Asia Society Hong Kong Presents Transforming Minds: Buddhism in ArtThe Art Dossier on March 28, 2012 with 0 Comments
Laure Raibaut for The Art Dossier
The Asia Society Hong Kong (ASHK) center was unveiled last month, well before the long awaited M+ museum slated to open in 2017, marking a smart move in a crucial time in the non-profit organization’s development. Now that ART HK fair is part of Art Basel and the art market is expanding with galleries such as White Cube and David Zwirner opening additional branches, it is an exciting time for contemporary art in Hong Kong.
Established in 1990, Hong Kong was the first overseas’ office of the Asia society and delivered programs to the public since then. On February 9th, the center officially opened on the site of the former British Army explosives magazines, a Hong Kong government property, with transformations made possible by the Hong Kong Jockey Club funds. While the fate of landmarks such as Ho Tung gardens on the Peak is still uncertain, the compound is an amazing example of architectural and natural heritage conservation. In the spirit of the Asia Society’s mission, preserving cultural heritage while uncovering cutting edge art forms and addressing contemporary issues, the ASHK preserved the abandoned buildings, developed between the 1860s and 1940s, and the wildlife environment. The elbow-shaped Yasumoto bridge linking the newly constructed Pavilion to the Heritage compound was not simply diverted according to the Chinese belief that ghosts only travel in straight lines but to protect the roosting area of the resident fruit bats. Magazine A’s original features make it a perfect exhibition space, sheltered from humidity and light, as it was designed to store explosives. Local construction materials, such as granite from the Peak and China, blend into the natural surroundings visually and by origin. Architectural features are reminiscent of Asian traditions and the landscaping includes a Japanese garden. The site includes exhibition, performance and conference spaces. Like the Asia Society in New York, which was founded in 1956 by John D. Rockefeller 3rd, ASHK is a non-profit, non-governmental educational organization. It aims to impact the local community through inter-disciplinary programs and to explore the diversity and interconnectivity of cultural and current affairs topics between the East and the West and between past and present.
The inaugural exhibition and related programs illustrate perfectly the theme of transformation and the travelling of culture through space and time. The focus is religion, Buddhism, and its interpretation and translation in the arts, from its Indian origins through Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Korea and Japan and from the 6th century to today. Transforming Minds: Buddhism in Art showcases traditional works from the world-renowned Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection of Asian Art together with contemporary works by leading Asian and Asian American artists. The late Thai artist Montien BOONMA became a monk himself in a country that is probably the most devout Buddhist community today. One of his masterpieces, Lotus Sound, a concave wall made of 473 traditional terracotta bells partially blocking the way to the golden lotus expresses the essence of Buddhist Faith, the attainment of enlightenment. Japanese artist Mariko Mori has explored the sense of alienation resulting from the artificial urban environment and the root of such human disconnect from Nature. The work Kumano, named after the Shinto pilgrimage site, illustrates the distinctive syncretism of Buddhism with Shinto beliefs native to Japan. On the roof garden is the monumental copper and steel Long Island Buddha by Zhang Huan, while the first chamber features two sculptures made from the ashes of burnt offerings collected from a shrine near the artist’s studio in Shanghai. Michael JOO’s installation, commissioned for ASHK, includes a third-century original from the John D. Rockefeller 3rd collection, which is recorded live by a web of surveillance cameras. The exhibition will be on display from February 10 – July 22, 2012. Programs in March notably include the International Buddhist Film Festival (Mar 16 – May 12).
For details, visit asiasociety.org/hong-kong.
Watch: ‘Long Island Buddha’ in Hong Kong [Time-Lapse]