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Art preview: it's still-life, but not as we know it

Hugh Chow

 

THE NOT YET ART FAIR
C&G Artpartment

 

Part installation and part social commentary, the "Not Yet Art Fair" isn't your standard canvas and canapés affair. Several hundred neglected, abandoned and discarded works - what its curators Cheng Yee-man and Clara Cheung Ka-lei describe as "cultural leftovers" - are on display in a 400 sq ft space inside a walk-up in Prince Edward.

Landscapes, still-life studies and intriguing abstract images are all represented in this self-styled "conceptual art exhibition".

The works are roughly stapled together for easy reference. Many are unfinished. The canvas is still visible on some paintings, while others never progressed beyond a ghostly sketch.

The artists - workshop students and "art jam" participants - don't want them. Some blame limited space at home while others have simply lost interest, according to Cheung.

The artist-curator says it's a statement about the failure of big-money art fairs - which are at the forefront of efforts to promote Hong Kong as an international arts hub - to benefit grass-roots art in the city.

"As local artists we want to see the sustainable development of art in Hong Kong," she says. "But the local art ecology isn't doing well."

Budding artists in Hong Kong often give up, says Cheung, frustrated by the many challenges of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

This show has been scheduled to coincide with Art Basel's inaugural Hong Kong edition between May 23 and 26 at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, where a four-day pass is HK$750 and organisers anticipate more than 60,000 visitors.

Cheung and long-time collaborator Cheng see their event as a response to the proliferation of blockbuster-style shows such as Art Basel. "They're like viruses that only have a negative effect on the art ecology," says Cheung.

The artist couple, whose own performance art combines a strong element of social activism, has previously described Hong Kong as an artistic "third world".

"Hong Kong likes to claim it's a centre for the arts, or an arts hub for the world, but there's a big disconnect with the experiences of local people," says Cheung.

In recent years, their art-as-protest performances could be seen at public events including the city's annual July 1 demonstration for universal suffrage and rallies for other political rights.

"Not Yet Art Fair" will not feature glossy catalogues or fancy spot lighting, and nobody expects any of the works to be sold. In fact, not all the artists may know their works have been included.

"We've tried to call some of them before," says Cheung. But he says it has been a fruitless effort to persuade the elusive artists to reclaim their work.

48hours@scmp.com

 

C&G Artpartment, 3/F 222 Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Prince Edward. Until May 27, 2pm-7.30pm, Thursday-Monday. Closed May 13-17. Tel: 2390 9332

 

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