Thursday, June 9, 2011

Discussion: Shit just got real

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.


  1. More like Venice Banal-e. Seriously, though . . . even if Hong Kong or Beijing are very exciting (and I admit they are), I'm not sure what that means exactly. Miami and Venice are very exciting once a year, or every two years, but it's just because thats where the international scene alights along its seasonal global migration. I tend to see it as all of a piece -- but no doubt China is getting a better seat at the table these days. And it's partially deserved -- I love the work of Song Dong and Zhang Huan. It also has its fair share of market inflation -- I can't stand Wang Guangyi or Fang Lijun's work.

  2. Ha. Not but yeah, although I haven't lived in places like Miami for prolonged periods of time and thus can't judge from personal experience, it does seem like the global art world descends upon those cities intermittently, as opposed to those cities themselves producing a steady stream of relevant art throughout the year. And Zhuang Huan is great.

  3. The market is healthy in China because the economy is good there and the rapidly growing number of Asian collectors have a great selection of contemporary art from many sources. In brief, China's respect for and support of the arts eclipses ours! You might find my new book, At Work: Twenty-five Contemporary Chinese Artists of interest as it addresses this subject and profiles 25 of the top contemporary Chinese artists working today.

  4. Thanks, Jon. What were your criteria for choosing the top 25 contemporary Chinese artists?

  5. Hi,
    i read observation and i agree in part with Lachapelle. I think it's easy to say that new places and market are the new scene of entthsiasm.. in my opinion, this is the feeling you got when you reach new locations, richs of people full of will to do, do create, innovate and learn in art. When Lachapelle went in Rome to show his first movie "RIZE", about Krump in South Central LA, he didnt receipt what he expected from people. In China there is a new trend that i appreciate, i adore works of Hong Dao, Shen Jingdong and also Zhang Guanghai.

  6. Yes, China's is a new economy, filled with new money (its emerging class of collectors), pouring this money into art that feels new.

    I haven't seen RIZE but I heard about it from someone I know in New York, and he was devastatingly bored by it.


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