City puts best foot forward at Italian expo

With a bigger budget and work by rising star Lee Kit on display, city's pavilion is looking to impress at art show Venice Biennale

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 May, 2013, 5:09pm

A doubling of the budget is allowing Hong Kong a grander presence at art expo Venice Biennale this year, but the curators of the city's pavilion hope audiences in Italy will see something other than the extra money spent.

Yung Ma, co-curator of the pavilion and an assistant curator at the West Kowloon Cultural District's visual culture museum M+, said more resources had made a difference to the Hong Kong presentation, which would find itself in the spotlight in Venice this week coming off the back of Hong Kong's first Art Basel exhibition, which was held last week in Wan Chai.

The pavilion's featured artist is homegrown Lee Kit, a rising star and winner of the Art Futures Award at last year's Hong Kong International Art Fair.

We will carry a lot more weight. With a larger institution, M+, behind us and Kit being one of the most recognised Hong Kong artists internationally, we will get more attention

"Anything from Hong Kong will get attention," Ma said. "We will carry a lot more weight. With a larger institution, M+, behind us and Kit being one of the most recognised Hong Kong artists internationally, we will get more attention."

Entitled You (you)., the conceptual exhibition at the pavilion features Lee's new works, including paintings and audio-visual installations made from everyday objects.

Lee said the pieces were a continuation of his exploration of the relationship between the private and the public.

Ma hoped audiences would see a different side of Lee's work through the exhibition, which he said was laid out to create a rhythm resembling the action of breathing.

Upon entering the pavilion the viewer sees two security booths in a courtyard, which Ma described as having a relaxing quality. Viewers' emotions will then change as they move into different rooms and see objects in colours from Lee's signature pastel shade of blue to harsh black.

The pavilion was a source of controversy last year when the Arts Development Council decided to scrap its previous practice of inviting proposals for its curation and instead appointed M+ as the partnering institution for the job. The council was accused of not consulting the arts community thoroughly on the change, and M+ also came in for criticism.

Nevertheless, resources for this year's Hong Kong pavilion have been doubled. In addition to HK$5 million from the council, M+ is also providing HK$5 million.

Lee said that more resources had allowed for a more comprehensive presentation of his ideas, because a lot of the work for the pavilion that was non-art-related could be delegated to other parties.

"More budget doesn't mean I will create a more extravagant exhibition. But I can focus more on my work and [have] no need to stress," he said. "Without such abundant resources, certain concepts can't be executed."

The site for the pavilion, consisting of two rooms and a courtyard, was run-down prior to the event, and the Hong Kong team had to renovate it. The courtyard floor was redone and some walls knocked down.

Greater resources also allowed for a more comprehensive marketing campaign to promote the pavilion. The team hired a public relations agency to handle publicity and media relations for the event.

A VIP reception was held yesterday in Venice where guests were given a preview of the event through exhibition catalogues and souvenirs, and tonight organisers will host a dinner for guests from around the world, including museum directors and international curators.

The Hong Kong pavilion opens to the public on June 1, and will run until November 24.