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14.11.08

Last View of Hong Kong


I didn't find much in the way of great contemporary art on this first trip to China. As with everything I encountered, China is a work in progress. It's a bit odd to visit a land that was at times the most culturally and technologically advanced civilization on the planet, reverted to the stone age, and now with lightening speed, thanks in part to its recent manufacturing and export wealth, is again on a path to becoming the most advanced in medicine, science, technology, and the arts once again. After my travels through a good portion of the country in the past three weeks I've run short of adjectives to describe what I've seen. The current economic trend aside, China has pulled out all the plugs and is cruising fast forward in an unprecedented fashion -- hang on.

This trip almost inaugurated my first Ionarts music review -- luckily, "almost" is the key word here. Yo Yo Ma, or Ma Yo Yo as he is known here, performed a concert of Chinese music this past weekend at the Hong Kong Cultural Center, which quickly sold out several thousand tickets. Some things may be better left unwritten.

Known more for banking, shopping sprees, and antiques, Hong Kong does have a few good art galleries in the Central District. You immediately know you're not in NYC, because here, as soon as you walk in the door, you are greeted warmly and are given an introduction to the artists' work. I even had tea and a cookie at one space.

The Miners series at Wellington Gallery are large oil-on-canvas close-ups of miners in all their harsh, coal dust-covered beauty, very powerful imagery. At Connoisseur Contemporary, Wan Yang's pink Ice-Cream Drill paintings reminded me of NYC artist Will Cotton's cotton candy-inspired creations.

Yoshitaka Amano really pushes the possibilities of his anime-inspired characters, using automotive paints and lacquer on aluminum panels at Art Statements Gallery. I mostly liked the technique and the sparkly finishes: the process has great potential for work displayed in public spaces. Talking with the gallery assistant I learned that most of the work sold in Hong Kong tends to go to Japanese, Korean, and European collectors. The locals tend to prefer traditional Chinese art, but younger collectors are apparently slowly changing that. That is also probably true on the mainland. In my previous post on the Beijing art scene, I assumed much of the art was being sold to a Chinese market. I need to explore this more, but I suspect galleries like Pace have set up shop as an outpost for exporting and discovering new talent.

Plum Blossoms -- they also have a Chelsea space on West 25th -- had an exhibit of gorgeous ink- and oil-stick-on-rice-paper works by Hong Zhu An: very ethereal, a hint of Monet's waterlilies, some Clifford Still/ Rothko influence, great texture with the pressed rice paper.

My last gallery stop was to see a highly promoted exhibit of erotic photos of models in nothing but fetish Christian Louboutin footwear by the director David Lynch. The windows were draped in black to protect the innocent -- I wasn't aroused, maybe after a little wine and spicy dumpling soup -- it all seemed silly. Interestingly none of the work was for sale, and glossy posters were handed out to visitors.

It was a great trip, but I'm happy to be back. I am checking out some art on the LES today. Plenty of China images on Flickr.

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