All posts filed under: Column

Art for the People

The value of art beyond the market What Hong Kong’s private sector should learn from their counterparts in Chengdu By Vivienne Chow In the countryside about an hour’s drive from the centre of Chengdu in southwest China lies a hidden gem. Behind the greenery lies a pathway around a still pond, which reflects an obscurely shaped building. It appears to be comprised of two blocks piled up, covered with chains of tiles draped on the facades, gently reflecting sunlight under the blue sky, and forming a tranquil picture of nature and modernity. This is Zhi Art Museum, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, one of the latest additions to China’s booming private museum scene. Zhi means “knowledge” in Putonghua, and reflects the institution’s ambition to become a cultural landmark in Sichuan province. The museum’s inaugural exhibition Open bringstogether nine international artists including Chico MacMurtrie, Mariko Mori, Carsten Nicolai and Zhang Peili, whose conceptual works challenge perceptions of contemporary life. The entire project is a statement on the value of art beyond the much-hyped art market. Cities around the world …

Art for the People

One percent or 99 percent? By Vivienne Chow That’s the dilemma for a lot of public cultural institutions when it comes to putting on a show. Artistic excellence does not necessarily translate to public appeal. If an exhibition is skewed towards the one percent of educated art aficionados, it can easily become irrelevant. But if it aims at a wider public, the populist approach could mean foresaking certain artistic qualities. Walking that fine line is no easy task, but some institutions achieve it. They are characterised by a welcoming atmosphere and put on shows that are playful and easy to understand but also stimulating; children and adults can enjoy the shows without the need of patronising guided tours. The exhibition Wonderland, which runs until April 15 at the Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art (MIMA) in Brussels, is a nice example. MIMA is a young institution located in the Molenbeek neighbourhood. Housed in a century-old brick house that was formerly a brewery for Belle-Vue Kriek beer, it is located right by the Brussels-Charleroi Canal that separates the centre …

Art for the People

What is the purpose of art in a world troubled by environment and political disasters?  By Vivienne Chow Why art? Try convincing people of the importance of art in their lives, and that’s the question you’ll often hear. To most people out there, art isn’t a daily life necessity. It might appear on their radar when it comes to decorating their home, as we see from the growing popularity of fairs selling “affordable” art. Art is seen as an investment tool when multi-million-dollar auction results make news headlines. And art has also grown to be a popular backdrop for selfies – just scroll down your social-media feeds. But art aims to serve much greater purposes. And in order to convert the masses into believing in art, we ought to tell them what art can do for them, just as some people believe in religion to save their vulnerable souls. Recently I returned from Hong Kong to Berlin, where I previously lived for three months in 2015, as a fellowship alumna for a study tour organised …

Art for the People

Building a future audience: why should people care about your art? By Vivienne Chow Most people hate the truth – and this is articularly true in the art world. At both the recent Museum Forum staged by the Maritime Museum and the annual Cultural Leadership Summit organised by the Hong Kong Arts Administrators Association, questions were raised regarding building a future audience. The government, the media and the education sector were all blamed for not providing an environment that allows more youngsters and other members of the public to experience arts and culture. The question that wasn’t raised was whether artists, exhibition organisers, curators and promoters bear responsibility for building and attracting an audience. It raises the further question of why people should care about art in the first place. This is an incredibly uncomfortable question to ask; it sounds like a blatant attack on the culture of artistic excellence art professionals strive to pursue. It suggests that the shows they present, be they visual or performing arts, are so irrelevant that only a small percentage of the population are interested in …