Everyone is feeling artsy this month – with Art Basel and Le French May, you can’t avoid it if you are around Central, Soho or Wanchai. But for those of you who prefer the traditional Asian art and antiques, we’ve got a piece of good news for you – Miss Yifawn Lee (publisher of Orientations Magazine) has founded the 1st edition of Asia Week Hong Kong this year and it’s on from now till 29th May, with a week long series of events, talks, tours and celebratory events, cumulating in a closing party at the Asia Society. (The events and exhibition programme is here).
: Yifawn’s Background :
Lee graduated in Economics and East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University and holds a MSc in Economic History from the London School of Economics and Political Science and an MA in East Asian Arts from Sotheby’s Institute of Art. She is one of the founders of Asia Week Hong Kong, with knowledge in Asian Art.
: Yifawn’s view on Asian Art in HK :
Fluorescent waterfall paintings by Hiroshi Senju in the exhibition Day Falls/Night Falls at Sundaram Tagore Gallery
What triggered your initial interest in Asian art?
When my sister and I were growing up, our parents often took us to museums, so that is when I developed an interest in art in general. At university in New York, I was fortunate to have access to several of the world’s best museums right in the city. One of my majors for my bachelor’s degree was East Asian Studies, which had a heavy focus on history. After working for a short period in finance in Hong Kong, I decided to go back to school to study for an MA in East Asian Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. This course encompassed my interests in both history and art. This is where I became familiar with Orientations magazine, where I am working now.
What was your objective in starting Asia Week Hong Kong?
New York and London have had very successful Asian art events for over a decade, called Asia Week New York and Asian Art in London, respectively. They have always been highlights of the annual calendar because they can present art for sale while offering an educational component. I have been attending both for a number of years and believe that Hong Kong should hold its own version, given the rising interest in Chinese art and also the market shift to Hong Kong from the West for this category of art. The response from local galleries has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Many of them have had the same idea to start this type of event, but it was easier for a third party like Orientations to unite everyone, in both the commercial and academic arenas. The magazine has been publishing scholarly articles on Asian art for 44 years and is well known in the field. For Asia Week Hong Kong, there are for-sale exhibitions presented in the participants’ own galleries but we also promote interest and further education by highlighting exhibitions in the museums around the city and offering lectures.
What are the major obstacles in between?
I think the number one obstacle is encouraging the local population to attend the lectures and educational programmes that we have arranged. One of the major reasons for organizing Asia Week Hong Kong is to help promote an interest in arts in the general population, especially among younger people. Luckily, we were able to obtain listings in several publications and media outlets, so we hope to see maximum attendance for all of the events.
The Western Hongs at Canton China, ca. 1840 at Wattis Fine Art
How do you see the Asian art scene in Hong Kong at the moment? Has it changed in the past decade?
Despite the Chinese works of art sales held by the major auction houses twice a year and annual fairs such as the International Antiques Fair in May and Fine Art Asia in October, it seems that contemporary art still gets far more headlines and stirs greater interest in people. Perhaps this is because contemporary art has a more glamorous image and is easier to relate to! In terms of changes, the options for both commercial and educational opportunities in contemporary art has exploded. There are numerous contemporary art fairs throughout the year across the price range from affordable to top-end and organizations such as Asia Art Archive and Para Site have done an amazing job in furthering intellectual inquiry and generating research activities.
Chinese Cat by Jiang Shuo at Plum Blossoms
What kind of changes would you wish to see in this scene for the coming ten years? How can they be achieved?
I hope to see the same enthusiasm that the younger generation have for contemporary art to be shown for antiquities. Many are put off from visiting antique galleries in Hong Kong as they feel like there is a high threshold of entry. Antiquities exhibitions such as the one on right now at the Chinese University titled, ‘Radiant Legacy: Ancient Chinese Gold from Mengdiexuan Collection’, do not draw a large number of visitors. Also, specialist interest groups such as the Oriental Ceramics Society in Hong Kong have few members under 30 years of age. I believe that events such as Asia Week Hong Kong will help promote interest in antiquities.
Are you organizing or planning any other projects at the moment?
Orientations is planning a series of art lectures with Asia Society Hong Kong. There will be four in total held over a period of a year. We have lots of ideas at the moment as we are able to draw on a wealth of material from the magazine’s history.
: Recommended Exhibits :
Yifawn recommends these two exhibitions during the Asia Week Hong Kong. Do check them out:
- ‘Like Snow, Like Silver: The Luminous Xing Wares’ at K.Y. Fine Art
- the 20th anniversary jade exhibition at Tang’s Hall of Precious