Hong Kong -- Two performers in lion costumes made their way across European gallery Hauser & Wirth’s newly opened space in Hong Kong on Wednesday, dancing to the drumbeat and clashing cymbals.
The dancing lions plucked green heads of lettuce hung on a pole and spread them across the exhibition space, private showroom and office, as part of a traditional ritual performance in Hong Kong to bring good luck and fortune to a new space. It was accompanied by a roast pig cutting ceremony.
Hauser & Wirth took a big step in Hong Kong, opening the new street-level gallery on 8 Queen’s Road Central in Hong Kong six years after its arrival in the city. The gallery previously occupied the 15th and 16th floors in H Queen’s, an iconic building where mega galleries are clustered.
“We show ambitious art and access is as important for the audience as it is for the artists so that actually things can be brought in easily. If you turn around and look outside the windows, you will know what I mean,” said Iwan Wirth, co-president of the gallery Tuesday at a press opening.
“So great thanks to the team and Zhang Enli whose friendship and relationship with the gallery goes back 18 years. We are very proud that you have agreed to the opening show,” he added.
The inaugural exhibition at the new space was filled with paintings by Chinese artist Zhang Enli, the first Asian artist to join Hauser & Wirth in 2006. After showing his works in other cities with the gallery, the artist unveiled new abstract paintings at the exhibition in Hong Kong titled “Faces,” which marks his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong presented by the gallery.
Zhang’s new paintings show his unique abstract visual language that has evolved over time, influenced by traditional Chinese brush painting. His brushstrokes for the new paintings are freer, looser and even more dynamic.
The Shanghai-based artist also takes inspiration from literature, especially "Winesburg, Ohio" by Sherwood Anderson, which he first encountered in college in 1985, according to the gallery.
Anderson’s depictions of characters, detailed observations and the desire to see beneath the surface of life, has reminded the artist of his own experience and memories with his family, and drawn his attention to the fate of "the ordinary people."
“Sometimes, the obscured object also creates a trace with the passing of time. This is the origin of my recent abstract paintings. When I look at a wall, or the sky, it is full of traces, and then I name these traces after someone; it becomes very interesting. It is visible yet invisible,” the artist said. The exhibition runs through March 9.
“In Asia, we had been active for decades before opening our first space in Hong Kong in 2018. In the past six years in Hong Kong, the gallery has hosted 20 exhibitions. We have shown historical masters such as Louise Bourgeois and Philip Guston as well as leading contemporary artists such as Mark Bradford and Nicolas Party,” said Elaine Kwok, Asia managing partner of Hauser & Wirth.
“This move (of expansion) marks a milestone, a new chapter for us and for our artists, allowing us to show our commitment to growing our presence in the region,” she said.
Hauser & Wirth was founded in 1992 in Zurich by Iwan Wirth, Manuela Wirth and Ursula Hauser. As a leading contemporary art gallery, it has spaces across Europe, North America and Hong Kong. The gallery opened a new space in West Chelsea, New York last year dedicated to print edition, which also serves as the flagship bookstore of Hauser & Wirth Publishers.