Craig David is the flava of Hong Kong art week
Craig David, UK pop star and our guilty pleasure, rocked the crowd on Tuesday (and on Thursday & Friday & Saturday) at the Davidoff lounge in Art Basel Hong Kong—where visitors can also view a newly commissioned video by the Jamaican-French artist Olivia McGilchrist. Comeback musician Craig wowed the corporate partygoers, proving especially popular with 30-something British public relations executives who idolised the Fill Me In-crooner in the early 2000s. We hope that Mr David managed to chill on Sunday.
Soviet Russia’s gift to Cuba (in Lego)
Los Carpinteros, Embajada Rusa (2015), Sean Kelly (1D09). Photo: Norm Yip/Will Lee
Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba, the first by a US president since the 1959 revolution, is dominating the headlines. A little piece of Cuba, Soviet Brutalist-style, can also be found at Art Basel in Hong Kong thanks to the Cuban collective Los Carpinteros. Their striking sculptural recreation in Lego of the Brutalist-style Russian Embassy in Havana (Embajada Rusa (2015)), on show at Sean Kelly gallery, is making waves at the fair. “This Darth Vader-esque building is a landmark for most Cubans,” Kelly says, who explains why the artists plumped for black Lego bricks. “Growing up in Cuba, the artists never saw Lego, which was regarded as a decadent material. For them, it means both transformation—play materials as a symbol of metamorphosis—and liberation.” We’re looking forward to their next masterwork— Che Guevara in red Lego?
Chinese movie star was the girl next door
David Diao, She Was a Neighbour (2014), Eslite Gallery (1D11). Photo: Norm Yip/Will Lee
Works by the New York-based artist David Diao on show at Eslite Gallery may take local fairgoers down memory lane. Diao lived in Hong Kong as a child before decamping to the US, but his reminiscences live on in works such as She Was a Neighbor (2014), which shows an impish young Diao alongside the Chinese movie star Li Lihua. The screen siren peers out from a 1950s magazine cover dressed as a cowboy but the artist’s links to the film icon go deeper as Diao lived in the same building as Li, the smell of her perfume a pungent childhood memory for the young artist.
Yan Pei-Ming catches them young
Yan Pei-Ming’s portraits of a youthful Andy Warhol at Massimo de Carlo’s new gallery in Central
The Chinese-born, Dijon-based artist Yan Pei-Ming is charming the crowds with works on show at Massimo de Carlo’s new gallery in Central. Pei-Ming’s paintings depict famous artists during their early years, as gawky children and teenagers. It Takes A Lifetime to Become Young (until 22 May) includes Pablo Picasso, Lucian Freud and (our favourite) Andy Warhol as an angelic adolescent. These images of arty bambini prompted one onlooker to quip that “these blue-chip artists were real cute kids”. Pei-Ming says: “The painted portraits portray the early years of their lives, an intimate moment from childhood to adolescence.” On top of a major show at the Villa Medici in Rome (until 19 June), we also hear that the Louvre Abu Dhabi has bought his 2009 series of five paintings, The Funeral of Mona Lisa.
Green Rolls-Royce awaits Royal Academy bigwig
Charles Saumarez Smith's ride? Photo: Flickr/Effspot
Charles Saumarez Smith, the chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, keeps a jaunty blog, which has become essential reading for the art world. Monday’s entry outlines his trip to Hong Kong after a nasty bout of flu. “I had recovered just enough to get the evening flight to Hong Kong,” he blogged. “I was dosed up with gin by Cathay Pacific and not disappointed to be greeted by a green Rolls-Royce in Hong Kong.” Charles SS was whisked away to a party hosted by the billionaire Adrian Cheng marking the launch of the Hack Space show at his K11 Art Foundation pop-up space in Cosco Tower. (We assume the exceedingly grand airport cab ride was a generous gesture by Cheng.)
Galleries go ape at the fair
One of the many monkey works at the fair: Tassos Pavlopoulos, Bye –Bye Gaugin (2011) on the stand of Kalfayan Galleries. Image courtesy of Kalfayan Galleries, Athens/Thessaloniki
Dealers at Art Basel in Hong Kong don’t monkey around when it comes to appealing to local buyers. In the Chinese Year of the Monkey, several galleries (or should it be troop?) have brought works depicting the hairy mammals. Athens-based Kalfayan Galleries’ booth boasts no fewer than three simian sculptures, four canvases and a work on paper featuring the primates, all by the Greek artist Tassos Pavlopoulos. “It’s as though these works were made for this year,” says Yuli Karatsiki, the gallery’s manager. Let’s hope all this monkey business pays off.
Kung fu, Ghana style
Bruce "Lea" poster by Alex Nkrumah Boateng at Hanart TZ Gallery in Central
For something quirky and decidedly different during Art Basel in Hong Kong week, head for Hanart TZ Gallery in the Central district, which is showing Kung Fu in Africa: Golden Age Hand-Painted Movie Posters from Ghana (1985-99) (until 16 April). The title says it all: 32 in-your-face film banners made by 13 self-taught artisan painters who interpret classic Chinese martial arts movies in their own way (think garish colours, strange facial features and rivers of rippling muscles). The posters were potent marketing materials for itinerant video clubs that screened the Chinese kung fu flicks under African skies. “They’re fun and show how the Chinese were imagined by the outside world,” says the gallery’s founder, Johnson Chang. The exhibition is organised by his college pal, the Los Angeles dealer Ernie Wolfe, who picked up the posters on regular trips to Africa. This Bruce “Lea” [sic] smash by Alex Nkrumah Boateng is proving a particular hit.
Hollande: the fast and furious president?
Still from Laurent Grasso’s film Elysée, showing François Hollande’s miniature car collection
The gilded and sumptuous Salon Doré of the Elysée Palace in Paris—the personal office of the French president—is rarely if ever open to Joe Public. But the French artist Laurent Grasso has gained access to this inner sanctum, revealing the contents of François Hollande’s nerve centre in his 2016 film Elysée, on show at Edouard Malingue gallery in Central (until 30 April). The film, shot over two days, uncovers what makes Hollande tick from the books on his shelf (including a biography of former president François Mitterrand) to Hollande’s chic collection of miniature cars, including Formula One racers and classic Bentleys. “What we see is what the president wanted us to see,” Grasso says. “I’d now like to film in other presidential offices.”
Uli Sigg’s golden gift
The early bird catches the worm, as the saying goes. The Chinese contemporary art collector extraordinaire, Uli Sigg, is candid about what he originally paid for the hundreds of works. In a new film about his life he says that the works have a total estimated value of around $155m, the sum agreed in 2012 when he donated 1,463 pieces to M+, Hong Kong’s planned museum. On Sunday in Hong Kong, ahead of the screening of The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg, the collector revealed that he paid a few hundred dollars and later a few thousand for the works in the 1990s, adding that he isn’t wealthy enough to buy the same artists today.
Virtual reality comes to Art Basel
Basel goes virtual © Laurence Gibson
There’s a lot of hype around virtual reality art shows, but behind the scenes of the fair, there’s a 3D computer model that helps the man in charge of making sure its kiosks, carpets, booths and biggest works of art are in place, on time, come whatever. Johan Lammerink, an unflappable Dutchman who is the design director of Amsterdam-based Tom Postma Design, knows the Hong Kong fair inside out, working on it since its first edition. We met up with him on Monday as he helped the curator of Encounters install the 16 super-sized installations and sculptures. “It was simple,” he says, revealing that he has a virtual reality model of the fair to help make transcontinental decision-making with the Sydney-based curator a cinch. “We can swap works between floors if they don’t fit and even have walk-throughs,” he says with justifiable pride.