When in Hong Kong

ArtReview Asia’s pick of what to see beyond the fair

By Nirmala Devi

Tram route through Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong. Photo: Tom Glover

ArtReview Asia will be flying to Hong Kong next week for Art Basel Hong Kong, opening Wednesday (you can find it on Level 1 of the fair, in the Magazine section). As it packs its bag, ArtReview Asia picked seven shows it’s looking forward to seeing outside the walls of the Convention & Exhibition Center...

Wong Ping, Who’s the Daddy, from ARA Spring 2019 Previews HK

Wong Ping, Who’s the Daddy, 2017, single-channel animation, 9 min 15 sec. Courtesy the artist and Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong

Performing Society: The Violence of Gender at Tai Kwun Contemporary

For some time, Art Basel Hong Kong, together with a growing slurry of commercial galleries and a sliver of not-for-profits, was the only game in town at this time of year. Now Tai Kwun Contemporary, which launched last year, has arrived, turning that sliver of not-for-profits into a slice. Having presented Cao Fei’s first Asian museum show, in collaboration with UCCA Beijing, it’s now hosting a group show, Performing Society: The Violence of Gender, curated by Susanne Pfeffer and produced in collaboration with the MMK Frankfurt (which Pfeffer directs). The exhibition includes work by Dong Jinling, Jana Euler, Anne Imhof, Oliver Laric, Liu Yefu, Ma Qiusha, Julia Phillips, Pamela Rosenkranz, Marianna Simnett, Raphaela Vogel and Wong Ping, and aims at exposing the structural violence caused by the symbolic, cultural and physical boundaries of gender. 

Elmgreen & Dragset, Adaptations, from ARA Spring 2019 Previews HK
Elmgreen & Dragset, Adaptations, 2018 (installation view). Photo: Elmar Vestner. Courtesy the artists and Kukje Gallery, Seoul

Elmgreen & Dragset at Kukje, Seoul & Massimo De Carlo, Hong Kong

Danish and Norwegian respectively, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have made a career out of subverting norms and stereotypes. Their debut exhibition at Kukje Gallery, titled Adaptations, will include an expansive array of works, among them their adapted street signs (Adaptations), which contain no instructional devices, just polished surfaces that reflect (rather than restrict) the surrounding environment, sections of asphalt in which road markings have been replaced with patterns reminiscent of geometric abstraction (Highway Paintings) and the latest in their series of inverted bars (Looped Bars), in which the beer taps face the drinker rather than the server. After this exercise in inverting or subverting accepted boundaries and conventions, Elmgreen & Dragset move on to the Massimo De Carlo gallery in Hong Kong (where evidently subverting norms is all the rage). This third-floor space will be transformed into an underground boiler room via an installation titled Overheated (2019). You could say it’s an apt metaphor for what’s been going on in the upper echelons of the art market (and the globalised financial markets on which Hong Kong has built its current image).

Julio Le Parc, Espace à pénétrer, from ARA Spring 2019 Previews HK
Julio Le Parc, Espace à pénétrer avec trame et miroir courbe (Variation du labyrinthe de 1963), 2019. Courtesy the artist and Perrotin, Hong Kong

Julio Le Parc and Xu Zhen® at Perrotin

Over at Emmanuel Perrotin’s Hong Kong gallery you can see some genuine geometrical abstraction in the work of France-based Argentinian Julio Le Parc. The nonagenarian won the International Grand Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale back in 1966 and is a pioneer of both Op and kinetic art (often incorporating the two at once). His work deploys light, colour (although black and white constitute his most famous modus operandi) and motion to manipulate the perceptions of viewers, often as they move around the work. At the other end of the spectrum, the gallery also hosts a solo show by Xu Zhen® (the Shanghai-based artist became the brand MadeIn Company in 2009, launching the sub-brand Xu Zhen® in 2013), featuring his at-once delirious, decayed and glamorous accumulations of cultural products in the form of three series of works: Under Heaven, Eternity and Evolution.

Erwin Wurm, Untitled, from ARA Spring 2019 Previews HK
Erwin Wurm, Untitled, 2018, aluminium cast, brushed, 80 × 28 × 32 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong & Seoul

Erwin Wurn at Lehmann Maupin

Around the corner, at Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong, Austrian Erwin Wurm is bringing his own brand of subversive humour to the SAR. Naturally the show will include iterations of his One Minute Sculptures, a participatory project (here visitors, following the artist’s instructions, will be invited to purposely pose with domestic goods, their action captured on Polaroid so that they become one of his, or their own – it’s ambiguous – sculptures). As well as playing with traditional notions of art’s purposelessness, the works broadly anticipate the rise of selfie culture (which will no doubt be on show among visitors to Art Basel Hong Kong) and proved an inspiration for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in their 2002 music video Can’t Stop. Wurm will also present work that is very much his own in the form of his equally absurd Abstract Sculptures series, in which groups of sausages (standard Austrian diet) are formed into polished metal sculptures that mimic human forms and gestures. Naturally there’s a phallic reference at play here too, which might act as a comic counterpoint to the exhibition at Tai Kwun. Then again, and as with most things, this could depend on your point of view.

David Altmejd, Student , from ARA Spring 2019 Previews HK
David Altmejd, Student (detail), 2018, mixed media, 79 × 43 × 46 cm. Photo: Lance Brewer. © the artist

David Altmejd at White Cube

The body is also the subject of David Altmejd’s debut exhibition at White Cube Hong Kong, which features a new group of head and bust sculptures. Altmejd, who represented Canada at the 2007 Venice Biennale, is best known for his accumulations of symbolic, natural (rocks and crystals) and mythological objects (werewolf heads have long been a favourite), often exhibited in museum-style vitrines. In general his work questions how we look at and represent the world (bang-on with Hong Kong’s illicit theme, then). His lifesize heads incorporate clumps of hair, pieces of fruit, chunks of mineral and references to art historical movements that disrupt any sense of natural order and is part horror show and part freakshow.

NeoRauch, Der Aufschneider, from ARA Spring 2019 Previews HK
Neo Rauch, Der Aufschneider, 2018, oil on canvas, 40 × 50 cm. ©the artist and VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Neo Rauch a David Zwirner

The surreal also plays a role in the paintings of Neo Rauch, on show at David Zwirner’s Hong Kong outpost. Rauch was born in Leipzig (and celebrated as a key figure in what some term the New Leipzig School of painting), and his figurative tableaux suggest a particular fusion of socialist realism and expressionism that in some ways suited the contrasts within a reunified Germany: familiar yet mysterious, significant yet without immediately obvious meaning. Appropriately the exhibition is titled Propaganda.

Louise Bourgeois, Untitled, from ARA Spring 2019 Previews HK
Louise Bourgeois, Untitled, 1998–2014, hologram, 33 × 28 cm. Photo: Matthew Schreiber. © The Easton Foundation / VAGA at ARS, New York. Courtesy The Easton Foundation and Hauser & Wirth, Hong Kong

Louise Bourgeois at Hauser & Wirth

The late Louise Bourgeois has reached the kind of superstar status where she can dispense with any of the last (it’s already exhausted itself). As her touring survey Louise Bourgeois: The Eternal Thread touches down at Beijing’s Song Art Museum, Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong presents My Own Voice Wakes Me Up, a selection of her works from the final 20 years of her life (she died in 2010), including works on paper, fabric sculptures and some rarely seen holograms, probing the relation between her psychic and physical states. 

First published in the Spring 2019 issue of ArtReview