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Arts preview: any resemblance is purely coincidental

Catherine Shaw




Is portraiture an outdated vanity historically reserved for the über wealthy? Not according to a new exhibition that recently opened at a swanky art and social venue on Duddell Street in Central.

Jointly curated by Amelie von Wedel and Pernilla Holmes, "Face to Face" - on show at Duddell's - brings together established and emerging artists whose work offers a new take on the art form.

"Portraiture is a marginalised area in contemporary art but we thought it worked very well in the context of Duddell's club-inspired interior design concept," says Von Wedel, who specialises in curating exhibitions for the likes of The Arts Club in London and private international museums.

"Each of the artists has different ideas about contemporary portraiture, but together give a unique perspective on it."

She cites the series of black and white works by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto as an example. The artist is well known for his life-like meditative images of historical figures, such as Henry VIII and his wives, Princess Diana and Oscar Wilde, and for using lighting to help recreate a surreal 16th century painterly effect.

Then there are the three works of American photographer Nan Goldin, displayed in the moodily lit library space along with an autobiographical video by Beijing artist Yan Xing.

Titled Daddy Project (2011). The exposé performance sees Yan facing a white wall while recounting growing up without a father figure. The artist's works are notable for being delivered within a culture that does not encourage the public airing of private emotions. Goldin's colourful works showcase her trademark celebration of sub-cultural life. The artist first displayed her work while studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, achieving international acclaim during the 1990s for her no-holds-barred portraits of drag queens and friends who were dying of Aids.

Goldin's Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi (1991) large colour photographic print flirts with controversy, showing two heavily made up glamorous drag queens staring unflinchingly into the camera from the front seat of a New York taxi.

One of the highlights of the show is Ghanaian artist Lynette Yiadom Boakye's 11pm Sunday. The artist paints from her imagination, referencing European portraiture while introducing an element of ambiguity and lack of identity to her subjects who are usually African Americans.

"The space posed a challenge because Duddell's was still under construction while we were curating the show," says Von Wedel. "It is not a white box gallery space; it was designed for dining and relaxation, as well as enjoying art, so has distinct areas and separate rooms. We had to think carefully about how to balance the different art styles."


Duddell's, Levels 3 and 4, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street, Central. Mon-Thu 11am-11pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-12am; closed Sun. Tel: 2525 9191



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