Jan 03 2020

[Sponsored] The IMPART Collectors’ Show 2020: “Material Agendas” and Yinka Shonibare’s “Justice for All”

by ArtAsiaPacific
BHARTI KHER, I’ve Seen an Elephant Fly, 2002, bindis on fiberglass life-size baby elephant, 182.9 × 109.2 × 50.8 cm. Courtesy the artist; Nature Morte, New Delhi; and Art Outreach, Singapore.
BHARTI KHER, I’ve Seen an Elephant Fly, 2002, bindis on fiberglass life-size baby elephant, 182.9 × 109.2 × 50.8 cm. Courtesy the artist; Nature Morte, New Delhi; and Art Outreach, Singapore.

Two exhibitions set to launch during the season of Singapore Art Week 2020 festivities are designed to spark new conversations about contemporary art through the lens of history and culture. Bringing together “the market, the makers, the masses,” the IMPART Collectors’ Show organized by Art Outreach returns for its third edition at the School of the Arts Gallery from January 10 to 19. The exhibition offers a unique opportunity to view contemporary artworks residing in private collections—many of which have never been in shown in Singapore before. Meanwhile, Asian Art Institutum brings a newly created sculptural installation by acclaimed Nigerian-British artist Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA, to The Arts House from January 13 to 31. 

The IMPART Collectors’ Show 2020 is themed “Material Agendas” and is curated by Tan Boon Hui, the Vice President of the Global Arts & Cultural Programmes and Director of the Asia Society Museum in New York. As the former Director of the Singapore Art Museum, Tan is familiar with many of the private collectors in the region and also knows the audience in Singapore well, making him an ideal person to spark public conversations and inspire engagement with contemporary artworks. To that end, the exhibition features works by 19 of the most prominent and dynamic artists working today, hailing from 13 private collections around the world. 

As Tan explains, the exhibition’s focus on materiality of artworks points to several of the essential qualities of contemporary art: “The art of the present has freed itself from the limitations of material expectations. The basis of art making is now more than ink, paint, carved stone or cast metal, and some of the most interesting contemporary work sees artists testing the limits of material possibilities.” Viewers will see an example of this in sculptural works such as Bharti Kher’s life-size baby elephant covered in bindis, I’ve Seen an Elephant Fly (2002), from the Shumita & Arani Bose Collection NY, a work that combines two traditional motifs associated with India to suggest a newfound sense of possibility. The skin of Yinka Shonibare’s sculpture Cupid Bending a Bow (2018) is painted with a Dutch wax Batik pattern while Cupid’s head is replaced by a globe atlas, with a golden bow in hand—a figure that encapsulates how European colonial trade routes funded cultural developments across the continent. 

For viewers interested in seeing more of the celebrated Nigerian-British artist, during Singapore Art Week, Asian Art Institutum will present Shonibare’s Justice for All, an immersive, site-specific installation at The Arts House, organized in conjunction with Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. There, in the Old Parliament Building, the artist is creating a reconfiguration of British sculptor F.W. Pomeroy’s Lady Justice, except this figure is wearing a custom-designed “African”-style Batik garment, while her skin is covered in a more traditionally “Javanese”-style pattern and she wields a sword and the scales of justice in her hands. Justice for All reflects on the evolving history of the building, and on Singapore itself as a postcolonial, multicultural city-state at the center of international trade routes.  

YINKA SHONIBARE, Cupid Bending a Bow, 2018, cast fiberglass sculpture, hand-painted with Dutch wax Batik pattern, bespoke hand-coloured globe and gold leaf, 199.5 × 76 × 63cm. Courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. 

CHRISTINE AY TJOE, Freezing the Black 02, 2017–18, oil on canvas, 200 × 360 cm. Courtesy the artist and Art Outreach, Singapore.
CHRISTINE AY TJOE, Freezing the Black 02, 2017–18, oil on canvas, 200 × 360 cm. Courtesy the artist and Art Outreach, Singapore.

Like Shonibare’s sculptures, many of the works in “Material Agendas” refer to the individual histories of materials, specifically their roles in trade and ritual. As Tan notes: “Bold experimentation is carried out not just with modern industrial materials but also involves relooking at experiential possibilities of older materials. In this brave new world, one thing certainly does not look like another, as artworks test our perception of reality and experience.” A 1992 composition by El Anatsui, Coins on Grandmother’s Cloth, is made from sawed, torched, and painted strips of wood, referring to traditional “Uli” geometric motifs from southeastern Nigeria, but also the division and destruction of the African continent during its colonialization. Two of Jakkai Siributr’s embroidered textiles, from Tan Van Blarcom’s collection, mix the contemporary and traditional sides of Thailand’s culture, in a juxtaposition of old and new that is quintessentially contemporary. A painted portrait by Kehinde Wiley, Saint Gregory the Great (2018), reinvents classical European depictions of the patron saint as an African-American man, while Yang Yongliang’s video The Departure (2011), from Haryo Balitar’s collection, looks at first like a classic Chinese shan shui landscape painting, yet instead of being rendered in ink, it is composed of digital photographs of construction cranes and modern cityscapes, and is subtly animated. 

With all these varieties of artworks, hailing from artists across Asia and around the world, the IMPART Collectors’ Show 2020: “Material Agendas,” will be prime showcase to introduce viewers to the worlds of conversation offered up by contemporary art. Yinka Shonibare’s Justice for All offers a similarly unique opportunity to see a site-specific installation by the celebrated artist, who offers the Singapore public a reflection on the material and economic ties threaded through cultures and across continents that illustrate the global world as it is today.

“Material Agendas” will be on view at School of the Arts Gallery from January 10 to 19, 11am–7pm daily. For more information about visiting the exhibition, please click here

Yinka Shonibare CBE, RA’s “Justice for All” is open to the public from January 13 to 30 at The Arts House. The opening and a panel discussion will be held on January 13, 6–9pm. For full details, click here

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