As Hong Kong reopens, UNSCHEDULED steps up to shine a light on Asian Art

Frog King, Frog in Bronze, 1994, ink on paper, 30 x 35 cm. Image courtesy of 10 Chancery Lane Gallery.
Mak Ying Tung 2, Home Sweet Home: Flower Pool RAW, 2020, coloured pencil on paper, triptych, 40 x 30 cm. Image courtesy of de Sarthe Gallery.
Chou Yu-Cheng, Vertical Gradient #1, 2019, acrylic on canvas, framed 84 x 70 x 2.5 cm. Image courtesy of Edouard Malingue Gallery.
(From left): Willem Molesworth, Sara Wong, Fabio Rossi and Ying Kwok. Photography by Felix SC Wong. Image courtesy of Hong Kong Art Gallery Association.
TOP
747
33
0
 
10
Jun
10
Jun
THE 2020 SOVEREIGN ASIAN ART PRIZE

In the wake of fair cancellations due to COVID-19, a new group show aims to revitalise Hong Kong’s art scene, foster connections, and celebrate the creativity of Asian artists.

TEXT: Leanne Mirandilla
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

Frog King, Frog in Bronze, 1994, ink on paper, 30 x 35 cm. Image courtesy of 10 Chancery Lane Gallery.

 

Few industries have remained unaffected by COVID-19. Institutions and facilities have closed, hotels and airlines have seen less patrons because of travel restrictions, restaurants have been operating at reduced capacity due to social distancing regulations, and events have been postponed or cancelled.

The art world has been much the same. In Hong Kong, Art Basel Hong Kong and Art Central—two of the biggest annual art events in the city that grant March its nickname of “Art Month”—were cancelled. Galleries and museums reduced their hours or temporarily closed. In addition to reduced sales and missing the opportunity to be exposed to an international audience, art spaces and artists have faced other difficulties, too; galleries have had to rejig their programming due to artworks being unable to ship in time, while some artists have found themselves unable to fabricate components of their work due to lockdowns in China and subsequent supply chain breakdowns.

Although the local art scene is beginning to re-awaken, with art institutions gradually re-opening and launching successful exhibitions, there has yet to be a large, communal art event. That’s what the organisers and curators of “UNSCHEDULED” hope the group showcase will be.

Organised by the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association (HKAGA) and taking place at arts and heritage centre Tai Kwun, “UNSCHEDULED” features solo presentations from 12 local galleries and will take place from 17 to 27 June at the Duplex Studio in the Police Headquarters Block. Acknowledging these difficulties in its flyer, which includes the words “cancelled,” “delayed” and “postponed” stricken out ahead of “UNSCHEDULED,” the event is described on the HKAGA website as occurring “in response to these unprecedented times […striving] to re-energise Hong Kong’s art scene.”

 

Mak Ying Tung 2, Home Sweet Home: Flower Pool RAW, 2020, coloured pencil on paper, triptych, 40 x 30 cm. Image courtesy of de Sarthe Gallery.
Chou Yu-Cheng, Vertical Gradient #1, 2019, acrylic on canvas, framed 84 x 70 x 2.5 cm. Image courtesy of Edouard Malingue Gallery.

 

“Since Art Basel Hong Kong was cancelled, there hasn’t really been one big communal effort to try and revitalise the scene here,” says Willem Molesworth. The director of De Sarthe Gallery and vice president of HKAGA’s board of directors, Molesworth is heading up the show’s organising committee along with Fabio Rossi, founder of Rossi & Rossi and co-president of the HKAGA board. “I think that ‘UNSCHEDULED’ is that effort. It’s about bringing together all the different segments of the art scene—curators, artists, gallerists—and giving them a platform to express themselves and engage in a meaningful way during a very hard time,” adds Molesworth.

While Molesworth and Rossi admit that driving commercial sales is an important goal of the event, money isn’t the be-all and end-all. The organisers also hope that the event will help foster new connections among the community as well as shine a spotlight on Asian art as a whole. “This is a time that we should be proud of what Hong Kong has to offer—the diversity of the galleries and their programmes—and proud of what Asia in general has to offer,” says Rossi. “Sometimes there’s a tendency to look outside and say, ‘it’s amazing what goes on in New York and London,’ but there’s a lot of great things going on here.”

Molesworth agrees, referencing a viral tweet that reads: “art museums will literally be like ‘this room is dedicated to one specific artist in one specific French village and only his paintings done with this one brush… and this room is all of Asia.” “That’s absurd. That’s completely absurd,” he says. “And that’s exactly the situation right now.”

 

(From left): Willem Molesworth, Sara Wong, Fabio Rossi and Ying Kwok. Photography by Felix SC Wong. Image courtesy of Hong Kong Art Gallery Association.

 

The show’s 12 featured artists hail from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Japan, and were selected by a team of Hong Kong curators and artists including Sara Wong and Ying Kwok. The event further highlights the participating artists and galleries through its unique setup.

The space required a departure from the typical fair arrangement where galleries show several artists, each within their own booth. Instead, the organisers opted for a solo presentation format, where each gallery would focus on just one of their artists, and a free-flowing, corridor-less layout created in collaboration with Beau Architects. It’s an arrangement that leads Rossi to comment that it’s “almost misleading” to call it a fair as it’s so different—less hierarchical and more democratic. “If you were to have multiple artworks and artists […] you wouldn’t be creating a grand narrative, it would be a hodgepodge like most fairs,” says Molesworth. “This solo show approach is really special,” adds Wong. “The plan allows this visual connection and potential for dialogue happening through the show. The situation triggered us to think about things in another way.”

Tai Kwun offered the space to HKAGA in February in a bid to uplift the art community after the effects of COVID-19. Throughout the event’s organisation, the teams at Art Basel Hong Kong and Art Central have offered advice and promoted the event among their networks. The word “goodwill” cropped up during the conversation about “UNSCHEDULED” several times. It seems as though the sense of community that HKAGA is hoping to cultivate has already begun to sprout.

 

 

UNSCHEDULED
17 – 27 June, 2020
Tai Kwun, Hong Kong

 

 

 
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply