On no less than three occasions during the last two weeks, ArtReview Asia has been pinned into a corner by a desperate curator who has nuzzled up close to it and then, rather alarmingly, hissed: “Which ASIAN ARTIST do you think is HOT right now?” Before muttering something mitigating about ‘the sponsors’ and ‘diversity’.
“Still unripened, our breasts barely pucker into nipple!” ArtReview Asia shrieks back. “Yet while we shape turrets from fine white sand, you eye us deviously... Spare us our sandcastles!” it concludes whilst frantically fumbling for the rape alarm it has secreted in the parrot made of bamboo sticks, pomegranate flowers and banana leaves that it always has strapped to its wrist. It’s about then that the curator, never having attended Aadi Pooram, starts running away gibbering about how ‘we can’t all be friends with President Bloomberg’ and that ‘no one knows how hard it is to put on exhibitions in these globalised times’.
So, in the interest of not being pinned against a wall and gibbered at, if there is one Asian artist who’s having ‘a moment’ right now, it might well be Lee Kit. Right now, Lee, who graced the cover of ArtReview Asia’s inaugural issue back in 2013 (on the occasion of his representing Hong Kong at the Venice Biennale), has just opened his debut solo institutional exhibitions in both Europe and the US. At S.M.A.K. we’re told that the Taipei-based artist is going to be constructing an installation composed of past and present work (which, as you may now be realising is tantamount to telling us nothing). More revealingly, the first work in the show is a wall, covered completely by a photograph of another wall upon which hangs a coat, setting up the relationship between image, object, fantasy, memory and other projections of reality upon which much of Lee’s recent work has turned. Look out for cardboard, teatowels, plenty of projections and a meditation on how the public sphere invades the domestic sphere and, within that, the manifestations of personal and collective desire. Less vague is the Walker’s show, which gathers work from the past five years around I can’t help falling in love (2012), a 13-channel video installation that’s in the American institution’s permanent collection and is focused on everyday household products.
Cheng Ran, Crossroads, 2015, proposal maquette. Photo: JJYPGOTO. Courtesy the artist
A Beautiful Disorder – you might think that’s another attempt to describe Yu’s exhibition, but that’s just the way in which these previews link up. Rather, this is an exhibition of 15 monumental outdoor sculptures at the Cass by a selection of Chinese and Greater Chinese artists including Cheng Ran, MadeIn Company, Wang Wei and Zhao Yao. The show takes its title from an eighteenth-century letter describing the gardens of the Qianlong Emperor’s summer palace near Beijing that later became a profound influence on eighteenth-century English and French landscape design. The letter was written by the Jesuit missionary and artist Jean-Denis Attiret, who went to China in 1737, where he became painter to the Qianlong Emperor after adopting a Chinese painting style; the Yuanming Yuan (Gardens of Perfect Brightness) were destroyed by British and French troops in 1860. Ironic in some ways; standard colonial practice in others. ‘Can I do anything to prevent England from calling down on herself God’s curse for brutalities committed on another feeble race? Or are all my exertions to result only in the extension of the area over which Englishmen are to exhibit how hollow and superficial are both their civilisation and Christianity?’ wrote Lord Elgin (the son of the marbles man) shortly before ordering the destruction. What’s going to be exhibited at Goodwood in the twenty-first century? Well, to take just one example, Bi Rongrong, an artist who trained in classical Chinese painting, will be lifting and folding parts of the Foundation’s lawns and supporting them with sheets of steel painted in fluorescent colours. Revenge vandalism? Or Attiret’s journey in reverse? Go visit and decide.
Andy Warhol, Kiss, 1963, 16mm film, black and white, silent, 54 min at 16 frames per second. © 2016 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA
When it comes to Western artists infiltrating today’s Chinese art scene this summer, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg are leading the charge (as much as dead people can), with respective shows by both taking place in private museums in Beijing. Andy Warhol is at M Woods, where his then-game changing takes on portraiture in the form of the Screen Tests of the 1960s and Polaroids from the 1970s and 80s will be shown alongside his 1963 film Kiss (which features a series of men kissing women, women kissing women and men kissing men for three-and-half minutes a go, and sits, in art historical terms, somewhere between Rodin’s famous sculpture and Tino Sehgal’s more recent performance piece) and the interactive heat-sealed pillows of his Silver Clouds (1966), which are something of a crossroads of relational aesthetics, installation art, eco-art, and conventional sculpture.
How often are you going to be able to write the names of current artworld luminaries such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Trevor Paglen, Hiroshi Sugimoto and teamLab next to historical figures such as Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, Yuri Gagarin and Leonardo da Vinci? Never again probably. But all of them are represented in the Mori Art Museum’s The Universe and Art, where science meets fiction and the past meets the future – all in the present of this summer. Focused on art’s engagement with the cosmos, this show pits works like Sorayama Hajime’s shiny silver Sexy Robot (2016; its title tells you everything you need to know) alongside meteorites, fossils and Gagarin’s photographs and a 1610 edition of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius. There are a whopping 150 items on show in total, among them an early Edo-period handscroll of Japan’s oldest prose narrative Taketori Monogatari (The Tale of the Woodcutter, aka The Tale of Princess Kaguya), which in this context is recast as the country’s first science-fiction novel.
A more strictly scientific motif also provides the conceit for Danish collective Superflex’s exhibition, One Year Project – THE LIQUID STATE, over at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa. Using the keywords ‘cultivation’, ‘fermentation’ and ‘transformation’, the group, whose work exposes and manipulates social systems and financial frameworks, proposes to create artworks that function as experimental devices that model and perhaps shape the museum’s relationship to its visitors. In other words, to express the museum’s purpose and function. Among the works on display is The Fermentation Act (2016), an installation that produces kombucha (a fermented tea drink said to originate in ancient Mongolia and to have health benefits); the action of visitors expelling carbon dioxide through breathing in turn fuels the microorganisms that ferment the te
This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of ArtReview Asia.