David LaChapelle recently made his Hong Kong debut, which coincided with ART HK 11. According to Art Radar Asia, here’s what the photographer had to say regarding the New York and Hong Kong art scenes:
Coming back from Asia, going to America, going to Europe, it feels almost sleepy when you get back. I don’t want to say ‘simple’, but there’s a certain enthusiasm [in Asia] that’s no longer in New York… I find that spirit more in Beijing and more in places like Hong Kong than you would in New York City, where it seems like a dullness of, ‘Oh, I’ve seen it all, done it all.’
OK, his words weren’t particularly incendiary. Although the title of the article, “Asian art scene buzzing while New York’s stagnates,” and the idea that the city that deems itself “the cultural capital of the world” is losing its energy, do stir up an interesting debate.
LaChapelle’s observations are consistent with my personal history and experience; my parents were born and raised in Hong Kong (Mom lived above a store, Dad in the now-demolished Shek Kip Mei housing projects), and when they immigrated to the States, they found the Western pace to be agonizingly slow. And that was decades ago; since their youth, their home city’s changed and grown exponentially, something I’ve seen each time I visit. This rapid growth is most evident in its cultural manifestation—we are witnessing a cultural shift. Chinese art is in increasingly high demand, while Chinese collectors are making more and more investments in art. Want to make it big in the art world? If you haven’t already, it’s time to turn your attention to the East.
And as for the West… New Yorkers, can you defend yourselves? Or are you nodding in agreement as you yawn your way down the streets of Chelsea? What about other art hubs like L.A., Berlin, and Venice, whose Bienniale just concluded? Regardless, we can view this as a call to the Western world to step its game up.