Art Basel

De Sarthe gallery revives French connection with Chinese artists

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 9:24am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 9:24am

When de Sarthe Gallery sought a place at Art Basel Hong Kong, they wanted to continue a dialogue that started in the early 20th century between Paris-influenced Chinese artists and their Western abstract counterparts.

The Ice House Street gallery in Central was keen to show how Western art shaped these Chinese artists who worked in the French capital and inspired a yearning to break away from the old Chinese traditions in their artworks.

De Sarthe's powerful narrative and historical journey was a perfect fit for judges of the Galleries sector of Art Basel Hong Kong, who looked for thematic presentations on the most important developments from Asia's art scene over the past 100 years. De Sarthe was thus accepted as one of more than 170 galleries featured in the main Galleries section of the fair.

"During Art Basel this year, our Hong Kong gallery's exhibition will focus on 15 masterpieces from the first and second generation of the most important Chinese artists who moved to or worked temporarily in Paris from 1919 onwards," says de Sarthe founder Pascal de Sarthe.

"The show will highlight the influence of Western art in their artworks and the rupture with the centuries-old Chinese tradition these pioneers of modern Chinese painting were seeking when they went to Paris.

"It will also demonstrate that the second-generation artists such as Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-chun and T'ang Haywen later came back to their roots and created a "Chinese abstraction" differentiating them from Western abstract painters.

"The overarching premise of this year's efforts is capturing the pioneering spirit in art from the early 20th century to the present day."

For the Galleries sector, galleries from across the world were chosen based on the strength of their overall exhibition programme, the gallery profile, history and the artists represented.

Galleries is the biggest of six themed sectors at this year's fair, the others being Discoveries, Insights, Encounters, Film and Magazines.

The selection committee pored through almost 500 applications and finally accepted 245 galleries from 39 countries and territories to display their works.

The selection committee comprises renowned international gallerists: Emi Eu, Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore; Shireen Gandhy, Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai; Suzie Kim, Kukje Gallery, Seoul; Maho Kubota, Scai The Bathhouse, Tokyo; David Maupin, Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong; Urs Meile, Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing and Lucerne; Massimo De Carlo, Massimo De Carlo, Milan; and Zhang Wei, Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou and Beijing.

Another key sector is Encounters, catering to large-scale artworks and invoking themes that reconsider social and communal memories and relationships.

"Material and social relationships are undergoing a process of complicated diversification due to the fluidity of globalisation and the formation of a new way of relating through social media. Change in the social landscape constitutes miscommunication and cultural breakdown," says Encounters curator Yuko Hasegawa.

"Encounters comprises works that critically reflect this situation, whether proposing to engage these fundamental shifts, or trying to resist them."

Discoveries and Insights are proposal driven. Insights is open to galleries and artists who are from Asia and the Asia-Pacific, from Turkey to New Zealand and the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent. Discoveries is also a dedicated sector to promote emerging artists, As such, the selection committee had to first decide if the proposed artist actually qualifies as emerging, although there was no limit on the age of the artist.

Subsequently, solo and two-person exhibitions presented by 27 galleries were chosen by the panel to be on show at Art Basel Hong Kong's Discoveries sector.

The experts for the Discoveries sector are Atsuko Ninagawa, Take Ninagawa, Tokyo, and Finola Jones, mother's tankstation, Dublin. The expert for Modern Art is Mathias Rastorfer, Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich.

The Film sector, curated by the director and founder of Beijing Art Lab, Li Zhenhua, presents films by and about artists, while Magazines features art publications from around the world.

Selection committee member Emi Eu, whose Singapore Tyler Print Institute will be featured in Art Basel, says the judges knew that only the best artworks would be showcased at the fair.

"Art Basel is extremely conscientious of how the fair is presented for each show," Eu says. "It has to be of the highest quality and have a good balance."