As summer sets in, our days, wardrobes, and calendars are no doubt filled with plenty more colour and activity. And so can your walls: Take an afternoon stroll at these Hong Kong galleries, many bringing solo presentations of artists to the city for the first time. There’s also a focus on the energy and locality of cities around the globe: from acclaimed British-American filmmaker/painter Sarah Morris’ investigations of cityscapes, to Lu Xinjian’s dynamic abstract paintings of mega cities, inspired by the work of Mondrian. Here are our picks for the 10 must-see exhibitions in Hong Kong this June.
Catherine Opie: So Long As They Are Wild
17 May to 7 July
We’re taken deep into Yosemite National Park with L.A.-based Catherine Opie’s first solo show in Hong Kong. Shot in the midst of the Californian wilderness, Opie references the world of iconic photographer Ansel Adams, considered an authority on depicting wild spaces, but pushes previous boundaries with innovative compositions and iterations: blurring, cropping, and angling landscapes beyond the standard format of the landscape genre. Accompanying her photographs are also new ceramic sculptures of tree stumps.
Li Hongbo: I & Thou
18 May to 23 June
Chinese artist Li Hongbo’s exhibition I & Thou is a continuation of his 2015 solo show Shadow of Knives, wherein his piece “Desire” won the 2017 Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Continuing the use of kitchen knives as a medium for sculpture, Li investigates how different life forms have different perceptions and methods of spatial awareness, as well as the reciprocal observation between humans and other species in achieving a sense of universal harmony and acceptance.
Awol Erizku: Slow Burn
18 May to 7 July
Most Hongkongers are suckers for the romantic, beguiling glow of neon signage. So was American artist Awol Erizku: drawn to the craft of neon as well as its historical significance in Hong Kong, he has created seven new pieces for Slow Burn, accompanied by a ‘conceptual mix-tape.’ From his first senior thesis featuring a large-scale neon rendition of then-President Barack Obama’s Twitter handle, Erizku’s art remains politically charged, addressing issues of race, identity and cultural history as well as referencing urban culture. This show follows his hugely successful 2017 exhibition Make America Great Again held at Ben Brown Fine Arts London.
Lu Xinjian: Boogie Woogie
19 May to 7 July
Drawing the title of the exhibition from Piet Mondrian’s penultimate piece “Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942–42),” which captured the energy of mid-century New York City through simple lines, colours and shapes, Lu Xinjian also re-imagines different locales with his signature use of lines and colour blocks. Using Google Earth to obtain satellite images, Lu then abstracts the images into animated, maze-like landscapes for his series City DNA. In City Stream, the point of view is now shifted perpendicular to the skylines that make up iconic mega cities; and in Reflection, the pieces put the spotlight on recognisable buildings within cityscapes, such as Hong Kong’s Bank of China, the water towns on Jiangnan, and the Sydney Opera House -- depicting them symmetrically as if reflected by a body of water.
The Fiery Palette of Lee Shi-Chi
23 May to 14 June
Inaugurating its Hollywood Road gallery space, i Fine Art (the ‘i’ stands for illuminati, we kid you not) is presenting the works of illustrious and influential Taiwanese painter Lee Shi-chi with a collection of lacquer paintings, works on paper and silkscreen prints. The exhibition’s Inktalk section will also be dedicated to Lee’s rarely exhibited ink art pieces, which have been pre-treated to achieve the texture of aged wood or fabric. On Sundays and public holidays the gallery is open by appointment only.
Richard Serra and Suzan Frecon
23 May to 30 June
Following two shows of figurative painting and photography, two new concurrent solo shows at David Zwirner turn the spotlight to abstract works, featuring the Asia debut of Suzan Frecon and the first solo presentation of works by Richard Serra. Immersing the viewer in colour, Frecon’s new abstract oil paintings are intricately devised grounds for experimentation in paint: in matte and sheen surfaces and calculated composition. Although Serra is known best for his large-scale, site-specific sculptures, this exhibition revisits the artist’s long-standing work in drawing, an abstract material process created with black paintstick spread onto a table, intuitively pressing paper over the pigment using a steel weight, and lifting only when he is satisfied.
Ni Youyu: So Near Yet So Far
24 May to 14 July
Showcasing 12 diverse pieces in his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong, Ni Youyu is preoccupied with contending with traditional modes of Chinese painting -- his focus during his studies at the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University -- with a modern eye. He is interested in painting the universality in everything he sees: from mathematical order and geometry, to the interplay between antiquity and modernity, to adopting styles between the east and west.
Wander in Style Pop-up
24 May to 31 July
Leo Gallery hosts this pop-up exhibition at Little Tai Hang Hotel’s The Hang Space, focused on presenting experiential environments created by two young artists, Cheuk Wing-nam and Han Jinpeng. Cheuk’s installation manipulates sound and light to create an immersive wonderland using glass bottles, glowing yellow and ringing with bells in turn. Han, on the other hand, brings a humorous edge by parodying icons from classic art history in his video work.
Florentijn Hofman: Play Around the World
25 May to 1 July
Florentijn Hofman dazzled Hong Kong when his leviathan rubber duck sculpture came to Victoria Harbour in 291, and the Dutch artist returns this summer for his first solo presentation in an Asian gallery space. You’ll find re-scaled ceramic sculptures from his popular public installations, line drawings, as well as a new series of works inspired by minimalistic lines.
Sarah Morris: Your Words Become Mine
25 May to 7 July
Showing at the White Cube in her Hong Kong debut, filmmaker and abstract artist Sarah Morris brings two new series of paintings and her feature length film Abu Dhabi (2016) to the city, coinciding with a large-scale survey show featuring 14 of her films at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing. Fixating on the patterns and pulses -- and the psychology -- derived from cityscapes, her work results from highly calculated barcoding and sound graphing to create highly vibrant, energetic pieces.