In a development which will have helped to raise Asian interest in Western contemporary art, an exhibition of oil paintings and pastels by British painter Bill Jacklin took place at the Hong Kong Arts Centre (16-24 January), the importance of the occasion underlined by Governor Chris Patten joining 400 guests at the preview and making the official opening remarks.
Mr Jacklin spent three months in Hong Kong at the end of 1993 as the colony’s first official artist-in-residence, a new scheme sponsored by the British Council. The aim was to encourage the creation of works of art which would document the character and appearance of the city at a critical chapter of change in its history.
During that stay he filled notebooks with his observations and in his new studio in Connecticut painted an impressionist record of Hong Kong’s streets of traffic and crowds, its harbour, its butcher’s shops and popular activities such as fortune telling and games of chess, themes which had already captured his attention during his long residency in New York.
The result was a new series of Urban Portraits, as Mr Jacklin describes the cityscapes upon which he has been concentrating for the last ten years of his career.
This exhibition included oil paintings, twenty-eight pastels, a portfolio of six etchings entitled “The Hong Kong Suite” and two monoprints comprising the most significant body of work which the artist has completed since he showed his Coney Island beachscapes in London in 1992.
Measuring 60 x 78 inches, “Sun and Clouds Over Hong Kong” (cat.31) was the largest canvas in the exhibition and alone was priced at $80,000. It did not find a buyer but two-thirds of the other works of art were sold at prices ranging from $20,000-60,000, almost all to established and, encouragingly, new local collectors.
Speaking to The Art Newspaper, John Erle-Drax, director of Marlborough Fine Art, the artist’s dealer, identified Hong Kong and other Asian countries as one of the two most promising areas for growth of the contemporary art market, with South America as its exciting rival. Through the gallery’s participation in the annual Hong Kong art fair, at which it previewed three paintings from the “Urban Portraits” series in November 1994, the gallery has forged close links with the Asian contemporary art community and has shown young Chinese art in London. But he recognised that a lengthy process of education was necessary before local collectors had built their confidence. “The success of Bill Jacklin’s recent exhibition was due to the relevance of the subject matter which the local art community was able to appreciate”, he commented. “But there is not yet a burgeoning contemporary art market in Hong Kong.”
The British Council’s current artists-in-residence are David Nash and Louise Soloway.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Bill Jacklin sells in Hong Kong'