Nine Chinese artists reunite in Hong Kong, 32 years after their Exchange Square exhibition turned heads

Fifteen sculptors displayed works at Exchange Square’s Rotunda to celebrate the Central property’s completion in 1985. Ju Ming and Rosanna Li are among nine taking part in a new exhibition there

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 1:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 2:22pm

In 1985, property developer Hongkong Land invited a group of top Chinese sculptors to display their works at the Exchange Square Rotunda to celebrate the completion of the office development in Hong Kong’s Central business district. Now, 32 years later, an exhibition, aptly named “Reunion”, has brought nine of the 15 artists – including Taiwanese master Ju Ming – together to show their work.

While much has changed over the past three decades – Exchange Square is now dwarfed by the nearby International Finance Centre (IFC) Tower 2 – most of these sculptors have stayed true to their artistic practice and philosophy.

Hong Kong ‘naked sushi’ event cancelled after online backlash

Cheung Yee, who was chairman of the Fine Arts Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong at the time, is now 81 and lives in retirement in Los Angeles. He has used crabs – an animal he sees as aggressive and dynamic – as a source of inspiration since the 1980s.

While he has chosen the relatively small Crab #4 for this exhibition, you can probably recognise his other, larger, artworks, also in the form of crabs, which are scattered around the city, most notably at the Hong Kong Space Museum and in Kowloon Park.

Cheung insists he wants people to not just admire his works from a distance, but also to touch them and feel them. And he uses an interesting analogy to get his point across.

“When you see a girl you like, you wouldn’t want to just take a photo and leave, you would want to hold her hand,” says Cheung.

Hong Kong sculptor Rosanna Li Wei-han’s signature figurines also look the same as always – fat, and clumsy but happy – her way of objecting to beauty ideals as well as the fast pace of Hong Kong society. Balancing bowls of local food on their feet, the whimsical sculptures commemorate the culture of cha chaan teng, which Li visits on a daily basis.

British sculptor Antony Gormley showing at Shanghai’s Long Museum, but admits it should be Chinese artists getting the chance

Aries Lee Fuk-wah’s art – and his artistic practice – has moved with the times, though. Creating art, he believes, is about breaking your own rules, and that sometimes even involves destroying your own creation. For him, there is no single source of inspiration and neither does he document the work he has done; rather, his works are a natural outpouring of his life as an artist.

“I’ve never kept a portfolio. But I can tell you for sure, what I create today is better than what I made yesterday,” says Lee.

Deteriorating health means Lee, now 74, can no longer hold a hammer and bend stainless steel or bronze sheets like he used to. But that doesn’t stop him. He now draws drafts by computer instead and hires art students from China to do the sculpture.

He also has advice on how to appreciate modern sculpture, especially abstract works like his. “Abandon any pre-existing concepts of beauty or aesthetics that you have, and look at them the way you would admire a sunset,” says Lee.

Slow art master’s old-school Hong Kong paintings find a growing audience, and new show is worth the wait

“Ask yourself, how does it speak to you? How does it make you feel?”

Reunion, Rotunda, Exchange Square, 8 Connaught Place, Central, until Nov 16, 9am to 7pm, free admission