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Date created
Wed, Jun 3, 2015
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Image European-Thousand-Hand-Classical-Sculpture

European Thousand-Hand Classical Sculpture, Xu Zhen, 2014

I thought it might be of interest to share some of my global art travel notes with you from the first quarter of this year. It has been a very fruitful and inspiring period with travels to Europe, Asia and the US. I went to Myanmar in January, where I found several young collectives that are vigorously promoting their own work. Still full with a traditional Burmese idiom and clear Western influences, there is an expression of spirit that is very appealing in contemporary Burmese art. I often find that an uncertain rawness is the source of creativity and growth. The New Zero Art Space in Yangon has an international board of advisors and the support of the Asia Cultural Council and the Prince Bernard Cultural Fund. Their website is hopelessly behind but still a good idea: My friend John Burt, cofounder of Cambodia Living Art, introduced me to the Pansodan Gallery Art Space, also in Yangon ( and on Facebook) which also promotes young artists through a small international network. It was fun to talk to Aung So Min, also about his passion for historical Burmese photography. In freezing cold New York in February I was very exited to discover Louise Nevelson’s early work at Pace Gallery West 25th st: exquisite mid-1950s collages prefiguring her better-known assemblages. The freedom and openness in these early works was breathtaking. Literally slowly rising out of the picture plane as she progressed from work to work, Nevelson developed an intensely expansive idiom, incorporating everything but the kitchen sink (at least I didn’t see any). Inspired by the Myanmar trip I visited the Rubin Museum of Art, housed in the former Barney’s building on West 17th street, which I helped to shape as a young designer with Peter Marino and later with Massimo and Lella Vignelli. Much remains as it was, most notably the grand stairway by elegant French designer Andrée Putman (1925-2013). Now the building houses the awe-inspiring Buddhist collection of Shelly and Donald Rubin, regarded as one of the most important collections of Himalayan and Indian art and probably the best documented.

Back in Europe, the studio of Belgian artist Pol Bury in Bléry, France was opened up by his lovely widow Velma. I have become fascinated by Bury’s ‘Plans Mobiles’, a series of manually operated stacked paintings he made in the mid-1950s before becoming enthralled by mechanical movement. These early works have a kinship with Jean Tinguely’s early Métamatic works and are as beautifully clear and pure in their creative approach. The Art Basel | Hong Kong previews were on March 13-14. This edition was a very well-stocked affair with Western artists presented to the East and visa versa. Sotheby’s had a great show of Dansaekhwa works, the now fashionable Korean school of artists of the 1970s and 1980s. AB | HK faces stiff competition from a new venue called Art Central Hong Kong, well located on the new landfill near the Convention Center. I found beautiful ink works by a number of established and emerging Chinese artists. But HK was a little overshadowed by my subsequent travels through Korea. Rarely have I been so inspired on so many fronts. More even than a clear dedication to contemporary art, Korea is dedicated to serving the most refined of all Asian cuisines, outdoing even Japanese. The choice of museums is vast, especially in Seoul. The Leeum Museum, with a masterplan and education centre by REM KOOLHAAS and wings by MARIO BOTTA and JEAN NOUVEL, is the kind of beautiful urban incision that only Koolhaas can manage. It offered a great show of Korean star artist Haegue Yang, an in-depth historical survey of Korean ceramics and a permanent display of the Daensekhwa key players including YUN HYONGKEUN, HA CHONGYUN and LEE UFAN ( Beijing brought more insight into Chinese abstraction in the 1980s as it developed under intense communist scrutiny. It is my immense fascination with this brief period that brings me back to the city again and again. (Apart from my fascination with the bold and daring Empress Dowager XiCi (1835-1908), China’s now reviled first carefully progressive leader). I also had a chance to see LIU WEI’s (刘韡) amazing exhibition at Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, and the studio of conceptual sculptor LIU CHUANG, whom will also show at UNLIMITED during art Basel this year. The last part of my Asian trip took me to Shanghai, not only because my nephew leads his own bold and daring life there as a young entrepreneur running a silent retreat in Guilin, Guangxi, China. check out LaoJia (老家), a Qing Dynasty House, but also to speak with Li Lei, abstract artist and executive director of the recently renamed China Art Museum. He has been a great source of information and a guide to further my fascinating quest into Chinese abstract art. Invited by Lorenz Helbling, founder of ShangART gallery, I concluded my travels with the opening of the great Chinese sculptor of cultural hybridity, XU ZHEN, at the Long Museum | West Bund. His sculpture European Thousand-Hand Classical Sculpture; 2014 speaks of a very clear interpretation of western and eastern art in the 21st century. More at the end of the next quarter …