British sculptor Antony Gormley eyes public art in Asia

Sun May 30, 2010 9:21pm EDT
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - British sculptor Antony Gormley wants to leave more of his artistic legacy in Asia and particularly in China which he says stands to play an increasingly vibrant role in the contemporary art world.

Gormley is best known for public works such as "Habitat," a giant humanoid sculpture in Alaska, "Event Horizon," a group of 31 sculptures in his own likeness scattered about New York, "Asian Field" of 180,000 clay figurines, and "Drift," a suspended geometric lattice in Singapore's Marina Bay Sands casino. He spoke to Reuters in Hong Kong on the sidelines of the city's leading contemporary art fair, ART HK 10, which saw Asian collectors swoop for works such as Damien Hirst's "The Inescapable Truth," a formaldehyde work of a dove and skull for 1.75 million British pounds.

Q: How important is Asia to you and what do you make of attempts by Asian cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai to get on the international art map?

A: "At a time of globalization, it's very important to me that we have that dialogue with the East, and particularly with China. Obviously Hong Kong and Singapore are important financial centers and I would like to hope that if we take the Medici model, the relationship between groundbreaking art and finance has always been there in Western culture anyway. And I think it's just beginning to happen (in Asia). We're beginning to see more and more intelligent, involved patronage from Chinese collectors. I hope that things like this art fair will open their interest more widely. I think there are important Chinese artists playing on the world stage. "

Q: What do you make of the ascendancy of Chinese contemporary artists on the world stage?

A: "In China there is no doubt that the opening up of China to more liberal, socially just ideas is absolutely reflected and in senses created by, a growing voice among contemporary artists. It's a shame that Ai Weiwei has been silenced, that his blog has been closed but I think he represents exactly the kind of self defining individual voice that has the courage to stand up against bureaucratic cruelty. I think art is a very, very important arena for the discussion of ideas way beyond its commercial exchange ... Artists, as I understand it prior to 1989, the terrible year of Tiananmen, were by their nature dissidents and by their nature unheard by the majority. I think there's an extraordinary change abroad that the voices of (Chinese) artists and the work that they're producing is far more commonly seen and understood and therefore of course it's an agent of change."

Q: What other Chinese artists have struck a chord with you?

A: "There's a fantastic show (in Shanghai) by Cai Guo-Qiang at the Rockbund (museum) which is ... called "Peasant Da Vincis." ... Basically Cai over the past eight years has been collecting flying saucers, submarines and flying machines that have been made spontaneously by farmers from all over and he's brought them together in a very provocative and beautiful way where he's kind of saying 'we all have dreams,' how have these people who have actually been the engine for the great economic development being recognized or being given the opportunity to fulfill those dreams. It's a beautiful show, very raw."   Continued...