HONG KONG — With Art Basel making its first physical return to Hong Kong after the pandemic, New World Development’s luxury lifestyle complex K11 Musea and K11 Art Foundation celebrated the opening of “City as Studio” Sunday.
Touted as China’s first major exhibition of graffiti and street art, the exhibition, curated by Jeffrey Deitch, famed collector and former director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, features 100 works by more than 30 leading artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura, Kenny Crash, Fab 5 Freddy, Os Gemeos, Keith Haring, Lady Pink, Kenny Scharf, Kaws and Lee Quiñones.
Deitch said the exhibition aims to provide “an immersive introduction to this vital movement which continues to resonate today.”
“The emergence of graffiti as an art form in the 1970s occurred at a time of economic and political challenges; the oil embargo of 1973, the stock market decline and the malaise over the Vietnam War were among the factors that signaled the end of the American Dream,” he explained. “The youth culture and the liberation movements of the late 1960s had taught us that anyone could be an artist. The unfulfilled promise of 1960s idealism clashing with the disappointing reality of America in the mid-1970s led to angry and anti-authoritarian art forms such as graffiti and punk rock.”
“Like other important artistic trends, the graffiti impulse could not be confined to one medium. The emergence of graffiti paralleled the genesis of hip-hop, its artistic vocabulary spilling over into breakdancing, street fashion and the language of rhythm in rap music. An artistic movement that was instigated by teenagers and is still being invigorated by them has now leapfrogged over the critical machinery of the art establishment to become one of the most popular manifestations of contemporary art. Images of street art, once slowly spread from artist to artist, are now instantly posted on social media to receive millions of hits,” Deitch added.
Adrian Cheng, founder of the K11 Art Foundation and chief executive officer and executive vice chairman of New World Development, the parent company of K11 and jeweler Chow Tai Fook, commented that “the cultural innovation embodied by works that defined a generation, street art’s global artistic influence and its ability to powerfully engage diverse audiences is reflective of our wider mission.”
A dinner was served following a private view of the exhibition. Guests enjoyed burrata tarts, dry-aged sirloin steaks and chocolate ice cream in front of the artwork. The night was followed by a larger reception, where Cheng took pictures with guests from all over the world.
As the host of the night, Cheng gave a speech welcoming guests who returned to Hong Kong for the first time since the pandemic for the art fair, especially Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar, who sat next to him at dinner.
“I’m seeing so many old friends and familiar faces who I have not seen for so many years. It’s a great big reunion and also a great catch-up. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank [Deitch], my longtime friend who is cohosting this dinner tonight. As all of you know, he is a man of many talents. A true Renaissance man. He’s someone who has such great passion, great energy, a sense of adventure, and also a lot of curiosity. Your long-term vision is wonderful. I thank you for this exhibition. It has been such a great journey and partnership,” Cheng said.
He then added that “as the chairman of the Hong Kong government’s Mega Arts and Cultural Events Committee, I would like to say that Hong Kong is finally back.”
Taking over the mic, Deitch said, “Adrian, you inspired me with your creative vision. What you created here at K11 Musea is amazing, the combination of business and art, and how they enhance each other to create this unique experience. You create a new model for the whole world. The K11 creative team is marvelous also. This is the best situation I’ve ever had at any museum or gallery.”
Key pieces in the exhibition, which runs until May 14, include Basquiat’s “Valentine,” on loan from the personal collection of American photographer, curator, art consultant and animal rights activist Paige Powell; a spray painting by Keith Haring spanning three meters; Futura’s “El Diablo,” part of KAWS’ personal collection; as well as JR’s work “Eye Contact #13,” which evokes old-school rail yards as model trains on tiny tracks move back and forth.
The exhibition also displays works such as Charlie Ahearn’s film “Juanito,” which captures the story of his twin, sculptor John Ahearn making casts of people in the Bronx, New York, and works by Aiko and Lady Pink, which explore how female artists contributed to a genre that’s been traditionally dominated by men.
To accompany the exhibition, K11 Art Foundation will present a range of events and activities, including talks, screenings, audio guides, tours, and an education corner featuring online learning resources and an interactive graffiti tagging activity. A special edition of TÖÖF cards, with fun art facts printed on the back, will be released for exhibition-goers.
The exhibition takes place on the sixth floor of K11 Musea at Victoria Dockside in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, with entry prices starting at 50 Hong Kong dollars.