Fairs China

The importance of work, rest and play

The curator of Encounters, Yuko Hasegawa, chose art to fill big spaces at the fair—and possibly in China too

Shen Shaomin, I Touched the Voice of God, 2012 (detail), Osage Gallery (3C40), around $300,000

“Big is beautiful” has been the principle behind the Encounters section of Art Basel in Hong Kong, and this year’s edition is no exception, with the inclusion of a 60 sq. m origami-like work by the Argentinian artist Marta Chilindron (Cecilia de Torres, 3C29) and a huge suspended installation by Gu Wenda consisting of 188 national flags made of human hair (Hanart TZ Gallery, 3D07).

“There are many big museums in mainland China that need big works,” says Yuko Hasegawa, the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, who has organised Encounters for the second time. China has been feverishly building museums in the past few years. The country’s

private collectors also have very large spaces to fill “and many are quite flexible about accepting large-scale works”, Hasegawa says. “Some collectors put them in their gardens.”

Encounters is spread over two large central spaces at Art Basel in Hong Kong. It focuses on large-scale sculptural installations and performances presented by galleries taking part in the fair’s main section. This year, Hasegawa has selected 17 works, including a re-creation of a Frankfurt bar by Tobias Rehberger (Galerie Urs Meile, 1B14; Neugerriemschneider, 3C06), a fuel tank from a Chinese spacecraft inlaid with Braille by the Chinese artist Shen Shaomin (I Touched the Voice of God, 2012, Osage Gallery, 3C40) and a re-imagined Rodin sculpture by the Dutch collective Atelier Van Lieshout (Galerie Krinzinger, 1D10).

Hasegawa says that the layout of the sector can be limiting, however. “There are no walls and no dark rooms,” she says. “So it’s not easy to present lightworks or videos in Encounters.” Instead, the emphasis this year is on performance-based works.

The Taiwanese artist Yu Cheng-Ta asks fair-goers to read out spam emails (Chi-Wen Gallery, 1D19), while the Chinese artist Sun Xun allows visitors to register for citizenship of the imaginary country of Jing Bang (Singapore Tyler Print Institute, 3C15; ShanghART, 1D11).

More physically active is the Singaporean artist Lee Wen’s doughnut-shaped ping-pong table, on which several people can play the game at once (iPreciation, 1C18). “The ping-pong table has a very special meaning in China,” Hasegawa says.

The way in which society shares and communicates memories is a thread that unites many of the works. The South Korean artist Yeesookyung’s Thousand, 2014, for example, consists of 1,000 ceramic sculptures displayed on a large white plinth (Kukje Gallery and Tina Kim Gallery, 1C10). The installation was made using broken ceramic pieces that the artist collected from the studios of Korean masters. “People find knowledge and memory in historical objects, but they can also be used to make something new,” Hasegawa says. “Encounters is about meeting people; it is at a crossing point at the fair and the participatory works in particular help people to come together, whether it’s through a game, a sport or a conceptual happening.”

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