5 Rising Artists From Across Asia to Seek Out at Art Basel Hong Kong
You may not know these artists yet—but you should.
One of the most frequent complaints lodged at art fairs is their uniformity—from city to city, convention center to convention center, one sees work by the same artists over and over. You’re probably familiar with some of the MVPs: the mirrored disc by Anish Kapoor, the brash word canvas by Barbara Kruger (preferably one that makes an ironic statement about conspicuous consumption), and the hyper-realistic drawing by Robert Longo, to name a few.
But art fairs remain a draw because, if you look hard enough, most also offer some potential for discovery. And Art Basel Hong Kong, which opens to VIPs on Wednesday, allows visitors to encounter work by rising talents in Asia—and, this year, Southeast Asia in particular—who might be less familiar to Western audiences. Below, we flag a few names—all age 40 or under—worth seeking out at the fair.
Who: This 36-year-old is part of a generation of emerging Burmese artists who were children during the country’s 1988 uprising and whose work explores the country’s turbulent recent history.
Based in: Yangon, Myanmar
Notable Resume Lines: Moe was a finalist for the Hugo Boss Asia Art prize in 2015. His work has been included in group shows at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai and Para Site in Hong Kong. He also founded Beyond Pressure, a performance art festival in Myanmar that brings live art to the streets of Yangon.
See His Work At: Nova Contemporary (Bangkok)
What to Look Out For: Moe is known for performances and multimedia art that employ his own body, particularly his hands, to dramatic effect. At Art Basel Hong Kong, Nova Contemporary is presenting three works by the artist, including Dove With Revolution Hand (2018), a fiberglass and steel installation modeled after the cover of a 1988 edition of the underground local newspaper The Call, which depicted a dove with clenched fists as wings.
Prices: Moe’s works at the fair are priced between $9,000 and $25,000.
Fun Fact: Moe studied zoology before turning to art.
Up Next: The artist is currently at work on a solo show in National Museum in Yangon titled “Revisit: 1983–2005,” due to open in September 2019.
Who: You might recognize Namatjira’s satirical, confrontational portraiture of world leaders from Art Basel Miami Beach, where he was the subject of a solo booth at THIS IS NO FANTASY gallery. Namatjira, who is in his early 30s, was the first Aboriginal Australian artist to show at Art Basel Miami Beach and his gallery was the first from Australia to participate in the fair.
Based in: Indulkana, South Australia
Notable Resume Lines: His work is in the collections of the British Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Flinders University Art Museum, among others. He’s also been a finalist for the prestigious Archibald Portrait Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
See His Work At: THIS IS NO FANTASY (Fitzroy, Australia)
What to Look Out For: In Hong Kong, THIS IS NO FANTASY will present three works by Namatjira: a portrait of the artist in a pickup truck welcoming Putin and Trump to his hometown; a painting of the artist standing alongside Queen Elizabeth; and Namatjira’s rendition of the famous image of a shirtless Putin on horseback. “Given this and the international nature of the Art Basel fairs, we anticipate that Vincent’s work will attract a lot of attention in Hong Kong,” his dealers say.
Prices: The works at the fair range from $10,000 to $30,000. Two works from the same series sold at Art Basel Miami Beach for $14,000 each.
Fun Fact: Namatjira is the great-grandson of one of Australia’s most significant painters, Western Aranda watercolorist and painter Albert Namatjira—but only found out about his artistic family history later in life. Now, the elder Namatjira is a recurring figure in his paintings.
Up Next: The artist is hard at work on a major portrait for the next Archibald Portrait Prize and is also developing new work for an exhibition at THIS IS NO FANTASY in June.
Who: The 34-year-old artist is something of a magician, presiding over the transformation of simple materials into something captivating, even strange. She is best known for her Futurist-looking works on paper that are folded and layered thick with graphite.
Based in: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Notable Resume Lines: Sultana won the 2014 Samdani Art Award and has work in the collection of Tate in London. Her work is currently included in the ninth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane (through April 28).
See Her Work At: Experimenter (Kolkata)
What to Look Out For: At Art Basel Hong Kong, the gallery will present five of her graphite-on-folded-paper works—marked so thoroughly that they resemble sheets of metal—and a suite of 12 watercolor studies.
Fun Fact: Sultana is a member of the Dhaka-based artist-run nonprofit Britto Arts Trust, which participated in Bangladesh’s first-ever national pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011.
Up Next: She will be the subject of a solo presentation in the Statements section of Art Basel in June.
Who: Yang, who is in his late 30s, is one of a rising generation of Chinese artists who use cutting-edge tools in a quest to reinvent traditional Chinese ink painting. He is known for remixing masterpieces of Chinese art through photo collage, 4K video, and, most recently, VR.
Based in: New York and Shanghai
Notable Resume Lines: Yang was a finalist for the Prix Pictet, the prestigious photography award, in 2015. His work was included in the 2013 exhibition “Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
See His Work At: Sullivan+Strumpf (Sydney, Australia)
What To Look Out For: The gallery will present a range of work by Yang at Art Basel Hong Kong, including digital videos, lightboxes, and the main event: his new VR work Nine Dragons (2018). Inspired by Chen Rong’s hand scroll painting from 1244 in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Nine Dragons imagines one of the eponymous dragons comes to life and gets a peek into a future in which his habitat has been destroyed and he is no longer considered sacred.
Prices: Most of Yang’s works at the fair range from $10,000 to $62,000. The price of the VR work will be higher but has not yet been confirmed.
Fun Fact: Yang’s studio offers a concise snapshot of his forward- and backward-looking practice: computers on one side, calligraphy brushes, ink blocks, and pens on the other.
Up Next: Yang’s work is currently on view in yet another Met exhibition, “Streams and Mountains Without End: Landscape Traditions of China” through August 4.
Syagini Ratna Wulan
Who: The artist, who works in a wide range of media, creates art that lays bare her own personal history and needles contemporary consumerist culture. Notable works include The Ten Commandments (2001), a bar of soap on which she printed the Ten Commandments, and 100 Years of Tempest (2012), in which she invited viewers to open a dozen lockers filled with objects representing traumatic and important moments in her life.
Based in: Bandung, Indonesia
Notable Resume Lines: Her work is in the collection of the Singapore Art Museum, among others, and she participated in the prestigious Arts Initiative Tokyo residency program in 2011.
See Her Work At: ROH Projects (Jakarta, Indonesia)
What To Look Out For: At Art Basel Hong Kong, ROH Projects will present works from her ongoing series of abstract paintings on plexiglass that explore the fallibility of human perception. As the viewer looks closely at the works, the colors begin to disappear.
Prices: $15,000 to $25,000.
Fun Fact: In addition to her work as an artist, Ratna Wulan works as a furniture designer, an interior designer, and a fashion stylist for indie music groups in Bandung.
Up Next: Ratna Wulan will team up with Handiwirman Saputra to represent Indonesia at this year’s Venice Biennale. The duo is planning an installation that includes 400 lockers filled with objects referencing Indonesian culture as well as a ferris wheel and a smoking room.
Art Basel Hong Kong runs from Thursday, March 28 to Sunday, March 31, with a VIP preview on Wednesday, March 27, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
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