The ability of capital, expertise and information to flow freely across national borders is core to the working of the world’s financial centres. Driven by technological advances, the accelerating movement towards borderless and integrated markets has given fresh impetus to the process of globalisation.
A smaller, closer world is not only a vision for financial markets, whose participants have long been used to jet-setting, working round the clock and following developments on the other side of the planet. Artists have also been driven by globalisation, producing works that resonate with an international audience.
While Chinese artists have long been sought-after for their stereotypical icons of Mao Tse-tung and Chinese commercialism, some are producing works that reflect their concerns with global issues.
One such artist is Wang Guofeng, who casts a spotlight on international media bias by juxtaposing news images of critical global events with superimposed questions. “I am attempting to make the audience think about the whole chain of events, what is really behind it all, to evaluate media messages and think about the truth of what we are seeing, rather than just absorbing the information blindly,” said Wang.
Such work would have been hard to imagine even 10 years ago, but China’s rapid economic rise has been coupled with a cultural exchange that has given mainland artists a global voice.
“China is going through such important changes, be it social, political or economic,” said Pascal de Sarthe, founder of de Sarthe Gallery, which held Wang’s first solo exhibition in Hong Kong in late 2013. “Artists are the witnesses of our society — when changes occur, artists react.”
The growing popularity of Chinese art has already turned Hong Kong into the world’s biggest auction centre, and the city is now aiming to attract foreign artists and galleries to create a global arts hub.
“The fact that I moved to Hong Kong changed completely my way of working,” said Joao Vasco Paiva, a Portuguese artist who moved to Hong Kong in 2006. “It made it easier for me to work with abstraction because I can keep a certain distance. I could not have done this in Portugal because everything is too familiar to me.”
Hong Kong will have to grow culturally for its arts scene to blossom, said David Reekie, a British sculptor who collaborated with Sunny Wang, a Taiwanese artist based in Hong Kong, for an exhibition titled Confluence in late November. The city should host more exhibitions that are open to the public, he suggested.
“A cultural hub needs to have an ecosystem of artists,” said Amandine Hervey, a French curator based in Hong Kong. “Hong Kong is improving in terms of support for artists but there remain issues of space and rent.”