An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...
Moving across installation, painting, drawing, and writing, Malaysia-born and London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh explores the political, social, and economic complexities of humanity, using a mosaic of information—from advertising slogans and pornographic imagery to newspaper articles—that she subjects to processes of layering,...
Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House in London (12 June–15 September 2019) surveys more than half a century of black creativity in Britain and beyond across the fields of art, film, photography, music, design, fashion, and literature.Curated by Zak Ové, works by approximately 100 intergenerational black...
The Busan Biennale Organizing Committee convened on 11 November 2015 after considering the candidacy of eight influential curators from across the world for the role of Artistic Director of the next Busan Biennale, starting in September 2016. The choice fell on fellow national Yun Cheagab, currently Director of How Art Museum in Wenzhou and Shanghai, China.
One of the most influential sculptors of his generation, Anish Kapoor is widely recognised for his monumental public works and installations that often incorporate reflective surfaces and curvature as well as unconventional sculptural mediums like water. A preoccupation with voids, the body and the relationship between man and his surrounding environment further characterise his works.
Emerging as a sculptor in the 1980s, Kapoor's use of pure pigment and traditional materials such as limestone and wood aligned him with a group of young artists—among them Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Antony Gormley and Shirazeh Houshiary—known as the New British Sculptors. Kapoor gained recognition for his biomorphic works, notably As if to celebrate, I discovered a mountain blooming with red flowers (1981). Created for the exhibition British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century. Part 2: Symbol and Imagination 1951–1980 (1981–2) at London's Whitechapel Gallery, the sculpture consists of three groups of geometric forms made from wood, cement and polystyrene, and covered in pure pigment that spills over the floor. Each shape references the human physique: the three-peaked mountain in red as the body; the pair of red ellipsoids as breasts; while the boat-like form, the only yellow object of the group, suggests movement. Kapoor derived the first part of the title, 'As if to celebrate', from a Haiku poem, and the rest came from a Hindu myth in which a goddess is born out of a mountain of male gods' bodies. Several of his early sculptures, seemingly rising out of the floor or wall and coated with saturated pigments, underscore his preoccupation with blood and female anatomy.
In the following decade, Kapoor's sculptures progressively grew as he began to explore the idea of the void by constructing forms that contain cavities or disappear into the floor or wall. In the sculpture Void Field (1989)—presented at the 44th Venice Biennale and for which he was awarded the Premio Duemila Prize—the top surfaces of sandstone blocks are pierced with a hole and filled with black pigment. Contrasting the mass of the blocks with the voids within them, Kapoor explored the tensions between presence and absence, being and non-being, and internal space and darkness. Kapoor later multiplied the scale of the void with Marsyas (2002)—commissioned for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern—by creating a hollow, trumpet-like structure out of red plastic membrane that extended over the monumental gallery space.
From the mid-1990s onwards, Kapoor increasingly used mirrored surfaces in his works, as in the three concave, stainless steel discs of Her Blood (1998), which are presented on the floor or on the wall and reflect their environment from different angles. A later work such as Blood Mirror (2000) similarly consists of a stainless disc, featuring red in its lacquered and highly polished surface. The simple concave shape in both works appears to be a void from a distance and becomes activated when the spectator steps closer to it, contorting reality to subvert his or her sense of perception.
Throughout Kapoor's works, there exists a sense of theatricality—one that requires audience participation to complete its experience. In conversation with Ocula Magazine in 2016, Kapoor said, 'There is something about the performative in a work, where the work almost switches itself on as you enter its space. I think it's terribly important because that's a conversation between a viewer and an object.' Enacting this performativity is his 'Non-Object' series of 'twisted' stainless steel sculptures that invite the spectator to walk around them and study the constantly morphing reflections. Similarly, Ishi's Light (2003)—an ovoid shell with a fibreglass exterior and a lacquered red interior—opens partially to allow the spectator into its space. The concave forms in both 'Non-Objects' and Ishi's Light seek to engage the participant's senses both optically by projecting distorted reflections and aurally by amplifying sound within their parameters.
Kapoor's public sculptures are celebrated for their monumental sizes and spectacular feats of design and engineering. In 2014, he created Descension, commissioned by the Public Art Fund for the Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York, an unconventional sculpture made of infinitely swirling water. Like many of his other works, Descension provides an aural experience as the water spiralled in and out of the ground. ArcelorMittal Orbit—completed in 2012 for London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park—has become one of London's most popular attractions for its view of the city from the 115-metre-tall tower made of red tubular steel. Cloud Gate (2004)—dedicated to Chicago's Millennium Park in 2006—exemplifies Kapoor's brand of spectacle through simple forms. The 110-ton stainless steel sculpture, nicknamed 'the Bean' for its resemblance to an upturned bean, enchants the public with its seamless surface that draws both the spectator and the environment in to become a part of its perpetually shifting reflections.
Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, Kapoor has been living and working in London since the early 1970s, where he studied at Hornsey College of Art (1973–77) and Chelsea College of Arts (1977–78). A Turner Prize winner (1991), Kapoor has recently exhibited at Lisson Gallery, London (2017); Kukje Gallery, Seoul (2016); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico City (2016); Château de Versailles (2015); Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2010); and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2008). Selected international group exhibitions include Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2014); 3rd Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2009); Gwangju Biennale (2004); Shanghai Biennale (2001); Biennale de Lyon (2000); and Venice Biennale (1993, 1990, 1982). In 2009 he was the first living artist to be given a solo exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Elected a Royal Academician in 1999, Kapoor was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2003 and knighted in 2013 for his services to visual arts.
In Kimsooja's videos, performative actions, sculptures, and installations, pieces of daily life become tools of investigation into the diverse yet shared experiences of humanity. Particularly known for her use of Korean bedcovers and fabrics to create bottari (Korean for bundles) and—both literally and metaphorically—the act of sewing, the artist explores ways of wrapping or stitching objects, spaces, and lives as a means of bringing disparate elements together.
After graduating with an MFA from Hongik University, Seoul, in 1984, Kimsooja received the French Government's Scholarship to study in the Lithography studio at the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris. Many of her works from this decade are two-dimensional geometric patchworks, made from sewing pieces of fabric and clothes together into various shapes such as a cross in The Earth and the Heaven (1984) or a stepped pyramid in Untitled (1987). Some, such as Le Bleu and Le Noir (both 1987), feature abstract drawings in ink and acrylic paint on the fabric. These sewn works were inspired by the fabrics and clothes that Kimsooja's grandmother had owned and the artist's interest in the association between needlework and female labour in Korean culture.
In the early 1990s, Kimsooja started incorporating the concept of bottari into her practice to create minimal sculptures. The Korean term Bottari refers to a bundle made by wrapping objects—usually one's possessions for the purpose of travel—with a piece of fabric fastened with a knot. Her 'Deductive Object' series (1990—1997) involves wrapping everyday items such as a Judo mask, farm tools, pitchforks, and clothing racks in brightly coloured Korean bedcovers and clothes to create bottari. While any kind of fabric can make bottari, the artist chooses second-hand clothes and found objects to reference the passage of time and the fact that the objects are not only ready-mades but have also been used. She began to gain international recognition during this time, with her residency at MoMA PS1 in New York in 1992 and by presenting her works in the group exhibitions In Their Own Images at MoMA PS1 and Trade Routes at the New Museum, New York, in the following year.
Returning to Korea in 1993, Kimsooja noticed the role of women in Korean culture more acutely and began to expand bottari as a metaphor for female activities, migration, and displacement. In Sewing into Walking (1994)—her first video performance work—the artist ties second-hand fabrics into bottari and slowly lays them on the grass. In 1995, when asked to participate in the first Gwangju Biennale, the artist re-enacted the performance in a forest. She dedicated the resulting installation of scattered clothes to the victims of the Gwangju Uprising that took place between 18 and 27 May 1980, in which a civilian pro-democracy movement in Gwangju was brutally repressed by the military, with the used fabric alluding to the presence of human bodies. The video component of her project Cities on the Move—2727 Kilometers Bottari Truck (1997) documents the artist's performance, showing her from the back seated atop a mound of bottari on a truck as it travels through Korean cities and towns. Made two years before Kimsooja left Korea again for New York, the work examines the complexities of one's changing cultural identity, while the bottari embodies the artist's psychological burden—in Korean, the phrase 'making a bundle' means, especially when in relation to women, to leave one's family or home behind.
One of her best-known works, A Needle Woman project (1999—2001) considers the artist's body as an allegorical needle weaving through the multifarious fabrics of life and culture in this world. First filmed in Tokyo, then in Shanghai, Mexico City, London, Delhi, New York, Cairo, and Lagos, the eight-channel video installation—each screen depicting one city in a loop of six minutes—all show the artist from behind, with her long hair drawn back in her signature ponytail, standing still as the busy residents of each city walk past her. Surrounded by people in constant motion, the artist could be in any modern-day city. While referencing the ideas of global citizenship and mass urbanisation, A Needle Woman also addresses the increasing difficulty to maintain a sense of the individual in such societies.
Starting in the late 1990s, Kimsooja began incorporating mirrors in her practice, followed later by light. One of her earliest installations to feature mirrors, Bottari Truck in Exile (1999) was presented in the International Art Exhibition of the 48th Venice Biennale and consists of a truck loaded with bottari. By reflecting the vehicle onto a wall-sized mirror, the artist created a symbolic exit into a new world—in this case, for the refugees of Kosovo to whom it was dedicated. In another instance, mirrors and light were combined in the site-specific installation To Breathe—A Mirror Woman (2006) at the Crystal Palace in Madrid. The floors of the palace were covered with mirrors, while translucent diffraction film was placed on the surrounding windows. As the film diffracted the interior with spectrums of the rainbow, the space infinitely expanded with the reflections in the mirrors. The installation was also accompanied by a soundtrack of her breathing; in an interview with Art21 in 2013, the artist said that she saw the work 'as a bottari of light and sound and reflection'—a bottari wrapping space with non-physical qualities.
Since her first solo exhibition at Gallery Hyundai, Seoul, in 1988, Kimsooja has presented her work in international galleries, museums, and art fairs, as well as public spaces. In 2019, she transformed the Yorkshire Sculpture Park's historical chapel with an iteration of 'To Breathe' as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International, while her needle-shaped steel sculpture A Needle Woman: Galaxy was a Memory, Earth is a Souvenir (2014) was exhibited in London's Regent's Park for Frieze Sculpture 2018. Following her previous four participations in the Venice Biennale (1999, 2001, 2005, 2007), she represented Korea at its 55th edition with To Breathe: Bottari.
Kimsooja lives and works in New York and Seoul.
Chiharu Shiota's installations make the ineffable space between feeling and language material. Motivated by the omnipotence of memory, a signature medium of the Japanese artist's multi-disciplinary practice is yarn. In a conversation with Ocula Magazine in 2016, Shiota said of her use of yarn, 'It is soft and I use it like a mirror of my feelings... Yarn has tension like a human relationship.' As such Shiota confronts her own experiences by cultivating special spaces with a physical and emotional passage in mind.
Shiota's early studies at Kyoto Seika University, Japan were accompanied by a semester exchange to the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University, Australia, where her aims shifted towards amalgamating painting, performance and the body. No longer satisfied with art for art's sake, the next step for Shiota after Kyoto was Germany and an intense period of study under artist Marina Abramović, known for her performance practice that tests physical and emotional thresholds. Shiota's time with Abramović seeded clarity in her practice in both concept and approach, now prioritising the relationship between memory and objects as well as the power of absence. Her newfound ethos was apparent in her performance, Try and Go Home (1997), where she dug a cavity in the earth and rolled naked into and out of the space. Here, her interest in displacement and the affectivity of positive and negative space was born. In her conversation with Ocula Magazine, Shiota said, 'I think art is primarily about the eye. It is important to see art, and then have feelings, and then see meaning. Not come up with the meaning first.' Now settled in Berlin, more recent installations by Shiota are characterised by a mixture of performance, sculpture and drawing in space with found objects mostly woven into yarn-webs. From a collection of mismatched shoes to suitcases, dresses, keys, pages from a book, bed frames and doors, the materials she introduces have lived elsewhere but are summoned as an artery for a personal and collective psychological experience.
When Shiota suspends mementos in tessellating string, the viewer is led to think about both containment and protection. The Key in the Hand, presented at the 2015 Venice Biennale in the Japan Pavilion, carried this sentiment. In The Key in the Hand, plumes of red yarn were dotted with keys. These inverted waves floated above a series of boats like hands. While line and materiality are obvious keynotes in her work, colour is critical. It's not difficult to imagine that Shiota's continued use of red is emblematic of a journey, the movement of blood through our veins or the 'fated path' red string represents in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures. Red couples positivity and pathos. For example, in a red yarn installation Dialogue From DNA (2004) we are attune to both loss and the inevitability of change.
Shiota exclusively selects red, black or white yarn for the pregnant and hollowed spaces she creates. The metaphor is not didactic, her audience is invited to associate meaning or feeling with colour. Black has historically accompanied works exploring illness and death, such as Conscious Sleep (2016), for the 20th Biennale of Sydney, whereas snow-like threads swathe boats with a hopeful energy in Where are we going? (2017) and Memory of the Ocean (2017), both displayed at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, Paris. Prior to working almost exclusively with red, Shiota's use of black yarn and symbolic objects pointed to the inexplicability of the universe and pain. Works such as Memory of Skin (2000) saw inordinately long dresses hung high and constantly dripping with water. These dresses were a metaphor for cyclical thoughts. Installations that incorporated empty beds, such as During Sleep (2000), heralded a similar feeling. In these symbolic objects, thoughtfully framed by colour, the viewer finds cues to birth, sickness and death.
Shiota's life experiences—of leaving her country and facing illness as a young woman—are woven into her practice, which, in its grace, welcomes others to co-exist.
In the 1980s, Huang Yong Ping was lauded as the resident provocateur of the Chinese art scene. Today, though based in Paris, he remains one of China's most well-recognised avantgarde artists. Characterised by his skepticism and persistent defiance of hegemony, Huang's monumental sculptures and installations investigate themes such as tradition, imperial history, ideology, religion, cultural conflict and ecology.
Huang was born in 1954—an era of political upheaval in China—in the southern coastal city of Xiamen, and studied at the Zheijiang Academy of Fine Arts (now the China Academy of Art) in Hangzhou. Graduating in 1982, Huang was amongst the first students to attend the school after the Cultural Revolution. However, Huang was uncomfortable with the traditional, canonical and painting-focused teachings of the academy, and looked elsewhere for artistic insight. He was particularly roused by three distinct schools of thought: Zen Buddhism, the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the avantgarde philosophies of artists such as Joseph Beuys, John Cage and Marcel Duchamp. The lattermost influence led to a distinct Dadaist turn in his early work; alongside Zha Lixiong, Liu Yiling, Jiao Yaoming and Lin Chun, Huang was co-founder of the postmodernist, avantgarde group Xiamen Dada (1983-9). With firm anti-institutional sentiments, the group is remembered for publicly burning their artworks. Asserting that the process of creating is more important than the finished product, the artists explained their actions with a manifesto that read: 'To an artist, works of art are just like opium ... without the annihilation of art works our lives will never be at peace.'
Another important example of Cage and Duchamp's influence on Huang is his early 'Roulette-Series' (1985-1988) which emphasised chance over subjectivity. One work from the series, titled Small Six Turntables (1988), is an assemblage of discs in a leather bag. The discs are inscribed with artistic qualities such as colour, composition and brushstrokes; when spun, their random alignment is meant to determine the outcome of a painting. The work's focus on fate is reminiscent of Huang's Spray Gun Painting from 1981, for which he painted with an industrial spray gun rather than a brush to relinquish control and embrace passive action. A decade later, Huang directly referenced Duchamp in his contribution to the 1997 Skultur.Projekte in Münster. Titled 100 Arms of Guan-yin and loosely based on a Buddhist figure associated with compassion, the large-scale sculpture is an enlarged metal version of Duchamp's 1914 readymade Bottle Rack, with mannequin arms holding various objects.
Beyond his indebtedness to art history, Huang also possesses a certain antipathy towards systems of knowledge. This attitude can be seen throughout many of his works, including one of his best-known: The History of Chinese Painting and the History of Modern Western Art Washed in the Washing Machine for Two Minutes (1987). As an attempt to erase the boundaries between tradition and modernity and East and West, Huang washed both books together and presented the damp contents as a pile of wet pulp on a wooden box. Similarly, for the performance A Book Washing Project, Huang washed all the books off his shelf in Xiamen and presented the resultant mush on the wall.
The distinction between East and West would become even more personal for Huang, when in 1989, at the age of 35, he travelled to Paris as one of three Chinese artists to participate in Magicians de la terre at the Centre Georges Pompidou. However, Huang's trip to Paris coincided with the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, and fearing the unsettled atmosphere, he decided not to return to China. Instead, he immigrated to France, where he has lived ever since. Indeed, in 1999, Huang represented France at the Venice Biennale with a collection of cast-aluminium animals on top of the pavilion's roof.
Often portrayed in violent situations, animals have played a large role in Huang's work. His Arche 2009 (2009) comprises a 50-foot paper boat full of burnt taxidermied animals—a not-so-subtle and rather macabre reference to Noah's ark and detrimental human impact on the environment; while the morbid Leviathanation (2011) consists of a giant fibreglass fish head, stuffed animals and a to-scale train. Critiquing British colonialism and made up of life-size replicas of an elephant and tiger, The Nightmare of King George V (2002) references a hunting expedition Britain's King George took to Nepal in 1911. The crouched position of the tiger on the elephant's back is said to mimic the pose King George assumed while shooting tigers on his trip—the feline replacing the King in Huang's work as if in the monarch's role-reversed dream. Also referencing hunting, his 2015 L'Arc de saint-Gilles features a deer split in half by an archer's bow. And as part of an ongoing series of serpent-themed works, in 2000, Huang installed a site-specific sculpture in Hand Münden, Germany. Titled Python, the work is a 40-metre snake skeleton which wove through a rural bridge. Similarly, Serpent d'ocean (2012) is an 130-metre, aluminium snake skeleton which was installed, half-submerged, off the shore of the Loire River outside of Nantes, France.
Huang is no stranger to controversy: he was met with backlash for his Bat Project (2001-5), which included a replica of the US spy plane which in 2001 collided with a Chinese aircraft and was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan Island. Feeling the incident too sensitive, French, American and Chinese officials had the work removed from two separate exhibitions. In 2017, in response to calls from activists, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum removed Huang's Theater of the World (1993) from the exhibition Art and China After 1989: Theatre of the World, a wooden terrarium-like installation which includes hundreds of live insects and reptiles. In response to the incident, in conversation with Ocula in 2018, Huang stated: 'I am...against the idea of provocation for its own sake. This has to do with the teleological aspect of a work, I advocate for an art form that is aimless.'
In 2005, Huang held his first retrospective at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, USA, titled House of Oracles. The show later travelled to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (2006), the Vancouver Art Gallery (2007) and Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing (2008). Huang has also held solo shows at the Grand Palais, Paris (2016); Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing (2015); MAXXI, Rome (2014); Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon (2013); and Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2009).
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