‘What it means to be a human’ – the theme of international show in Macau of art from China and Portuguese-speaking countries

Works by 27 artists, most of them new to Asia but including Hong Kong-based Vhils and photographer Wing Shya, are on show at six locations in Macau until September 9

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 7:19pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 7:19pm

Art helps build bridges between cultures, and no better evidence of this can be found right now than “Alter Ego”, a show that’s exhibited at locations across Macau.

The show features works by 27 international artists, who explore not just the theme of the exhibition’s title, but the relationship between China and Portuguese-speaking countries.

Made up of six exhibits that explore themes such as the self, culture clash and globalisation, “Alter Ego” features artists from China, Macau, Hong Kong, Portugal, Angola, Cabo Verde, Mozambique, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor. Most have never been shown before in Asia.

The collective message is loud and bold, but picking highlights from an exhibition that features so much talent is tricky.

Let’s start with the new pieces by co-curator Alexandre Farto, better known by his alias Vhils. An influential urban artist from Portugal, Vhils has fingers in many creative pies in Hong Kong and Macau (he’s had a studio in Hong Kong since 2015). France’s Pauline Foessel is the other curator.

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Vhils says the exhibition sends a message about exchange. “Exchange of cultures, impressions, expressions, and ideas. But most of all, these differences end up crossing each other out in light of the real concept being explored, which is that of … what it means to be a human.”

He says the art takes visitors to the exhibition on a visually striking journey, as seen in the colourful works of Hong Kong photographer and film director Wing Shya. It’s hard to break eye contact with Wing’s surreal and fluorescent images.

The same visual trap occurs when viewing the large, bold paintings and silk-screen installations of Portuguese artist Francisco Vidal. The influences of American graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and pop artist Andy Warhol, as well as all things 1980s (think graffiti, hip hop and MTV) are evident in his work.

The works of young female Portuguese artist Wasted Rita, who examines the common anxieties of modern society, are also impressive. Exhibits by Chinese artist Zhang Dali, a pioneer of graffiti art in Beijing in the early 1990s, and the first artist since Keith Haring and Jackson Pollock to make it to the cover of Time magazine, are a must-see.

One of the biggest challenges in mounting an exhibition such as this is finding common ground between different cultures.

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Vhils says: “Trying to find a concept that could bring together and create a dialogue between artists from very different backgrounds and cultures was a challenge. We worked with artists from Portuguese-speaking countries, China, Macau and Hong Kong.”

He says it’s important to explain that the different elements of the exhibition work hand in hand.

“It’s important for guests to see them all in a certain order to fully understand the entire concept,” he says. “Each show has its own strengths. They are also built differently: some are group shows, while others are solos. It’s a different way to discover a theme and the work of the artists.”

Alter Ego, organised by the Cultural Bureau of Macau, runs until September 9.