Art Basel Comes to an End with Artist Conversations

Art Basel 2017 has ended at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday. This was the fifth time that the international art fair returned to Hong Kong, which featured 242 galleries from 34 regions and nearly 80,000 attendees.

Besides showcasing works from around the world, Art Basel also offered discussion panels where artists provided insights about the art industry for audiences. Prominent members of the art world held dynamic dialogues at the panel, each offering a unique perspective on producing, collecting and exhibiting art. This year’s panel touched on topics ranging from new media art, digital media, cultural journalism, and how to be an artist in this generation.

art basel, keiichi tanaami
Keiichi Tanaami. Photo: Art Basel official website.

Japanese artist shares insights

The first panel featured Keiichi Tanaami, a pioneering artist in Japan’s pop art scene during the 1960s. Tanaami’s works focused on video, animation, graphic and commercial illustration, and was deemed highly influential for Japanese artists after him. Another person on the panel was Mizuki Takahashi, who is the senior curator at Mill6 Foundation, a non-profit that aims to preserve Hong Kong’s local culture and heritage. The conversation focused extensively on Tanaami’s life and his work across the decades.

“There are definitely more chances and gateways for artists to promote their works,” said Takahashi when commenting on the opportunities in digital media.

“Before considering how to advertise your works, you should prioritize on doing something that you are passionate about,” said Tanaami, when asked to offer advice to younger artists.

art basel, sun yuan, peng yu, ashley bickerton
Art Basel discussion panel featuring Sun Yuan, Peng Yu and Ashley Bickerton. Photo: Cindy Ko.

Artists and their “position of power”

Another panel featured artists discussing their position of power in society, among them are Sun Yuan and Peng Yu from Beijing, and Ashley Bickerton from Bali. The three artists shared their perspectives on their individual inspirations, what it means to be an artist and how to receive negative criticism from the audience.

“Artists want to speak. We want to be out there, we want to communicate,” said Bickerton. He said that an artist’s work should either have the power to bring joy and color to the audiences or have the ability to achieve a political change by affecting the minds of the audiences.

Bickerton added that artists that do not want to communicate with the world should not be in the game.

“Most people do not question to what they see, hear or encounter. Being an artist is not about providing an answer or solution to the society, but raising questions that let your audiences reflect,” said Sun.

The technological boom and the increasing flow of information serve as a double-edged sword for artists. On one hand, it is easier for artists to gain exposure in the modern society, but at the same time, it is also harder for them to stand out.

Peng said that if an artist focuses too much on getting exposure on the social media platform, it is easy for them to lose their own characteristics in their work. “Your work has to be recognizable,” she said.

By: Roann Pao, Cindy Ko, Vicky Kwok, Yoan Lee, and Gene Lin

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