Alvin Li

  • diary December 05, 2019

    Love of Siam

    I LANDED IN BANGKOK in the midst of an identity crisis: Having lost my Chinese ID just before the Singapore Biennial, my original itinerary was out the window—I had planned to travel from Shanghai to Thailand via Singapore, but now I could no longer apply for a tourist visa to enter the Lion City at all. And so I vacationed through the more visa-lenient nations of Indonesia and the Philippines, finally touching down in Bangkok the night before the opening of the second “Spectrosynthesis”—a queer art exhibition series initiated by the Hong Kong–based Sunpride Foundation, this time hosted by the

  • diary November 18, 2019

    Happy Together

    THERE’S AN OLD CHINESE SAYING, “Food is the heaven of the people.” As it happens, one of the things I most look forward to during art week, anywhere in the world, is the immoderate free dinners. This time, the slew of feasts in Shanghai kicked off with a private dinner put on by Hyundai to celebrate their partnership with the Yuz Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This, I was told, would be the only meal all week to have both LACMA CEO and director Michael Govan and Yuz Museum founder Budi Tek in attendance.

    Monday, 7:30 PM sharp: I arrived at Bloom, a chic open-kitchen bistro known

  • diary January 22, 2019

    Smize Demise

    ONCE UPON A TIME, for most of the art cognoscenti, Hong Kong resembled a Wong Kar-wai film still. Then Art Basel happened. So it was all the more exciting to visit the city for a brand-new occasion: the inaugural edition of Booked, launched by Tai Kwun Contemporary. Since officially opening its doors to the public this past June, Tai Kwun, which is housed in the Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Arts—a major redevelopment project in the former Central Police Station backed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club—has welcomed more than a million people. According to the museum’s statistics, one-fifth

  • diary November 16, 2018

    Play Safe

    THE WARDROBE OF SMALL TALK must be continually refreshed; this year, during Shanghai’s unofficial art week, the once voguish ice-breaker of comparing Shanghai to Beijing proved suddenly démodé. China’s capital came up only once, during a dinner with artists Margaret Lee and Allison Katz: Margaret had just returned from a trip there, while Allison was anticipating her first visit. Symbolically, Beijing-based Philip Tinari didn’t come to Shanghai. Despite his sensible reasoning (“to attend the opening of the China show at SFMOMA and the David Diao catalogue launch in New York,” he told me two

  • picks November 14, 2018

    “Crush”

    Gathering works by seventeen artists and groups, “Crush” reckons with the social forces that keep us hooked on love’s ambivalence, and reconsiders the place of negative emotions often associated with love in contemporary life. In the paintings Rave On and Demonstration, both 2015, Sarah Lai pictures celebrity tattoos and retouched skin on skin-toned wallpapers made of blown-up Instagram screenshots and beauty tutorial stills to call attention to the plasticity of intimacy in our hyper-mediatized culture. Elsewhere, the exhibition relates pathologized passions to the persecution of disenfranchised