Fall Forward

Left: Art consultant Thomas Kellein, dealer Johnson Chang, and curator David Elliott. Right: Dealer Katie de Tilly and artist Frog King. (All photos: Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva)

“AREN’T YOU HOT IN THAT?” I asked Frog King, swathed in his usual animistic garb dangling with sculptures and talismans, as he stood in the courtyard at PMQ, the “creative industries” hub in a former government school and quarters for married police officers.

“It’s my summer outfit!” he rejoiced, upbeat as ever, as he strolled onstage to unveil a Le Mans race car that he had covered in graffiti. The ceremony honored the launch of Hong Kong Art Week—autumn edition. The artist had all the officials wear frog glasses as they shook rattles made of plastic bottles and buttons, summoning for someone to bring “the pink!”—which turned out to be a very long pink cloth that Frog King, aka artist Kwok Mang Ho, associates with harmony and happiness. After his blessings, we made the ten-minute hike down Wellington Street toward the Kee Club for more opening celebrations with Art Basel’s Adeline Ooi and Andrew Strachan and Momentum director Rachel Rits-Volloch, unsettling passersby with our rattling racket. “You need to grab people’s attention so that they ask: What’s going on?” said Magnus Renfrew. Our strategy certainly worked. Everyone looked confused.

Left: Dealers Lorraine Malingue and Edouard Malingue. Right: M+ executive director Suhanya Raffel and dealers Yas Mostashari Chang and Claudia Albertini.

The next day we toured the Pedder building, a heavy-duty haven for the bluest chips. Gagosian showed an effective, sexually evocative array of works by Anish Kapoor in marble, aluminum, and stainless steel. Pearl Lam had lovely paintings by Sam Francis. At Hanart—showing large shan shui by Xu Longsen—we ran into founder Johnson Chang, whose cross-cultural exchange program between India and China, “West Heavens,” is supporting several works in the Shanghai Biennale opening next week. Massimo De Carlo featured glittery pandas by Rob Pruitt; Simon Lee brought Angela Bulloch’s totem-like sculptures with trompe l’oeil cubes. More divertissements included David Salle’s Pop collages at Lehmann Maupin; Ryuji Tanaka’s nihonga-style paintings at Axel Vervoordt; and works by Hong Hao, Liu Jianhua, Song Dong, and Zhang Huan at Pace, crystalizing the spiritual into the tangible with spices, incense, and ceramics.

It was an exhausting afternoon of art-spelunking, and afterward we repaired to Duddell’s, where the smart boîte’s art manager Shormi Ahmed confided that some of its patrons had expressed discomfort with George Condo’s nude The Model on the wall. The painting is part of “Geomantic Intervention,” an eclectic selection of works from private collections curated by artist Adrian Wong and Feng Shui master Zoie Yung. “But it’s just George!” lamented a guest affectionately. After, we dropped by the luxury hotel Upper House, where some of the luminaries in town for “Art Is Everywhere,” a two-day symposium hosted by Asia Society, were finishing up the day with wine. Curator David Elliott spoke lightheartedly of art and revolution. “We are too old for revolutions,” joked Chang. The conversation moved to the importance of galleries in expanding art to new audiences, and everyone agreed.

Left: M+ curators Lesley Ma and Pauline J. Yao. Right: Duddell's head of arts Shormi Ahmed.

The ode to dealers was echoed during a conversation with Artforum’s Charles Guarino as part of the symposium’s Saturday morning session. “I once asked a very important collector if he ever purchased art that put him in financial jeopardy,” he told us. “‘Never!’ he said. But art dealers do it all the time. It’s real courage, in the name of art.” Later that day, in my continuing gallery pilgrimage, I dropped by the Wong Chuk Hang district, where Blindspot Gallery had a romantic and fashionable show by Trevor Yeung, filled with aquariums, plants, and pedestals with seashells in vitrines. Rossi & Rossi featured work by Tsherin Sherpa—a comic take on the Tibetan pantheon with paintings and tapestries. (Rugs were also at the heart of Aniwar Mamat’s show of geometric forms on felt in “Sunlight Reflects” at Pékin Fine Arts.)

That night, Katie de Tilly organized a soirée at her art-filled home in Sai Kung to welcome new M+ executive director Suhanya Raffel to town. Curators Alexie Glass-Kantor, Yan Tung, Cosmin Costinas, Inti Guerrero, and Doryun Chong mingled on the large terrace alongside Serpentine Galleries CEO Yana Peel, MMCA Seoul’s Jiyoon Lee, AAA’s Alexandra Seno, and collectors William and Lavina Lim. Artists Rik Wing Kei Yu and Mei Tung Chan couldn’t resist a little improv on the piano. After mouthwatering Sri Lankan paneer and tikka and just prior to a charming guitar set by de Tilly’s son Louis, Raffel worked the crowd up with a poolside speech. “The museum will happen,” she said, staking her claim, “for Asia—and for the world.” Encouraging words, but also reassuring was a conversation I recalled with Singapore-based curator Iola Lenzi: “Only the private sector is agreeable to show artists unfavored by the state and its institutions,” she claimed. “Especially in this part of the world.” The lesson of the week? The art world takes all kinds—and then some.

Left: Serpentine Galleries CEO Yana Peel, MMCA Seoul Jiyoon Lee, patron Marie-Soazic Geffroy, dealer Adriana Alvarez-Nichol. Right: Simon Lee's Ying Yue Li.

Left: Tang Contemporary Art's Shasha Tittmann. Right: Writer Vivienne Chow, Art Basel Asia director Adeline Ooi, and Spring Workshop curator Christina Li.

Left: Pearl Lam HK director Nick Buckley Wood. Right: OCAT Shenzhen artistic director Venus Lau and artists Sara Wong and Yuenjie Maru.

Left: Magnus Renfrew and Map Office artist Laurent Gutierrez. Right: Massimo De Carlo's Nydia Zhang.

Left: Collector and artist William Lim, dealers Adriana Alvarez-Nichol and Meg Maggio, and writer Frederik Balfour. Right: MILL6 senior curator Mizuki Takahashi and AAA public programs curator Ingrid Chu.

Left: Artist Manit Sriwanichpoom, filmmaker Ing Kanjanavanit, Tai Kwun director Euan Upston, and artist Sutee Kunavichayanont. Right: Georges de Tilly and curator Iola Lenzi.

Left: Asia Art Archive head of development Alexandra Seno and Hong Kong Land's David Martin. Right: Artists Rik Wing Kei Yu and Mei Tung Chan.

Left: Dealers Angela Li, Katie de Tilly, Henrietta Tsui-Leung, and curator Alexie Glass-Kantor. Right: Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences curator Yan Tung and dealer Victoria Scott.

Left: Esra A Aysun with artists Nuri Kuzucan and Chan Sai Lok. Right: MILL6 Foundation director Angelika Li and artist David Boyce.