Community of new ideas

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Whether it's creating new work, educating the public or providing funding support, non-profit groups have been invaluable to building a diverse and vibrant arts community in Hong Kong.

As the education partner of Art HK since the fair's inception in 2008, the Asia Art Archive (AAA) has initiated 'Backroom Conversations', a series of panel discussions and lectures for leading experts and practitioners to address core issues in contemporary art.

'We have enjoyed working closely with Art HK,' says AAA co-founder and executive director Claire Hsu. ''Backroom Conversations' has become an important platform from which we look to instigate critical thinking and dialogue for a wide-ranging audience. AAA aims to frame the activity of the fair in the context of the greater landscape of art in the region and beyond.'

'Backroom Conversations' programmes are free and open to fair visitors and the public. This year's highlights include 'Open Platform', giving voice to four juried projects from global cultural producers, and the 'AAA Burger Collection Keynote Lecture', featuring Okwui Enwezor, a renowned curator, educator and art historian. In 'The Decade Revisited', AAA asks art professionals Hans Ulrich Obrist, Gayatri Sinja and June Yap to reflect on the past decade through three works or projects. The programmes will run until Saturday.

Another non-profit organisation taking part in the fair is Para/Site Art Space, which is allocated a booth by Art HK every year in appreciation of its contribution to the community.

The group is showing its Art Flat, a collection of playful objects that bring art into everyday life. Collectable products are curated in a space designed to reflect the average Hong Kong apartment, yet coupled with the concept of the white cube gallery. Placed in a whitewashed domestic environment, every coloured component is up for sale, from furniture and clothing to food and scent. Participating artists include Wilson Shieh, Kacey Wong and William Lim from Hong Kong, plus international artists such as Damien Hirst and Barbara Kruger. All proceeds will go towards the Para/Site programme of exhibitions and events.

Yana Peel, co-chairwoman of Para/Site's board and CEO of media group Intelligence Squared Group, who has curated the Art Flat with art adviser Diana D'Arenberg, says she is inspired by the way Para/Site's executive curator and director Cosmin Costinas has imbued a small space with big ideas.

'The booth, at 24 square metres, is the size of the flat in which an average Hong Kong couple lives; a one-person government-allocated home is 11 square metres. We decided to use the space as a statement about art being accessible to all and not just the enclave of the privileged elite,' Peel says. The space is also featuring gifts from artists as part of 'The Wedding Project' launched by Vitamin Creative Space.

The Goethe-Gallery, meanwhile, is hosting the exhibition 'Past Continuous Tense', by Lam Tung-pang, while releasing a new book, Hong Kong Artists - 20 Portraits, at the fair. Lam is featured in the book, which focuses on artists born between the late 1970s and the mid-1980s. The exhibition is being held at the gallery until June 16.

Dr Gabriele Gauler, director of the Goethe-Institut Hongkong, says the institute has been working with Deutsche Bank since 2010, when the bank became a lead sponsor of Art HK in featuring contemporary works from the Deutsche Bank Collection. 'As an institution promoting cultural dialogues between Germany and Hong Kong, we continue this tradition of presenting young Hong Kong artists during Art HK,' she says.

M+, the museum for visual culture in the West Kowloon Cultural District, planned for completion in 2017, hosted nearly 300 Art HK VIP guests at the 'M+: Yau Ma Tei' exhibition yesterday. The first in a series of pre-opening exhibitions curated by M+, the event consists of six large installations occupying neglected spaces in Yau Ma Tei. It reflects the way participating artists view Hong Kong. The exhibits vary from an intriguing photo and video installation about ghosts to a multiple media installation housed in a huge tent beneath a flyover.

Other charities joining Art HK include the Sovereign Art Foundation, which has invited street artist Max Zorn to direct the live creation of an artwork, while it is also asking children to participate in the Little Picasso Handscape to make their mark on a large-scale Hong Kong skyline. The foundation supports projects using art to help disadvantaged children.

Soundpocket, a group that promotes sound art, is taking visitors through 'sound walks'. As visitors stroll around the Art HK venue, they put on a pair of circumaural headphones and listen to recordings previously taken in galleries and museums, capturing sounds, such as voices, steps and descriptions of artworks.

The programme is for VIP guests from 2pm to 3pm today and tomorrow, and from 11am to noon on Saturday and Sunday.

Another 'sound walk', free for the public, entails an excursion to the ethnically diverse To Kwa Wan from 3pm to 5pm on Saturday.