ART IN ASIA’S MEGACITIES: Next month Rockefeller Center shoppers will get a glimpse of an upturned swimming pool that will be installed by Berlin-based artists Elmgreen & Dragset. But browsers and spenders in Boston are already seeing signs of summer near the heavily trafficked Faneuil Hall thanks to Choi Jeong Hwa’s massive inflatable “Fruit Tree.” A similarly sized “Breathing Flower” by the South Korean artist is on the Museum of Fine Arts’ main lawn.
Choi’s work — as well as those of 10 other artists, including Ai Weiwei — is in the spotlight in the museum’s new “Megacities Asia” show, which extends to its far corners. The far-reaching project is meant to magnify the racing pace of megacities, urban centers with more than 10 million residents. With more megacities than any other continent, the works in Boston underline some of the political, environmental and social conditions of such Asian cities as Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi, Mumbai and Seoul.
Inside the MFA, Aaditi Joshi reimagined plastic bags, which are in abundance among Mumbai retailers. And Beijing’s Yin Xiuzhen reworked demolition rubble and found clothing. Choi’s “Alchemy” is an installation of cheap plastic objects from markets and 99-cent stores. Urban consumption is at the root of “Take off your shoes and wash your hands” by Delhi’s Subodh Gupta.
In describing his work, Choi doesn’t mince words. “My general motto is, ‘It is beautiful, but it is worthless.'”
The artist said he does not have a car, computer or a cell phone, and prefers to walk everywhere. Describing Seoul’s open-air market as his teacher, Choi said he goes there “to talk to people and to get ideas.” Any purchases — and recovered trash — are stored in his studio to create his art. “To me everything is art and everybody is an artist,” Choi said.
Apparently, the MFA agreed, having worked with Faneuil Hall’s owner Clarendon Group and the Boston Art Commission to realize the project. Fans who take a picture near the tree at the Marketplace Center will earn free admission to the museum.
Choi is ready to go with another major show. His “Happy Together,” a colorful jungle like installation of repurposed plastics, opens Aprill 22 at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki. The artist aims to call attention to the materialism in which we live and the over abundance of goods. And Choi knows the retail zone in-depth, having designed interiors for a number of fashion companies in the Nineties. More recently, he created an installation for the Dior store in Seoul, which is currently on view, according to Soo Choi, manager of the Park Ryu Sook Gallery. For “Living History: Dior Still Makes His Story,” the artist welded nails on a rusty steel plate to create his own interpretation of a Dior handbag.