As we wind down towards the end of the year, December’s looking like a promising month for art lovers as some art world heavy hitters prepare to showcase exhibitions this month. No matter your tastes, you’re sure to find your calling, whether you’re into the likes of Damien Hirst (yes, his notorious spliced sharks are in the SAR); want to participate in humanitarian art events coinciding with Human Rights day on 10 December; or are keen to check out street artists such as Vhils opening his first gallery show. Read below for our top picks of must-see exhibitions in Hong Kong this December.
Damien Hirst: Visual Candy and Natural History
23 November 2017 to 13 January 2018
While Damien Hirst’s newest -- and arguably most ambitious and polarising -- works, ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ are currently on display in Venice, the Hong Kong Gagosian poses the rare opportunity to see some of the earliest works that hurtled the British artist towards stardom in the 90s. Titled ‘Visual Candy and Natural History,’ the exhibition will showcase a selection of exuberant paintings of welcoming saturated pastel blots that gave way to his later, more mechanical-handed dot paintings. In the centre of the space, you’ll find what one most commonly associates with Damien Hirst -- his formaldehyde works featuring preserved biological specimens.
1 December 2017 to 5 January 2018
International street artist Vhils, also known as Alexandre Farto, is perhaps best known for his truly humbling large scale murals that involve scraping, blasting and drilling away facades to reveal, typically, the faces and stories of people local to where his project takes place. This month, he presents his first ever gallery show since relocating to Hong Kong two years ago. The show exhibits his evolving body of work, from the portraits engraved on found vintage Chinese doors, to his postering installations using found posters around Hong Kong, and his most recent styrofoam works. All of his works whittle, peel and destroy layers in some way, only to reveal the nuances and histories in a certain culture, place or person.
Gladys Nistor: Weightless Matter
11 September 2017 to 6 January 2018
Head to Puerta Roja Gallery for this unconventional exhibition, which breaks away from traditional canvas and frame with a series of mind-boggling works: the idea of the show is as much about allowing viewers to expand their definitions of art, as much as it is about messing up individual perceptions. Like magic, Argentinian artist Gladys Nistor’s site specific works seem to peel off the page and even in real life, like 2D stickers floating in space. Tailored to the gallery space, it’s one further step in Puerta Roja Gallery’s fascination with Latin American and Spanish artists who defy traditional art-making.
Christian Marclay: SCREAMS
16 November 2017 to 13 January 2018
Crying, sweating, bewildered faces take over the White Cube gallery, each emitting silent wails that express “an existential trauma that is seen but not heard,” the gallery notes tells us. Fascinated with the idea of how an image can express sound visually, Christian Marclay’s latest work takes Edvard Much’s 'The Scream' and updates it for the 21st century, with a series of large, woodcut prints of screaming faces taken from Japanese manga books.
15 December to 17 December 2017
One of Hong Kong’s youngest and most promising art fairs returns for its third iteration this month. Held every December, Ink Asia brings countless talented names in contemporary ink art to Hong Kong, all of whom are bent on demonstrating that ink art is not just black ink on rice paper. With exhibitors from over 50 countries and cities around the globe, the spectrum of work is as diverse as ever. Don’t miss the excellent range of monumental pieces from Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as a solo exhibition for artist Xue Song, who will create site-specific ink art collages using materials such as burnt ash.
Wall Cycle: Artist Residency with Anne Leigniel
2 December to 16 December 2017
To celebrate the start of an artist's residency at Charbon Art Space, London-based French artist Anne Leigniel will be giving a short performance on 7 December at 8pm, together with dancer and singer Arumimi Hifumi and Hong Kong didgeridoo musician HakGwai. As for the duration of her residency, she'll be experimenting with paint on a 5-metre-long white wall; painting and repainting new layers every day to build a narrative of how the wall evolved throughout the two weeks. Head to Charbon to catch the ephemeral event, before the wall is painted over with white again back to its original state.
Inside Out Project Art Tram
1 December to 31 December 2017
Keep an eye out for a special tram this December running between Whitty Street and North Point: In an effort to raise awareness of human rights issues and encourage diversity in the city, Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation (HOCA)’s Inside Out Project will be layering and displaying portraits of refugees and asylum seekers onto a limited edition art tram. It’s all in the style of work by anonymous French street artist JR, who’s known for his large-format street pastings of black and white portraits. Since 2011 to date, the Inside Out Project has called on more than 260,000 people to participate in taking their own portraits and pasting them in cities around the globe to shed light on the rights they stand for.
Human Rights Arts Prize 2017
9 December to 16 December 2017
Considered one of the most prestigious arts awards in the region, the annual Justice Centre Human Rights Arts Prize plays an important role in discovering new talent, and is also a lens in which we can examine the state of human rights in Hong Kong as well as abroad. For the first year, the prize has been opened to all mediums, from film and video to sculpture, photography and visual art -- accumulating to a whopping 162 entries, which have been narrowed down to a shortlist of 25. The prize winner will be announced at the opening of the exhibition on 9 December, and will receive a cash prize of HK$35,000 and also an exclusive trophy created by artist Kacey Wong. The rest of the works will be on display and available for purchase via silent auction, with proceeds going to support the Justice Centre as well as to support the respective artists.
Hong Kong Stories 1960s: Original vintage prints by Yau Leung
28 November 2017 to 6 January 2018
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the late photographer Yau Leung’s untimely death at the age of 56, Blindspot Gallery will be putting on an exhibition featuring a trove of his vintage gelatin silver prints. A glamorous window into what Hong Kong was like in the 60s, the street photographer loved capturing the animated lives of working class Hong Kong. Each work is a valuable time capsule of the time we were an eastern city at the cusp of westernisation and modernisation, yet still retains a timeless aura. See it for yourself at Blindspot Gallery, where the exhibition is held concurrently with the Human Rights Arts Prize shortlist show.
Gimhongsok: Subsidiary Construction
17 November to 22 December 2017
How much more seasonally appropriate can you get than wrapped boxes as art? 11 of the latest sculptures by Korean artist gimhongsook are currently displayed at Perrotin Gallery, and at first glance they seem to be silver and cardboard giftboxes that are stacked in an impossible formation -- hinting at the appropriation of prominent works by American sculptor David Smith. Upon deeper inspection, you’ll realise they’re hyperrealistic resin sculptures made to look like cardboard or aluminium foil, and it’s then you begin to look deeper into the artist’s longtime focus on ‘subsidiary construction’ -- replacing central components of existing artworks with byproduct materials such as trash bags, cardboard and wrapping paper. Known for works that tread the line between appropriation and plagiarism, Gimhongsok’s way of revamping known works is a way of removing himself from hierarchy.