Art Week is the most anticipated time of the year on the Hong Kong gallery scene. This international art frenzy brings together a community of artists and art lovers for a series of citywide pop-up events, opening receptions, and art installations. Savannah College of Art and Design used the occasion, and the convergence of Art Basel Hong Kong with the debut of satellite fair Art Central, as an opportunity to promote the city’s promising future as Asia’s premier international art hub.
In the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental, the official hotel partner of Art Basel Hong Kong, SCAD installed twin kinetic balloon sculptures by alumnus Jason Hackenwerth (M.F.A., painting, 2011). The Aries installation took 40 hours to complete and used more than 3,000 latex balloons to represent springtime and the intermingling of Eastern and Western cultures. The bright, whimsical piece welcomed more than 8,000 guests drawn to Hong Kong for Art Basel.
Meanwhile, SCAD partnered with Art Central as the fair’s official university sponsor to provide educational tours and showcase the next generation of talent alongside international commercial art galleries from across the globe. SCAD’s booth featured the artwork of three notable alumni from the school of fine arts: a site-specific silk flower installation by Gyun Hur (M.F.A., sculpture, 2009), a series of backlit lambda duratrans by Michael Porten (M.F.A., painting, 2012; B.F.A, illustration, 2004), and a large format painting by Jonathan Yoerger (M.F.A., painting, 2011; B.F.A., illustration, 2008). Nearly 4,500 guests visited the booth to see the exhibition, which the artists accomplished by collaborating across three time zones.
Porten designed his light-box triptych in Savannah while Yoerger and Hur, professors at SCAD Hong Kong, worked on-site. Then he traveled to Hong Kong before the fair opened to assemble the pieces and assist with the booth’s setup. Contrasting Hur’s contemplative work and Yoerger’s playful painting style, Porten’s artwork digitally incorporated various visual data to play off of the repetition in pattern and color.
The energy of all three artists working under one roof created a buzz among students, who popped in from day to day to see Yoerger’s progress on Cougar Meets Cougar, an acrylic painting on canvas, inspired by animal-print fashion and MCM accessories seen on the streets of Asia. The openness of the booth’s assembly provided a rare forum for students to critique a professor’s work and Yoerger invited their feedback during the painting’s creation. “Watching the piece unfold made the contemporary art fair and overarching idea of painting very tangible and accessible to the students,” said Yoerger.
The students were able to be a part of the process instead of just seeing the finished piece on the walls of the fair. - Professor Jonathan Yoerger
Hur’s installation, A Replication of My Mother’s Wedding Blanket No. 2, also enlisted the help of students. Together they spent 500 hours plucking, chopping, and shredding dozens of silk flowers that were sourced from local flower markets. Fashion marketing and management student Mashal Mushtaq joined the team after seeing a video of Hur’s installation work.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to experience a project in a real-world environment, and this project is so culturally and personally important to Professor Hur,” said Mushtaq.
Born in Korea, Hur migrated to the U.S. with her parents at the age of 13. She believes art is a means to connect with the past and her former self “left behind” in Korea. “One of the greatest things that art does for us is to explore the emotional aspect of ourselves,” said Hur. While completing her M.F.A. at SCAD, shredded silk flowers became an integral part of her practice, representing the impermanence of beauty, joy, and memory. This eventually evolved into emblematic reproductions of her mother’s wedding blanket, which uses culturally coded colors from Korean ceremonial attire. But the act of cutting the flowers means just as much. “The process itself is repetitive, laborious, and simple,” observed Hur. The artist’s parents are typically the ones who help her cut the flowers. This was the first time she shared the process with her students, conjuring an emotionally charged environment in which they could explore the commercial art world.
Overall, Art Central provided students with access to the art fairs and networking opportunities with experts from East and West. Executive director of SCAD exhibitions, Laurie Ann Farrell, hosted insider tours of Art Central and Art Basel, which gave students a deeper understanding of the contemporary art world and introduced them to industry professionals. It was an eye-opening week for all students involved and provided a global stage for interaction with audiences who may one day return to see these emerging artists display their own work.