Art Basel Hong Kong opens today to VIPs and the press, and during our first look inside the fair, we dug into the highlights of the Encounters sector — which includes mammoth sculptures and installations — as well as performances across the fair. Get your cameras ready for the following standout works that everyone will be racing to post on their Instagram accounts.
Represented by Pearl Lam Galleries, Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso has always created work commenting on his identity as part of a remote culture in an increasingly globalising world. His latest work explores this in a new vein compared to his previous found-object collages: The piece for Art Basel features cut-out figures of 17 of Gyatso’s family members wearing different outfits and costumes appropriate for different settings such as work, holiday, and traditional festivals. Placed together with a cheesy backdrop, the sheer gaudiness of the installation as a whole makes for a pretty humorous spectacle.
Showing at: Encounters 09, 3/F
Shen Shaomin’s uber-realistic sculptures of naked humans (google “I want to know what infinity is”) are always a hot talking point at art fairs, and this year is no exception. For this edition, he brings together a conference of deceased Communist leaders to the Encounters section, where figureheads such as Fidel Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong are displayed on crystal coffins (Castro on his deathbed), as a way to explore the relevance of these leaders’ Communist ideals in today’s world. Pretty #morbid and frankly chilling to see it up close, but they are intriguing works nonetheless.
Showing at: Encounters 06, 1/F
Pose against this massive cherub, or a “putto” in Renaissance art lingo, seen hanging out at a long park bench that you can actually sit on. Going against the convention of depicting putti as sweet, winged baby boys, this giant cartoonish sculpture by Kiwi artist Michael Parekowhai is reduced to banality: presumed drunk, unconscious or dead. It’s also got censor pixels where his private parts are, you know, for effect.
Showing at: Encounters 03, 1/F
While the rest of the 16 Encounters installations will be placed prominently along four aisles throughout the fair, this installation and performance by Taiwanese artist Joyce Ho is hidden in a corner on the first floor, just behind the Conversations and Salon Auditorium, but is a definite highlight you need to make time for (if anything, to queue). Exploring the minutiae and little rituals that go unnoticed in everyday life: There are two performances that you can take part in, as well as a fun mirrored room, where you are made to pay closer attention to tiny insignificant details. The highlight here, “Three Minutes” allows the viewer to step into an enclosed box, where you will be served a beverage in exchange for your time, as the bartender serves you at a glacial pace. We’ve tried it, and it’s both an unsettling yet cool experience to feel each second drip by in such close quarters with a stranger.
Showing at: Encounters 17, 1/F
Perhaps one of the most well known Vietnamese artists, Dinh Q. Lê is a master of creating works that source images from popular culture and collective memories to challenge us to contemplate difficult truths. His work under the Encounters sector are scrolls that stretch from close to the ceiling with 150 inches of photo paper, and are seemingly vivid, abstract patterns that would entice any for a photo opportunity. However, they hide an invisible narrative, as the images are appropriated from the boat refugee crises in the Mediterranean Sea — begging a second and closer inspection at our own memories and personal stories.
Showing at: Encounters 05, 1/F