Sunday, August 21, 2011

REVIEW: Made In Britain: Contemporary Art from British Council Collection 1980-2010

Heritage Museum, Thursday August 18

My recent hectic work and travel schedule mean that my several attempts to go to the Made In Britain exhibition at the Heritage Museum were foiled at the last minute. But finally, last Thursday, I was able to make a short visit and I was blown away. I promise myself that I will go again before it ends on October 9. In measuring up this exhibiting, I asked myself to name my five top-of-mind contemporary British artists (not necessarily the 5 I like the most) and I came up with Damien Hirst, Julian Opie, Anish Kapoor, Gilbert and George and Tracey Emin. Amongst my top five, the exhibition has works by 3. Not bad at all I think! What was missing were works of Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin.
The strength of this exhibition is on the manageability of the size, balance in the representing pieces (in time, medium, topic and size) and most of all, the generosity of the presenters. Mind you, don't expect any floating tiger shark in a tank of formaldehyde or diamond encrusted skull, but instead expect the unexpected. For works of Damien Hirst, his paintings from his Spin series (paintings were made with a machine that centrifugally disperse the poured paint) was there and his prints The Last Supper (13 screenprints on pharmaceutical packaging that instead have names of some everyday British food) was presented, less known but equally important and insightful.

Damien Hirst's print from The Last Supper series

Julian Opie's Suzanne Walking (a lenticular acrylic) was a bit of a let down for its size, subject and medium. I would really prefer to see one of his video portraiture. As for Gilbert and George, their Intellectual Depression (skeletal leafless tree with rich yellow background) has to be one of their most stark piece, yet equally astute philosophically.

Gilbert and George's Intellectual Depression

Now don't get me wrong, the other 32 artists presented in the exhibition were no way near pedestrian. In fact, they are the ones that I was far more interested in! The top 3 that really caught my attention in a good way were: Gary Hume's The Sister Troop series (group of ten prints on brushed aluminum); Jane Simpson's Belle (Golden Age of Refrigeration) (the use of refrigeration to form a coat of frost on the based of lamp and dish); Gavin Turk's Cave (blue imitation English Heritage plaque).

Gavin Turk's Faces

Not surprisingly, works by other YBAs (short for Young British Artists) such as Jake and Dinos Chapman, Michael Landy, Sarah Lucas and Gillian Wearing were present. Other past Turner Prize awardees and nominees such as Martin Creed and Angela de la Cruz were not in short either. The choices of works did give one the sense of sharp sensitivity and understanding of the arts for the social, political and cultural issues in Britain. The arts were a good representation and depiction of the changing faces of the British society in the ever varying environment.

Jane Simpson's Belle (Golden Age of Refrigeration)

Finally, I truly have to mention the fantastic book that goes with the exhibit FOR FREE! The book was no pushover, it was a 100+ page talking about every single artist presented in the exhibit and their works in English and Chinese, in color! Now, for those who may think that the entrance to the Heritage Museum must be quite expensive... well, I only paid HK$10.00, that's about US$1.25, for all exhibits in the museum. Also, if one goes there on a Wednesday, it is even for free! Boy I do LOVE Hong Kong!

Exhibition Booklet for Free

Artists and Artworks

Tomma Abts
Haluk Akak├že
Phillip Allen
Keith Arnatt
Helen Chadwick
Jake and Dinos Chapman
Adam Chodzko
Mat Collishaw
Martin Creed
Angela de la Cruz
Peter Doig
Angus Fairhurst
Matt Franks
Gilbert and George
Douglas Gordon
Damien Hirst
Gary Hume
Michael Landy
Sarah Lucas
Kenny Macleod
Dan Norton
Julian Opie
Cornelia Parker
Jane Simpson
Bob and Roberta Smith
Clare Strand
Wolfgang Tillmans
Mark Titchner
Gavin Turk
Mark Wallinger
Gillian Wearing
Boyd Webb
Gary Webb
Wood and Harrison
Richard Wright

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