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Arts preview: Surveying the landscape

Triumphant homecoming for showcase of the city's contemporary talent


"HONG KONG EYE", a major survey of the city's contemporary art, comes home in May after a month-long run at the Saatchi Gallery in London in December. The group exhibition, which is being held at ArtisTree to coincide with the first edition of Art Basel (May 23-26), features an extended artist list.

Kwan Sheung-chi, MAP Office (Laurent Gutierrez and Valerie Portefaix), Kingsley Ng Siu-king, Wilson Shieh Ka-ho, Wong Chung-yu and Doris Wong Wai-yin are now being shown alongside 18 emerging artists selected from a book edited by Johnson Chang Tsong-zung and Serenella Ciclitira. The pair, together with Nigel Hurst, chief executive of the Saatchi Gallery, curated the London show.

Chang says the Hong Kong edition is essentially the same in that it offers a narrative on Hong Kong art that differs from how it is usually presented locally. Having 20 to 30 artists together gives the show quite a presence, the veteran curator adds.

"It makes a big statement about a place … It reflects what outside experts are interested in seeing and it's a very instructive thing for the art scene to see how they are being understood or what interests viewers from the West - in this particular case Londoners - have," says Chang.

"Most exhibitions about Hong Kong art are defensive about how we are different from China. But this show is about how Hong Kong art is not just simply different, but should be a dimension that would help flip the narrative. We're trying to uncover something about Hong Kong art from a bigger historical picture."

He says Hong Kong is significant as since the late 19th century it has become a public space for reflection and critique of China.

Although the show didn't include works by pioneers such as Tseng Kwong-chi and Luis Chan, who shaped Hong Kong art, Chang says the fact some artists featured are influenced by traditional Chinese artists, like Leung Kui-ting, nudges people to rethink Hong Kong art in the historical context.

While Hurst had the biggest say in framing the Saatchi Gallery exhibition, Chang developed the Hong Kong edition to showcase works he felt should have been included in London.

Additional pieces include Kingsley Ng's interactive installation Musical Loom (2005) and Wilson Shieh's playful ink and gouache painting Five Tallest Buildings in Hong Kong (2011). MAP Office's animated video Island is Land (2009), inspired by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze's Desert Islands, is also on display.

Chang says artist couple Kwan Sheung-chi and Doris Wong often send themselves up in their work and their humour is a release from a suppressive society they cannot escape from.

"Hong Kong is highly oppressive in a capitalistic way - few people can afford to live properly as it's so dear. And we're all exploited by a small number of super-privileged commercialists. So capitalism is an unfair system here," says Chang.

"How do you deal with these situations? Hong Kong artists have developed strategies to deal with this highly repressive capitalist system without being ideological, political activists. Through cultural activities and creative strategies, people learn to open up this very closed economic system for themselves."

Vanessa Yung (


May 1-31, ArtisTree, 1/F Cornwall House, TaiKoo Place, Quarry Bay, daily, 11am-7pm



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