Contemporary art Fairs Museums China

Close encounters of a curious kind

Why Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, chose these works for the fair

Yuko Hasegawa, the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Zhuang Hui & Dan’er's 11 Degree Incline, 2008, presented by Magician Space, Beijing

A firm fixture on the biennial circuit, Yuko Hasegawa, the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, is now making her presence felt at art fairs. Having served as the curator of the Sharjah Biennial, which ended earlier this month, Hasegawa has turned her attention to the inaugural edition of Art Basel Hong Kong. She has organised “Encounters”, an exhibition of 17 large-scale works in the Galleries section of the fair. “Encounters” marks the curator’s return to Hong Kong: Hasegawa oversaw “Art HK Projects”, another show of outsized pieces, at the final edition of the Hong Kong fair in 2012, before it was taken over by Art Basel.

She’s “very much concerned with how curatorial meetings happen between East and West”, in part because of the arrival in Asia of the Swiss fair’s organisers. Among the works she has chosen is Flavio Favelli’s installation China Purple, 2010 (E15), which combines Italian bourgeois furniture with a traditional Chinese interior. “It’s a representation of mixed memories and cultures—of eating Chinese food in Italy, for example,” Hasegawa says. Artists from the Chinese diaspora, such as the French émigré Chen Zhen (1955-2000), are equally important voices in the dialogue between Chinese and European culture. Chen’s 8m-wide installation Le Rite Suspendue/Mouille, 1991 (E16), is made up of found objects from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Hasegawa has selected a large number of hanging sculptures, “to give people more space for discussing the works”, she says. In contrast to last year’s “Projects”, where works were scattered throughout the fair “in vacant spaces between booths”, “Encounters” is ordered along the fair’s central aisles. MadeIn Company’s Play 201301, 2013 (E1), a suspended Gothic cathedral made from fetish-style black material and zips, is a particular highlight for the curator.

Biennials, such as Sharjah, have a greater local engagement than art fairs, Hasegawa says, “and curators don’t need to wait for proposals from galleries”. But she believes that art fairs and biennials are essential for bringing art to a wider audience. “The ordinary public might not have the habit of visiting museums, but an art fair is almost an extension of a daily activity, like shopping,” she says. “A fair breeds curiosity through which people can experience art on an institutional level. I’m very interested in how you can create such encounters, through either a biennial or an art fair.”

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