For the opening forum of the year 2021, APSMUSEUM was honored to invite Ms. Karen Smith, art critic and curator, Executive Director of OCAT Xi’an, Curator-at-Large at SCOP; Mr. Lu Xun, Founder and Director of Sifang Art Museum in Nanjing; Mr. David Tung, Director of Lisson Gallery, Shanghai; and Mr. Daniel Statham, Founder of the Daniel Statham Studio. The discussion focused on the artworks of artist Anish Kapoor, and how they relate to art, architecture, and public space.
As the forum host, Karen started the discussion by setting a context for us on art and public space. Daniel shared his experience of working on several projects in London, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, as well as his collaboration with artists on art and architectural projects. Since 2006, Lu Xun had been working with 24 architects and commissioned 24 architectural works around the Sifang lake zone. He also talked about the transitions that he went through at different stages. David joined Lisson Gallery in 2016 and had worked with Anish Kapoor on many critical projects, including the artist’s major exhibition in China which took 3 years for preparation. Towards the end of the discussion, David elaborated on several of Kapoor’s major works, and how the artist transformed and created those colossal public art projects that we see today.
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There’s a variety of public art: some of them are permanent, others temporary, and a number of them are built specifically for the site. When an artist creates a piece of public art, he or she has to take the physical location as well as the natural landscape into account. For example, Angel of the North, a famous work by prominent British artist, Antony Gormley, is designed to be positioned at an open space. The Fourth Plinth, which is the northwest plinth in Trafalgar Square in London, has been a controversial piece since its accomplishment because of the juxtaposition of the contemporary and the traditional. In other words, the surrounding landscape beside the Fourth Plinth consists largely of historical monuments and architecture, which were built for commemoration of famous historical figures or events. The existence of contemporary public artworks beside those traditional monuments evokes contrasts and conflicts. Moreover, some public art of the day invites people’s interaction and participation. For instance, Tate Modern installed a number of such kind of art pieces.
Inspiration of Art
I will take three works as instances to introduce how art gave me inspiration. The first one is a work by Anish Kapoor, TARANTANTARA. The work transformed the internal structure of the original building, thus changing our perception of the interior. The second work was our collaboration with artist Marc Quinn in Venice. It is an object which “intrudes” the existing landscape, leaving the audience to judge if it is a great piece of art or not. The third one is a bridge which connected the Paddington Station and the new development zone in the Paddington Basin. People’s interaction is an essential part of this work, and we collaborated with artists Langlands＆Bell and Atelier One on this work.
Realisation of Art
Oftentimes, it takes a long time and extremely complex process for a concept to be realised into an actual piece. For example, the Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor was pre-assembled in Oakland, California. It was then transferred to Chicago and installed onsite. After months of polishing, it finally became the beautiful work that we see today.
Our Built Environment as Art
The artworks by Anish Kapoor embody the idea of “Our Built Environment as Art”. On the one hand, the art challenges the technology; on the other hand, the technology inspires the art. For instance, this project located in Hangzhou CBD functions as a parking lot, while it also includes exhibition space inside. The architecture itself is an artwork, an artwork that blends in with the surrounding environment.
As architects, we think like artists in many ways. We need inspiration and an idea of what we are going to realise. Art as an inspiration is very important to me, and it includes architecture, design, fashion, etc.
Sifang Art Museum was opened back in 2013. Some people did not know that it included more than one architectural project until they visited the site. It locates in the beautiful natural landscape of Lao Shan Mountain and occupies 700 acres. Since 2006, we invited 24 architects all over the world, each of them built their own architectural projects around the lake. We have gone through multiple transitions and rethink about these projects all the time. They seem more like public artworks to me when I look at them now.
We invited many renowned architects. For example, the museum itself was designed by Steven Holl. The recreational center within the complex was designed by famed Italian architect, Ettore Sottsass, and his architectural practice, Sottsass Associati. The architect of the conference center was Arata Isozaki; Wang Shu designed the Chinese courtyard “San He Courtyard”; Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa also have their project in Sifang.
Besides having two or three exhibitions at the museum each year, I have been thinking about how to make the living space more interesting, and this is when I thought about using public art to respond to the architecture. For the first exhibition, we invited artist Xu Zhen to create Sports Field. The artist utilized the map and created a monument that included all the famous national sports in human history. Japanese artist, Sone Yutaka created Obsidian in Sifang, and solidified a beautiful moment using pure marble material which stands for eternity.
I also place my own collection in the art zone, such as Our People by Danh Vo, and Invisible by Shu Chang. We also have Artists in Residence programs and provide space for artists to stay and work in our space. Among the exhibitions of Sifang Art Museum, commissioned works play an important role, such as Wind Light as a Thief by He An, Big Bang Pang by Gabriel Lester, Natural History 4 in Mountains by Wang Wei, Etude-Adagio, Chapter III by Yu Ji, Dark Material by Liu Wei, etc.
We collaborate and co-work with artists on public art projects. They do not have an obvious commercial intent, which makes the works more resonant with the nature. I think this is how our projects differentiate from the ones installed in concrete jungles.
In the early works of Anish Kapoor, which the artist made with colored pigments, we can see many architectural elements, such as their geometrical forms, and dome-shaped structure. After the 1990s, Kapoor started to make relatively large-scaled artworks. The Marsyas that the artist created for the Tate Turbine Hall in 2002 marked his transition from smaller-scaled works to colossal ones that now we frequently relate to architecture.
The 2019 exhibition at Tai Miao (The Ancestral Temple) in Beijing took 3 years for preparation. The temple is an ancient architecture and has its historical significance. Compared to many Western architecture, the artist was less familiar with Chinese traditional buildings, and this is the reason why his works, even though enormous in size and weight, seemed almost invisible at the site. On the other hand, when the artist made works for the Houghton Hall in the U.K.，he chose mirrors in bright colors, another important series of works by the artist. The mirrors are important to the artist；to some extent, the mirrors stand for “duality”.
Kapoor is fascinated with the concept of duality, such as material and non-material, dark and bright, female and male, order and disorder, etc.
Kapoor public artworks have their own narratives and meaning, which is essential to understand his art. For example, in the Dismemberment of Jeanne d’Arc, Kapoor utilized red material to represent the body of the French heroine.
In 1990, Kapoor represented the U.K. in the Venice Biennale and exhibited the work Void Field. Though it might not seem controversial today as we all know that Kapoor is a prominent British artist, it caused a sensation because Kapoor was an Indian citizen at the moment. However, this opportunity undoubtedly brought the artist to the international stage and raised his profile. In 2021, the artist will have another exhibition in Venice and will present his experimentation with material—the exhibition is also intended to echo with the critical exhibition he had in Venice 30 years ago.
Karen Smith is a British national, specialized in the field of contemporary Chinese art. Her main activities are research, writing and curating. In mid-2012, she was appointed founding director of OCAT Xi’an, a contemporary art museum that is part of the OCAT Museum Group founded in Shenzhen in 2005. OCAT Xi’an opened in November 2013. Since 2015, she has also worked as artistic director of Shanghai Center of Photography.
Smith’s writings can be found in numerous monologues and exhibition catalogues. She has contributed texts to Art Now Volume 4, Taschen, June 2013; Vitamin D2, Phaidon, 2012; Vitamin P2, Phaidon, 2011 and numerous other publications, including the Phaidon contemporary artist series, for which she authored the volume on Ai Weiwei (2009). She has produced her won books: Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China (2008) and the series As Seen; Notable Artworks by Chinese Artists (2011; 2013; 2015).
Lu Xun lives and works between Nanjing and Shanghai, China. He is a collector of contemporary Chinese and international art. In 2013, he founded the Sifang Art Museum designed by the renowned American architect Steven Holl. He worked closely with architects and artists to plan and commission more than 40 buildings and art installations in the Sifang Parkland, which was nominated by The New York Times as a “Leading Culture Destination in Asia and the Pacific” in 2015. Listed in “The World's Top 100 Art Collectors” by artnet, Lu currently sits on Tate Modern’s Acquisition Committee, advisory board of Fosun Foundation, Art Basel's Global Patrons Council and is a founding member of Delfina Foundation’s Asia-Pacific Patron group.
David Tung is the Director, Shanghai for Lisson Gallery. He was formerly director at Long March Space (2009-2014) and served as deputy director of the Yuz Museum, Shanghai (2015). David Tung holds B.A. in Asian Studies and Languages from the University of Texas, Austin and is a graduate from the first Kellogg-Guanghua Executive Masters of Business Administration Program (class 2016).
Daniel Statham graduated from University College London in 1999 and went on to work at Foster and Partners in London for several years on International projects mainly in Asia including the Petronas University of Technology in Malaysia and Singapore Supreme Law Courts in addition to assisting the studio teams with other European projects.
His experience was developed further with award winning structural engineers Atelier One in London developing innovative methods of construction and working on the design and construction of the White Cube Gallery’s in London. There were also collaborations within the UK modern arts working with artists that included Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Langlands & Bell, Juan Muñoz, and Marc Quinn. In 2004 he worked along side the award winning British Product Designers Barber Osgerby to deliver the Stella McCartney Flagship Store, Mayfair, London which after completion went on to work with Grimshaw in London and New York which projects included the Battersea Power Station Redevelopment, London and Fulton Street Station in New York.
In 2006 Daniel started his studio and to date has worked in a variety of sectors across Asia, America and Europe. The first project was the successful exhibition of China’s Terracotta Army at the British Museum, London with Atelier One which was a showcase event in the UK during 2007. Daniel Statham Architects have now gone on to work on projects in collaboration for the United Nations HQ and Times Square Redevelopment in New York, the Singapore Pavilion for EXPO 2010 Shanghai, the Buddhist Cultural Museum and CDL HQ in Singapore and to work with Santiago Calatrava on the facade of the Chicago Spire in the United States. Some of the clients along this journey include Samsung, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Government and British Telecom.