“All works of art are toys, and all toys are works of art” according to Michael Lau. Having been dubbed the “Godfather of Toy Figures”, the Hong Kong-based artist is widely recognised as the pioneer of the urban vinyl-toy movement, and his work has had an impact on the culture of hip-hop and skateboarding. Aside from designing vinyl toys that are obsessively collected around the world, Lau creates paintings and sculptures, many of which have been sold by the likes of Christie’s in recent years.
As a leader in his creative field, it’s no surprise that Lau was selected by Audemars Piguet to be a face of the collection at a recent launch event in Taipei for the new CODE 11.59 collection. (CODE is an acronym for the four values the collection represents: Challenge, Own, Dare, Evolve.) Just a few hours before the event, we sat down with the artist to talk about collectibles, watches, Hong Kong as a creative centre and more.
I used to collect vintage G.I. Joe figures, maybe like 20 years ago. Now, I’m not that into toy collecting anymore. These days, I’m more into collecting vintage furniture, especially the modern Danish style, as well as old watches.
I have always liked looking at watches, but honestly I’m not the type of person who is really into the technical part of watches. Whenever I look at watches, I’m looking at the aesthetic and the design.
I prefer more a classic shape — round — and a simple design. I like iconic and classic models.
First of all, I like the name of the collection very much because 11.59 somehow reminds me, as an artist with a creative mind, that the greatest ideas always come at 11.59, right before the deadline, just before midnight. Nighttime is always the time that I am doing sculpture, painting and design. It’s the time when my creative mind is at the best capacity.
Secondly, I like the name of CODE 11.59 as each letter represents a different value. I can really relate to the ‘Own’ and ‘Evolve’ values. Evolve because in my creative journey, I always try to break through what I have done in the past — I always want to create something new. The Own value, which talks about AP being a family-owned maison. I can relate because I am always a one-man band in my creative journey. Also, I admire the more human touch of being a family-owned business.
Lastly, I like the design of the watches. AP boldly embedded an octagonal middle case within a round case. That’s really cool because they wanted to do something new but they kept something from the DNA.
There are many artists that I like, but I quite like the work of Tim Burton because he is a master of creating new characters. I also like his quirky style, something not too normal and not cute. He gives life to different objects.
Hong Kong, my hometown. Hong Kong is a very free city and also it’s a place where you get everything — East, West — and there aren’t a lot of boundaries. Hong Kong enabled me to become the kind of artist I am today.
I can’t really give a definitive answer. It depends whether you are able to grasp what is needed to become creative in whatever you do, but the atmosphere definitely is quite positive. For example, we have Art Basel and we have a lot of international galleries and also the right crowd coming in, who have that kind of mindset to affect people in Hong Kong.
Another beauty of Hong Kong is although it’s a small city, it has a position on the global map, where people will take notice of what you do and other things coming out of Hong Kong. We have this natural advantage for creatives.
Because we live in this social media era, we’re living in a flat world. We’re not so defined by geographical location nowadays, compared to 20 years ago.