Art Basel 2015
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Art Basel 2015

Hong Kong offers a feast for art lovers, including dim sum

Edmund Lee pounds the streets as he concludes his guided tour of what Central art galleries have to offer in Hong Kong Art Week

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 March, 2015, 3:23pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 June, 2015, 1:46pm

Edmund Lee stretches his legs as he continues his tour of the Central art galleries hosting shows that coincide with Art Basel Hong Kong. If you missed the first part of his tour, go to http://goo.gl/zj3vxa

As I predicted earlier http://goo.gl/hkj63j , Michelangelo Pistoletto’s mirror-like pieces – each consisting of a woman’s full-body image silkscreened onto a polished stainless steel surface – have proved a hit for selfies on social media. It would be interesting to discuss how they reflect on the legacy of this artist, who was a founder of the 1960s Arte Povera movement, but few people have the time for that.

Simon Lee Gallery, 304, 3/F Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central, until April 25.

Our final stop in Pedder Building is a brief one. The smaller room in Ben Brown’s gallery space shows works by Vik Muniz, whose second Hong Kong solo exhibition ended less than two weeks ago. Meanwhile, its main room hosts the latest exhibit by Hong Kong-based British artist Simon Birch, whose new paintings of textured female figures are starting to look predictable.

Ben Brown Fine Arts, 301, 3/F Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central, until April 29.

A minute’s walk from the Pedder Building, we come across another big name. It’s a distinct possibility that Yoshitomo Nara can read minds: there’s a “Please no photos” sign at the entrance to “stars”, his second solo show with Pace Hong Kong (after a New York one in 2013). The works on show are interesting in that they  mark the first time this Japanese artist has put his main focus on the golden four-point stars in his paintings.

Pace Hong Kong, 15C Entertainment Building, 30 Queen’s Road Central, until April 25.

Next door to Pace is an all-white space – even the floor is white here – that tests the assumptions of human perception. Of the five pieces by Brussels-based artist Ann Veronica Janssens, we’re most enchanted by the triple-layered mirror that appears to magically change colours as we move around it. I have yet to make up my mind about the three golden geometric shapes on the wall.

Axel Vervoordt Gallery, 15D Entertainment Building, 30 Queen’s Road Central, until May 7.

Up the New World Tower nearby, we come across some of the most stimulating pieces on our gallery-hopping trip. A dimly lit group show  called "The Tell-Tale Heart" is co-hosted by the K11 Art Foundation, London’s Pilar Corrias Gallery and Shanghai’s Leo Xu Projects. Dim sum is offered to audiences as part of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s work Untitled (freedom cannot be simulated, Sundays are for dim sum); now that’s a very good kind of food for thought.

Chi Art Space, 8/F, New World Tower 2, 18 Queen’s Road, Central, until April 17.

Another group show worth visiting is “Hong Kongese” at the Michelin-starred restaurant Duddell’s. An off-site project by the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, it enlists an international roster of artists to investigate the nature of Hong Kong. There is, however, nothing subtle when it comes to local artist Phoebe Man’s work Birthday Cakes, which mocks the Hong Kong police force’s recently corroding image in plain words.

Duddell’s, Level 3, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street, Central, until June 22.

Next door at Galerie du Monde, we spot the artist Stella Zhang chatting merrily with several curious visitors. Her exhibit, which includes a huge hand-sewn installation and a series of sculptural paintings, is nearly all in white. A closer look seems to reveal a vigorous allusion to female sexuality. I mean, I suspect I’m looking at a giant vagina in one of the most prominently placed pieces.

Galerie du Monde, 108 Ruttonjee Centre, 11 Duddell Street, Central, until April 30.

After leaving Zhang’s show with a feeling of slight unease, it is a reprieve to check out de Sarthe Gallery’s showcase of Zao Wou-ki’s works in ink and watercolour. There’s always a sense that the Chinese master’s work deserves an unhurried mind to truly appreciate, and we are unfortunately in no such condition on this hectic Central tour. Will visit again after Art Basel.

de Sarthe Gallery, 8/F, Club Lusitano Building, 16 Ice House Street, Central, until April 11.

Again, here’s an exhibition of masterpieces that may require a second, less hurried look. Under the title of “New Realities in the 20th and 21st Century”, a group show at Opera Gallery’s multi-floored space has brought together masterpieces by such great artists as Lucio Fontana, Yayoi Kusama, Alexander Calder and Joan Miró, to name just a few.

Opera Gallery, 52 Wyndham Street, Central, until April 18.

It’s asking a lot for us to walk up Old Bailey Street at this point, but artist Dinh Q. Lê’s exhibition at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery makes it worth the effort. With colourfully painted coconuts on the floor and wallpaper that brings the scenery of Danang beach into the space, the show presents a thought-provoking look at Vietnam's much-exploited tourism industry.

10 Chancery Lane Gallery, 10 Chancery Lane, Central, until April 18.

Back on Hollywood Road, we make a quick stop at the exhibition “Forces of Nature” at Sundaram Tagore Gallery. A relatively safe choice for the Art Basel month, the joint exhibition by American photographer Annie Leibovitz and Japanese painter Hiroshi Senju sees each of the artists take up one floor of the gallery. Both sets are of exemplary quality, but it’s fair to say that regulars of the gallery would feel like they have seen these all before.

Sundaram Tagore Gallery, 57 Hollywood Road, Central, until May 10.

As we move away from the busiest areas, galleries showing Hong Kong artists get into view. On the front door of EC Gallery, there’s an amusing warning that visitors should take care when they share photos of the exhibit online due to its content. (The grammar police would find its title, I am such a fool and so do you, more offensive.) Working in a variety of media, young artist Wong Ka-ying has displayed enough raw emotions here to warrant a future following.

EC Gallery, 72a Hollywood Road, Central, until April 10.

When it comes to actively courting controversy, there are few rivals to Kacey Wong at the moment. The Hong Kong artist’s exhibition of his protest art projects features the props and documentation of his politically inspired performances in the last few years, as well as newly created pieces that directly react to the feeling of social injustice brought forth by the umbrella movement.

Amelia Johnson Contemporary, 6 Shin Hing Street, Central, until March 28.

We had planned to visit two more shows by local artists, but the door is closed when we arrive at Voxfire Gallery, where a group exhibition by Tang Ying-chi, Harold de Puymorin and San Chiu Yan was supposedly on until March 14. When we ring the doorbell of am space, which is showcasing the works of media artist Samson Young until April 21, we reach a member of the gallery's staff on her mobile phone. She tells us that she’s out for lunch. It’s a reminder that even Hong Kong art professionals have to eat.

A solo exhibit by the Shanghai-based artist Xu Zhen is on view across the road, and we can’t help but be dazzled by his deliriously colourful pieces. When a guide comes up to me and helpfully asks if I’ve seen Xu’s work before, I say yes. But when she pushes on to ask which particular works I saw, I turn away awkwardly as if she’s a cold-call salesperson. I feel bad, but my pedometer indicates that I’ve walked 14 kilometres on this trip. And I need a seat.

The Qube, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, until March 18.