Your Guide to the Best Shows in Hong Kong

Ahead of Art Basel Hong Kong, our selection of must-see exhibitions

BY Amy Sherlock AND Ingrid Chu in Critic's Guides | 27 MAR 19

Silas Fong, Art Recycle Bin, 2019, mixed media. Courtesy: the artist and H Queen’s

‘Exit Strategies’
H Queen’s
1 March – 30 April

Curator David Chan eschews the standard gallery-going experience in his latest project, ‘Exit Strategies’, by situating installation, video, sculpture, photography and sound works in unusual public sites throughout the 17-storey high-rise H Queen’s, itself a culture hub. New and existing works by seven Hong Kong-based artists and collectives occupy a variety of obscure and functional locations within the building: Tsang Kin-Wah envelops the lobby with cascading wall texts about love and money masquerading as floral motif wallpaper (I LOVE YOU, 2004); Lee Kit’s colourful image projections enliven the walls and windows of the stairwells (Hope Less, 2019); Chloë Cheuk’s wall installation comprises coins garnered through interactions with the homeless community of Montreal (Homeless, 2015– 17); and Silas Fong’s Art Recycle Bin (2019) asks visitors to donate their used exhibition ephemera (maps, leaflets) to inject new life into these otherwise likely discarded items. Further site-sensitive works by MAP Office, Linda Lai & The Floating Projects Collective and Tamás Waliczky complete this highly considered and inventive exhibition.

Ingrid Pui Yee Chu

‘Contagious Cities: Far Away, Too Close’, 2019, installation view, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong. Courtesy: Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong

‘Contagious Cities: Far Away, Too Close’
Tai Kwun Contemporary
26 January – 21 April

Co-produced by Tai Kwun’s art and heritage teams and London’s Wellcome Trust, the group exhibition ‘Contagious Cities: Far Away, Too Close’ addresses the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Hong Kong. Through examining how artists respond to the psychological and emotional trauma of an epidemic – whether of SARS, AIDS or another disease – curator Ying Kwok explores the fear and anxiety such episodes exert on our collective unconscious. Resembling a medical ward, the presentation features new and existing works by ten emerging and established artists, including Blast Theory, Oscar Chan Yik Long, Eastman Cheng, Enoch Cheng, Cheuk Wing Nam, Gayle Chong Kwan, Chou Yu-cheng, Firenze Lai, Angela Su and Wang Sishun. Topic-related reference and archive materials are augmented by audio-led tours and live theatre performances that bear witness to the societal impact of SARS – from outbreak to survival and, ultimately, retrospective reflection.

Ingrid Pui Yee Chu

Isamu Noguchi, Leda, 1942, alabaster, 26 x 48 x 48 cm. Courtesy: © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York / ARS; photograph: Kevin Noble

‘Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint’
M+ Pavilion
16 November 2018 – 22 April 2019

In this exhibition at M+ Pavilion, curator Doryun Chong institutes a dialogue between the works of the late Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi and Vietnamese-Danish artist Danh Vo. Collaboration has been a feature of both artists’ practices in the past: Noguchi worked on set designs with choreographer Martha Graham and contributed to the architectural plans of his close friend Buckminster Fuller; Vo turned artist Martin Wong’s vast collection of objects and artefacts into the large-scale installation I M U U R 2 (2013). ‘Counterpoint’ echoes this collaborative sentiment: sculptural works by Vo, such as We The People (2011–16), resonate with those of Noguchi, including Ghost (1952) and his widely acclaimed series of ‘Akari Light Sculptures’ from the 1950s and ’60s. By siting works both indoors and out, Chong invokes Noguchi’s former studio in New York, which was turned into a permanent foundation and garden museum upon the artist’s death in 1988.

Ingrid Pui Yee Chu

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #579, 2016, dye sublimation metal print,1.5 x 1.2 m. Courtesy: © the artist, Sprüth Magers and Metro Pictures, New York

‘Eau de Cologne’
Sprüth Magers
27 March–12 April

Occupying a temporary space in a shopfront next to the entrance to H Queen’s, where blue chip heavyweights including David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth opened outposts last year, ‘Eau de Cologne’ brings together works by eight female artists – five of whom were included in Monika Sprüth’s original, ground-breaking all-woman exhibitions staged at her Cologne gallery between 1985–93. As well as providing an exhibition platform for these artists, at that time struggling for visibility in the male-dominated artworld, the ‘Eau de Cologne’ project took the form of a periodic journal. A series of archival cases containing materials from each of the issues – photographs, tables of contents, clippings – makes for fascinating reading.

Many of these women went on to become amongst the most internationally celebrated artists of today – alongside Kruger, there is work here by Jenny Holzer, Louise Lawler, Rosemarie Trockel and Cindy Sherman, who is represented in a trio of wonderfully simple early series of staged black and white photographs, collaged onto paper, made in the 1970s, as well as more recognizable recent works. However, as recent movements such as #metoo and #notsurprised have brought to light, the gender inequalities of the artworld are far from resolved, making this a timely intervention. Meanwhile, tucked around a corner at the back of the space, a shadow-puppet film by Kara Walker (a more recent addition to the gallery’s roster), is a reminder of other troubling histories – of slavery and exploitation – that continue to haunt the present.

Amy Sherlock

Yeh Shih-Chiang on board the China Merchant Shipping Company’s steamer Sea Owl, on his way to Taiwan, 1949, photograph. Courtesy: Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong

Yeh Shih-Chiang
Hanart TZ Gallery
22 March–4 May

Bringing together more than 30 oils on canvas by the late Taiwanese painter Yeh Shih-Chiang, the horizon line is a recurring motif across this beautifully paced presentation. Yeh, who passed away in 2012, was born in the Pearl River Delta in 1926; he ended up living most of his life in Taiwan almost incidentally, after a visit to the island in 1949 he became caught up with the retreat of Nationalist forces fleeing Communist cadres as the Chinese civil war came to an end. Influenced neither by Western modern models nor the nationalist Taiwanese aesthetic of the postwar era, Yeh rejected the art academy and market: the words ‘not for sale’ are famously written on the back of many of his canvases. He showed very little during his lifetime; in fact, the first substantial solo show of his work happened posthumously, at Hong Kong Arts Centre in 2005.

The works at Hanart TZ Gallery are simple yet enigmatic: soft-edged blocks of colour in a muted palette of pastels and blues. The figure of a bird – evoked minimally as a series of brushstrokes – hovers in many of the canvases. What lies beyond the horizon? Who knows? Home – wherever that may be – or further travels. Yeh lets the eye, like the imagination, wander.

Amy Sherlock

Tishan Hsu, Boating Scene RED, 2019, mixed media. Courtesy: the artist and Empty Gallery; photograph: Lance Brewer

Tishan Hsu and Cici Wu
Empty Gallery
26 March–25 May

Memory – its embodiment, erasure, recuperation and mutability – is the theme that unites two solo presentations by two artists of different generations at Empty Gallery, a cavernous black-box gallery on the south side of Hong Kong island. Hsu, who is Chinese-American, made a name for himself in the New York art scene of the 1980s with pre-digital, technologically inflected ‘sculptural paintings’, which collaged and fused organic and scientific imagery, before fading from view in the 1990s. ‘Delete’, his first solo exhibition in Asia, presents a new body of work drawn from a much more personal story – a family photo album that was altered during the Cultural Revolution to scrub images with any connections to bourgeois life. These images have been scanned, further distorted and digitally collaged into liquid-seeming compositions where washes of colour and form are overlaid. The works’ surfaces, however, remain startlingly flat: a trick of perception that, like the vagaries of memory, remind us that even intimate histories are subject to manipulation from within and without.

Born a generation later than Tsu, in 1989, in a post-reform and opening up Beijing, Wu’s historical gaze is shaped not by the Cultural Revolution so much as another landmark event, the 1997 handover of Hong Kong back to China by the British. The New York-based artist’s new film centres on Yu Man-hon, an autistic child who disappeared while crossing the border between Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Shenzhen, in the People’s Republic of China, in the year 2000. Beautifully shot on 16mm – in all its oneiric, nostalgic haze – The Unfinished Return of Yu Man-hon (2019) and its repeated motifs of motion and transit, evokes a moment, as relevant now as to ’97, of heading into a future that remains unknown.

Amy Sherlock

Main image: Tishan Hsu, QMH 1, 2019, mixed media. Courtesy: the artist and Empty Gallery, photograph: Lance Brewer

Amy Sherlock is a writer and editor based in London, UK.

Ingrid Pui Yee Chu is a Hong Kong-based curator, writer and, with Savannah Gorton, co-founder and director of the non-profit commissioning organization Forever & Today, Inc.