Ysabelle Cheung

  • Visitors at the M+ museum in Hong Kong look at new commissioned artworks by Tong Yang-Tze. Photo: Lok Cheng.
    slant November 22, 2021

    Safe Harbor

    AT A SPECIAL PREVIEW EVENING FOR M+, local artists and patrons—and some internationals who had abided Hong Kong’s rigorous quarantine measures—cautiously entered the Brutalist-style building, at 700,000 square feet one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world.

    The museum has weathered criticism from its inception, dating back to a 1998 proposal for a cultural district complete with sites dedicated to visual and performing arts. In the 2000s, Hong Kong was unfairly stuck with the label of “cultural desert” despite the presence of a robust modern art scene there since the 1960s, and

  • Walid Raad, Untitled #79 (detail), 2020, mixed media, 47 1⁄4 × 98 1⁄2 × 70 7⁄8".

    “Portals, Stories, and Other Journeys”

    In 2014, Asia Art Archive became custodian of a studio filled with six hundred dust-choked boxes of photographs, catalogues, collages, and books. Belonging to the late Hong Kong–based artist Ha Bik Chuen, these materials documented thousands of the city’s exhibitions from the 1960s through his death in 2009. Ha accumulated them unselectively, obsessively: The boxes contain photographs of artist friends; leaflets from early shows featuring the avant-garde Circle Art Group; and printed ephemera from ad hoc art spaces, including a cathedral hall, that preceded the boom of commercial galleries. The

  • Hu Rui, Soon It Will Be Deep Enough, 2019, single-channel HD video, color, sound, 4 minutes 44 seconds, site-specific installation.
    picks June 16, 2021

    “Only a Joke Can Save Us”

    Fruit flies are preying on the flaccid corpses of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Margaret Thatcher, and Chris Patten. During my visit to this group show in the melting June heatwave, the dolls—papier-mâché and cloth creations that Bo Choy has titled Sad Leaders, 2019—were sweaty and morose, slumped over a table of empty liquor bottles as if hungover from their own territorial nostalgia of Hong Kong.

    This satirical scene poses a mordant question: How much of our laughter is a scream for help? Through the works of nine artists, curators Eunice Tsang and Tiffany Leung find the desperate comedy of broken

  • View of Siu Wai Hang’s Hot Shots, 2021.
    picks May 09, 2021

    “Can’t touch this!”

    At the entrance to “Can’t touch this!” is a book illustrating stories of “faces under masks.” Ostensibly a chronicle of the pandemic year, another unspoken memory lingered between its pages: that of Hong Kong’s recent political history, which includes mass protests, arrests, and a globally contended national security law. Against this amnestic backdrop, the exhibition, curated by Hong Kong–based artist Angela Su, covered a range of fractured responses. Siu Wai Hang’s Hot Shots, all works 2021, situated near the book—made by journalist Chloe Lai and photographer Tse Pak Chai—stokes paranoia

  • Akira Takayama, McDonald’s Radio University (Hong Kong edition), 2020, mixed media, dimensions variable.
    picks June 05, 2020

    “They Do Not Understand Each Other”

    Emptiness performs unto itself. For One-Minute Events (Humming), 2020, artist Kohei Sekigawa was supposed to hum for a full minute between 3:00 PM and 3:01 PM every day for the duration of this group exhibition. Unable to travel to the gallery, Sekigawa instead fulfills this daily activity alone in his Tokyo apartment, sans Zoom or any other livestreaming device—thus boosting the themes of spontaneity and futility in his performance.

    “They Do Not Understand Each Other,” originally conceptualized around geopolitical exchange, features work by nineteen primarily Southeast Asian artists drawn from

  • Zhang Hongtu, Guo Xi–Van Gogh, 1998, oil on canvas, 96 x 68".
    picks November 20, 2015

    Zhang Hongtu

    Zhang Hongtu’s survey at the Queens Museum reveals a conflicted portrait of a Chinese-American personality, one that has personally rejected Mao but revels artistically in the Chairman’s influence and memory. Across multiple rooms, an abundance of Maos—cross-eyed Mao, smiling Mao, frowning Mao—is juxtaposed with Zhang’s hybridizations of Eastern and Western imagery and aesthetic movements.

    The collection presents Zhang’s work from the 1950s through today, and his range—materially and conceptually—is impressive. Guo Xi–Van Gogh, 1998, depicts the mountainous ranges of Guo Xi’s shan shui scrolls

  • Yao Jui-Chung, Wan Wansui (Long Long Live), 2011-12, HD video, color, sound, 7 minutes 20 seconds.
    picks April 15, 2015

    “South by Southeast”

    The group show “South by Southeast” is overwhelming—not just for its array of works from Serbia to Romania and Sri Lanka to Hong Kong but also for the intriguing multicultural dialogue on “southeasternness” that arises from pieces by twenty-nine artists. Curated by Patrick D. Flores and Anca Verona Mihulet, the exhibition seamlessly addresses sociopolitical issues past, present, and future.

    Of the four videos displayed in black-box rooms, Taiwanese artist Yao Jui-Chung’s Wan Wansui (Long Long Live), 2012, and Thai artist Jakrawal Nilthamrong’s Hangman, 2011-12, are both haunting for their allusions

  • Wang Wei, Two Rooms, 2015, paint, wood, aluminum, bananas, dimensions variable.
    picks April 02, 2015

    Wang Wei

    “How often does one have to change the bananas?” It might not be the most academic of questions, but its relevance lies at the heart of Wang Wei’s latest exhibition. Titled Two Rooms (all works 2015), the installation is a simulation of the scenery in animal enclosures, specifically at the Beijing Zoo, which the artist visited in 2007 and where he became fixated on the cages’ garish decorations.

    Two large murals in the second room split the L-shaped gallery space into distinct sections: The first is a crisp, apple-green spring landscape doused in midmorning light, while the second is a luminous

  • View of “Ren Ri,” 2015. From left: Yuansu Series II #6-47; #6-16; #6-15; 6-22, all 2013–15.
    picks March 19, 2015

    Ren Ri

    Walking into the new Pearl Lam Galleries SOHO space, it’s unclear whether Beijing-based artist Ren Ri is simply an eccentric beekeeper or an artist with an inclination for ethological cultivation. The artist, who claims to spend most of his waking hours with bees, blurs that distinction to play with the genesis of order and chaos. Shown for the first time in Hong Kong, “Yuansu I: The Origin of Geometry,” 2007–2011, and “Yuansu II,” 2013–15, christen this pristine gallery space.

    On the second floor, juxtaposed with peeling tong lau walk-up buildings seen through the windows, are topographical maps

  • MAP Office, Moving Sideways, 2010–14, HD video, photographs, wood, 94 x 47”.
    picks December 27, 2014

    “Hong Kong Bestiary”

    As a selfish species, humans use animals either as figures of idolatry or as didactic placeholders in morality tales by anthropomorphizing them for our whims and purposes. In this exhibition of ten Hong Kong–based artists, a relationship of animal species as dominated by human need is questioned through the show’s examination of a multitude of stories, theories, and texts, ranging from Plutarch’s ethical diatribe against eating animal flesh to Chuang Tzu’s theory of animals being beyond consciousness and thus spiritually superior.

    An exegesis of such texts manifests loosely in works such as Cedric