHANG Ding
ZHANG Ding, Enter the Dragon, Performances, 2015. © ZHANG Ding
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Art in the Bar by CoBo Social

As Frieze London approaches, professionals reveal that Asian art remains an acquired taste in the eyes of Western collectors.

Text by Vincent Leung

Image Courtesy of ICA

Kazuyuki Takezaki 88,2015 paper, panel, colored pencil, oil, acrylic, door 186x288cm
Kazuyuki Takezaki 88,2015 paper, panel, colored pencil, oil, acrylic, door 186x288cm

Positioned as the largest contemporary art fair held in the British capital, attention of the art world is turned to a new edition of Frieze London, taking place from October 14 to 17 at the verdant Regent’s Park. Among over 160 participating exhibitors from all continents, Asian art maintains a moderate presence in the event as represented by galleries from major cities like Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai and Mumbai. While initial interests are shown, specialists in the industry note that European collectors’ identity searching towards Asian works is still in the early stages.

“The attitude of so-called Western collectors seems to have become more curious and willing to engage the unfamiliar. Though this is only happening slowly and to some extent counter to the intention of the fairs which seem to be intent on exoticising ‘Asia’ for brazenly commercial reasons,” Jeffrey Ian Rosen, co-owner of Misako and Rosen Gallery from Tokyo, explains.

KA-PA-15-16 Kaoru Arima Black Hood, 2015 acrylic on canvas 162 x 130cm
KA-PA-15-16, Kaoru Arima, Black Hood, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 162 x 130cm

 

His gallery returns to Frieze London after a fruitful debut in 2014. Its showcase will be split into two parts: a booth at the Focus section designated for young galleries – traditional conceptions about the portrait and landscape genres are challenged by innovative paintings from Shimon Minamikawa, Kazuyuki Takezaki and Kaoru Arima – and daily performances by comedian Ken Kagami in the Live section. Though holding a reserved stance on the nature of art fair, Rosen feels Frieze could be a game changer for Japanese art appreciation in Europe.

“If last year is any indication, then Frieze is a fair where people visit to learn – not just shop madly for what they already know,” Rosen says, “Thus far Frieze has proved a very important venue for raising awareness about the gallery artists and our program. Last year we received a fair amount of press coverage and also managed to place the work of relatively emerging artists within important and caring collections, so we hope for the same this year.”

ZHANG Ding, Enter the Dragon, Performances, 2015. © ZHANG Ding
ZHANG Ding, Enter the Dragon, Performances, 2015. © ZHANG Ding
ZHANG Ding, Enter the Dragon, Performances, 2015. © ZHANG Ding
ZHANG Ding, Enter the Dragon, Performances, 2015. © ZHANG Ding
ZHANG Ding, Enter the Dragon, Performances, 2015. © ZHANG Ding
ZHANG Ding, Enter the Dragon, Performances, 2015. © ZHANG Ding

Boasting rich experience communicating with the local crowd, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (ICA)’s Executive Director Gregor Muir provides more insights into the slow maturity process of Asian art among buyers in the UK.

“I fear that local collectors continue to align themselves with what’s deemed to be important in Europe and America while remaining cautious of contemporary Asian art on the whole. It’s possible these collectors have yet to find the time or connections that might help them gain a better understanding of Asian art. Not speaking the language, or knowing the galleries so well, can play a part in this distancing,” Muir says.

“I would say that art is one of those areas where socio-political realities probably do play a role [in the intellectual debate], but I think people have increasingly tended to find their way into appreciating art from Asia.”

ICA has formed a close partnership with Frieze London for a long time. This year, the two organisations will join forces to host a VIP lunch to kick off the week of activities at Frieze and introduce the institute’s independent exhibition Enter the Dragon featuring Chinese artist Zhang Ding at the ICA Theatre between October 12 and 25. Inspired by the renowned action film of Bruce Lee, the show carries a similar East-Meets-West mentality with soundscapes produced by local talents weaved into Zhang’s stimulating installation.

Muir, who co-curates the Frieze Talks Programme, considers art fairs less of a forum to promote certain artists and change opinions than the platform for market exchange. Through standalone exhibitions like Enter the Dragon, He intends to capture a new vision of Asian art and puts it on the radar of the local community.

“It’s interesting to see Ai Weiwei at London’s Royal Academy. However, younger generations of Chinese artists are poorly represented on the contemporary art scene here. This is why the ICA looks forward to exhibiting Zhang Ding this year, and Guan Xiao next. It’s this new wave of younger Asian artists, across South-East Asia, including painters like Rodel Tapaya, that I find really intriguing. I want to know what young Asians make of the world right now, what they are thinking and how the art of this century will look like according to them. It’s they who are now in the driving seat.”

Currently pursuing a master’s degree on History of Art at University College London, Hong Kong-born Vincent Leung is a keen learner and writer on culture and lifestyle related subjects. His works can be found on Crave Magazine and other multimedia platforms. He can be reached on vincentinfall@hotmail.com

 
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