Published: 18:54, June 18, 2020 | Updated: 00:12, June 6, 2023
Hong Kong’s first art fair in 2020 is an intimate, low-key affair
By Chitralekha Basu

Calligraphy meets painting in Frog King Kwok’s works, displayed in the 10 Chancery Lane booth at the “Unscheduled” art fair. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

The art fair drought in Hong Kong has ended. Although “Unscheduled” — which opened in Tai Kwun on June 17 — is in no way comparable to Hong Kong’s mammoth art expos in terms of volume and diversity, it is the city’s first art fair in 2020 and a sign that Hong Kong’s cultural life is beginning to get back on track. 

There is an understated vibe about the show which resonates with popular sentiment at this time as the city prepares for its passage to a post-COVID-19 scenario. The approach is low-key and cautious. The booths are small. Tai Kwun’s Duplex Studio maneuvered into a two-level exhibition space has a bijou chic about it. The exhibits themselves are often about restraint and reflection — as opposed to oversize and over the top which goes with the carnivalesque mode of a regular art festival — although not lacking in humor and empathy for that reason.

Alternative covers of well-known books designed by Heman Chong occupy a wall of the Rossi & Rossi booth at the “Unscheduled” art fair. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Hosted by the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association, 12 art galleries are showcasing an artist each. “Unscheduled” is an opportunity to check out new art from East Asia, and Hong Kong in particular. For instance, Frog King Kwok (10 Chancery Lane Gallery) seems to have ditched his usual predilection for warm, often loud, colors for darker and duller shades in a recent creation called Frog Strike.

Hainan-born and Hong Kong-based Ng Chung’s (Contemporary by Angela Li) paintings have a spare, lighthearted quality about them. Empty wine bottles appear to be having a conversation in one of his works, and walking across a barren patch in another.

Kitty Chou’s (Ben Brown Fine Arts) photographs are marked by a playful ambivalence. For instance, a brick wall could in fact be a patch of woven fabric, depending on what the viewer wishes to see.

Woven Clay by Kitty Chou (represented by Ben Brown Fine Arts) is marked by a playful ambivalence. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Mak Ying-tung 2 (de Sarthe) had panels of the same artwork in her “Home Sweet Home” series painted by different commercial painters and then spliced them together. These make for an interesting study in visible tonal shifts, underscoring the fact that replicas of the same image are subtly different from each other and hence original.

Big names, such as Irene Chou (Hanart TZ Gallery) and Liu Bolin (Over The Influence) — who paints himself into various backgrounds in a way that makes him almost invisible — figure alongside newer artists in “Unscheduled.” For instance, Etsu Egami (Whitestone Gallery) is a 1994-born Japanese artist whose oil paintings of blurred, distorted faces bring to mind the “Eleanor Rigby” number sung by the Beatles.

Ng Chung’s (represented by Contemporary by Angela Li) Bottle 388 is an example of how the artist invests inanimate objects with anthropomorphic properties. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

My personal favorite is Heman Chong’s series of alternative book covers — 18 by 24 inch canvases, covering an entire wall of the Rossi & Rossi booth. The same font is used to paint (print?) the book titles and authors’ names against a graphic image, completely unrelated to the ideas contained in the original books to which the artist seems to be paying homage. Called Cover (Versions), the series cheekily alludes to the idea of cover songs and the way well-known works of art are vulnerable to appropriation.

If you go


Curated by Ying Kwok and Sara Wong

Date: Until June 27

Venue: Duplex Studio, Police Headquarters Block, Tai Kwun

10, Hollywood Road, Central