Inez Suen: Look East, Look West
“From someone who frequents art fairs all over the world, I see the same well-funded galleries presenting the same well-known artists… What I do find interesting is the environment and energy that is created when a major art fair comes to town,” explains Inez Suen, art consultant and advisor. Based in Chicago with a pied-à-terre in New York, she is bi-coastal and trans-continental, and travels regularly between Miami, Santa Fe and Los Angeles, and Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore. As the ripples surrounding Art Basel Hong Kong dissipate and the world turns toward Art Basel, Switzerland, a conversation with Suen takes a look at her finds in the Far East.
In 2011, Suen curated Access to China at a pop-up gallery in the Design District – a space that has since undergone construction. Additional noteworthy Miami initiatives have included Yii: Cutting Edge Crafts and Design from Taiwan in the District’s Buena Vista Building; and most recently, Shen Chao-Ling: STAGE at Dina Mitrani Gallery. However this sharp curator is the first to point out just how personal, regional and underestimated the Asian market is in America.
“Just like how in the US, we are not all running out to buy Eastern art, Asians are also not running out to buy Western art. I think this is mainly due to the lack of awareness and understanding of each other's culture. I believe through time and cultural exchange, we can create a global understanding of art as not something that needs to be separated by boundaries and borders, but as an expression of individual and personal spirit.”
Suen describes how, unlike Miami or the constellation of pop-ups around Armory Show or Frieze New York, ABHK is an opportunity to focus on the main dish. But with international galleries, curators and collectors flocking to the city, it’s only fitting that Sin Sin Man of Sin Sin Fine Art - a Hong Kong icon, artist, curator, designer and art entrepreneur – seize the moment with an annual, cutting-edge and uncompromisingly elaborate art installation.
Themed Exposure, Sin Sin transformed her three spaces at the top of Sai Street to present new works by Indonesian artists, Dwi Setianto, Eddi Prabandono, Lie Fhung and S. Teddy Darmawan. “These artists openly expose their (and our) modern social condition through their individual expressions,” said Suen. Equally as interesting is Sin Sin's attention to detail and her serious, albeit whimsical, approach to curation.
The telltale sign of a true hunter, Suen continued her journey post-ABHK - which typically incapacitates the most worthy of us - on a Beijing art studio tour with gallery owner, Jazz Chong of Ode to Art Gallery, Singapore. Of the untold artists visited, Li Hongbo is among the standouts.
Surely many member will remember Hongbo’s illusory marble busts from Art Miami 2013: accordion-like paper sculptures that magically folded in and out to reveal the structural illusion of its material. In a new body of work, the artist uses this application to create logs and blocks of wood. Now on view at Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore in Once Upon a Time in Asia: The Story Tree, peeling back the layers to Hongbo’s latest concept is just so meta. I find the association of paper and wood much more in sync and contemplative. This series address the direct relationship between wood (paper's material of origin), paper (the final product), and how one and the other are the same yet vastly different.”
Perhaps that’s the key takeaway here: how contemporaneously similar and disparate the art market, like most things, is across the world.
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