The Mills (Part 2): Art, design & retail

the mill tseun wan


One of The Mill’s main attractions is CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile) – a space dedicated to the past, current, and future of Hong Kong and Asia’s textile industry.

Welcome to the Spinning Factory! is the inaugural exhibition designed by Turner Prize winning U.K. architect collective Assemble and UK/HK design firm HATO. Set within the former cotton spinning mills of Nan Fung Textiles in Tsuen Wan, the exhibition tells the story of the cotton industry and the role it played in shaping Hong Kong’s past, present and future. The interactive exhibition features old machinery, vintage cotton products and archival documents and objects. Visitors can also experience the manual cotton-spinning process using traditional spinning instruments, and design and create cotton labels at the workshop stations.


the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

The mill

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

the mill tseun wan

‘Welcome to the Spinning Factory!’ exhibition at the The D. H. Chen Foundation Gallery


An interesting piece of artwork caught my eye outside of the gallery and it was a long piece of knitted textile on a table titied Fabric of CHAT. It was the work by Hong Kong-based artist/designer Movana Chen. Movana is known for her KNITerature, which combines stories by knitting books from people she encounters during her travels. When she first visited the construction site of The Mills, she discovered stacks of old discarded documents, so she shredded and knitted them into a new art form that contains the history and memories of the factory.


Fabric of Chat

  Fabric of ChatFabric of Chat

Fabric of CHAT by Movana Chen


CHAT’s inaugural exhibition, Unfolding : Fabric of Our Life, curated by Takahashi Mizuki showcases the works and performances by 17 contemporary Asian artists and collectives who use textile as a testimony to articulate forgotten histories and repressed lives through textile production. The thought-provoking exhibition reveals the region’s colonial capitalist exploitation through the use of fabrics and garments. One work that I found quite powerful is called ‘Day Off Mo?by Filipino artist Alma Quinto, who invited Hong Kong’s Filipino domestic workers to speak out about their experiences through a video and their DIY craft book.


Dayanita Singh's 'Time measures', 2016

Dayanita Singh's 'Time measures', 2016

Dayanita Singh’s ‘Time measures’, 2016


Norberto Roldan's 'Incantations in the land of virgins, monsters, sorcerers and angry gods', 1999 - 2018

Norberto Roldan's 'Incantations in the land of virgins, monsters, sorcerers and angry gods', 1999 - 2018

Norberto Roldan’s ‘Incantations in the land of virgins, monsters, sorcerers and angry gods’, 1999 – 2018


Jakkai Siributr

Jakkai Siributr

Jakkai Siributr’s Fast fashion, 2015/19


Reza Afisina, Under Construction as Long as You’re Not Paying Attention, 2018–19

Reza Afisina’s ‘Under Construction as Long as You’re Not Paying Attention’, 2018–19


Alma Quinto's 'Day Off Mo?', 2018–19

Alma Quinto, Day Off Mo?, 2018–19

Alma Quinto’s ‘Day Off Mo?’, 2018–19


the mill tseun wan  the mill tseun wan


I was also intrigued by Vietnamese artist Vo Tran Chau‘s ‘Leaf picking in the ancient forest’, 2018-2019. The name of the artwork is inspired by the title of a monk’s manuscript. Buddha, taking a few leaves in his hand, said to the monks: “All that I have seen and encountered are numerous, just like leaves among the grove, yet my teachings which I have revealed to you are but little, just like this handful of leaves in my palm…”.

The artist collected abandoned clothing from second-hand clothing stores to create her abstract mosaic chamber. Each quilted mosaic references historical photographs of Vietnamese textile factories and reflects the distinct cultural and political climates of North, Central and South Vietnam at different periods of time. The quilts reflect only blurred images as if a metaphor for the fate of the textile factories. Inside the chamber, one sees another side/story in these historical images.


Vo Tran Chau's Leaf picking in the ancient forest, 2018-2019

Vo Tran Chau's Leaf picking in the ancient forest, 2018-2019

Vo Tran Chau’s Leaf picking in the ancient forest, 2018-2019


One encouraging aspect of The Mills is that the retail outlets here differ vastly from other shopping malls in Hong Kong. Instead of international chained companies, the shops here are mostly independent and with a strong focus on sustainability.

I was glad to see that Book B (which we have worked with previously) has found a new home here. The space is inviting and it also has a nice cafe inside. I think this is one of the best independent book shops in Hong Kong, and I hope it will continue to thrive.


KoKo Coffee Roasters

KoKo Coffee Roasters

KoKo Coffee Roasters


book b the mill tseun wan

book b the mill tseun wan

book b the mill tseun wan

Book B


Another surprise was to see a garment upcycling shop called Alt:, which is a partnership between HKRITA (The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel) and Novetex (a leading textile firm), together with funding from HKSAR government, H&M foundation and The Mills.

A garment-to-Garment (G2G) Recycle System is placed in the shop for the public to learn how old clothes can be upcycled and made into a new ready-made garment in 4 hours, with the aid of the innovation of upcycling technology. The on-site mill can upcycle up to 3 tons of textile waste per day, which hopfully will help to tackle the city’s fashion waste issue.





Alt: – the upcycling garment shop that can turn your unwanted clothing into something new


 the mill tseun wan

 the mill tseun wan

 the mill tseun wan

 the mill tseun wan

the mill


Overall, I enjoyed my visit to The Mills; I think it offer an alternative retail experience (which is much needed in Hong Kong), and the new textile centre is an exciting cultural space that showcases Hong Kong’s textile heritage while looking forward to the future.



The wonders of Musee Guimet

musee guimet


Undoubtedly, Paris is a city with many outstanding world-class museums and art galleries, but sometimes the sheer volume of visitors at Louvre, Musee D’Orsay and Grand Palais is simply overwhelming and off-putting. Hence, I would rather spend my time lingering at some excellent but lesser known or less popular museums. And one of my favourites is Le musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet/ Musee Guimet, which houses one of the largest collections of Asian art outside of Asia.

This museum was established by Emile Guimet in 1889, and it showcases 5000 years of Asian art with a vast array of sculptures, murals, decorative objects, ceramics, paintings, furniture, textiles, graphic prints and manuscripts etc. It is easy to spend a few hours here, and it rarely gets very crowded.

During my visit, I was very pleasantly surprised by French contemporary artist Prune Nourry‘s exhibition “HOLY, Carte Blanche to Prune Nourry”. Throughout the museum, installations of her past ten years’ work could be seen. I thought the most impressive was the giant Buddha statue that has been broken up, and strategically placed on different floor levels like old ruins. On the top floor was the head of the Buddha (where one could walk into it through the ears), a hand on the floor below, and the feet were placed on the ground floor, all of which were covered with red incense sticks. This intentionally fragmented installation reminds me of the blown up Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It is poetic and mesmerising.

Her Terracotta Daughters sculptures created in 2013, consisted of an army of 108 girls, the eight original ones of which will be shown in the museum, refers to the first emperor’s terracotta soldiers, and is a tribute to the millions of girls that will not be born because
of pre-birth selection.


 Prune Nourry  musee guimet Prune Nourry

 Prune Nourry

musee guimet Prune Nourrymusee guimet Prune Nourry

 Prune Nourry

prune nourry  prune nourry

“HOLY, Carte Blanche to Prune Nourry” exhibition


Japanese graphic artist Hokusai‘s sold-out exhibition at British Museum revealed that traditional Japanese woodblock printing still fascinates the Western audience in this day and age. Unfortunately, the exhibition was so packed that I found myself constantly being blocked by older women who did not want others to get close to the prints or paintings.

Luckily, the exhibition “Paysages japonais, de Hokusai à Hasui” enabled me to enjoy Hokusai‘s famous prints up close without crowds nor disruption. Aside from Hokusai, there were also prints by other famous ukiyo-e artists like Hiroshige, Utamaro, Kuniyoshi and Hasui. The exhibition also showcased some rare vintage photographs of Japan, which were extremely fascinating.


musee guimet  musee guimet






The “Paysages japonais, de Hokusai à Hasui” exhibition


musee guimet  musee guimet

The “113 Ors d’Asie” exhibition


Even though the British Museum has an excellent collection of ancient Buddhist art and sculptures, I think Musee Guimet’s collection is quite staggering too. I particularly love the ancient Buddhist sculptures from Afghanistan that were evidently influenced by the Greeks. The hair and the draping of the robes were more Western than Eastern, which demonstrated that ancient cultural exchanges did have an strong impact on the development of Buddhist art in Asia.


musee guimet

musee guimet  musee guimet

musee guimet

musee guimet  musee guimet

musee guimet

musee guimet



musee guimet

musee guimet  musee guimet


Not far from the museum is Hôtel Heidelbach, a well-hidden annexe that houses a Buddhist Pantheon gallery, a lovely Japanese garden and a tea house for tea ceremonies. Entry to this gallery and garden is free, and it should not be missed.


musee guimet Japanese garden

The Japanese garden and tea house at Hôtel Heidelbach


What I learnt at Art Basel Hong Kong…

Gilbert & george

The alluring appeal of Gilbert & George…


I arrived in Hong Kong in the midst of the Art Basel weekend, and ART was the hottest topic in town. From a city that was once nicknamed ‘cultural desert’, Hong Kong has come a long way to become the new art hub of Asia. But what does art or the fair really mean to Hong Kongers? Has it made any positive impact on the local art scene and artists?

Despite my jet lag and distaste for mega art fairs, I decided to check out Art Basel Hong Kong before it ended. Three years ago, I visited the fair’s predecessor Hong Kong International Art Fair (read my entry here); since then, the fair has grown considerably with more than 233 galleries from 37 countries participating this year. With a new Malaysian fair director on board, the fair was divided into six sections including Insights, a section dedicated to 34 Asian art galleries.


myeongbeom kimXu Longsen's Beholding the mountain with aweAntony GormleyJohn Baldessari 'Beethoven's Trumpet (With Ear) Opus #133'art baselart basel Tobias RehbergerGrayson Perry

Top row: Myeongbeom Kim’s ‘Deer’; 2nd row left: Xu Longsen’s ‘Beholding the mountain with awe’ 2nd row middle: Antony Gormley’s sculptures; 3rd row right: John Baldessari ‘Beethoven’s Trumpet (With Ear) Opus #133’ 4th row left: Leung Mee Ping’s ‘Memorize the future’; 4th row right: Tobias Rehberger; Bottom row: Grayson Perry’s tapestry: ‘you could lay it out for a national picnic’


After spending hours of my afternoon at the fair, I want to summarise my observations and afterthoughts, and so I have created a list on what I learned there and then:

1. The event reaffirmed my distaste for mega art fairs. The issue is not to do with the quality of the art work, but rather the crammed setting/ commercial ambience/ environment.

2. Even though I knew this is the case, but the event confirmed this fact: Mega art fairs are not about art, they are about sales, marketing and making noise.

3. Big art fairs are the worst places to appreciate/enjoy art, because you are mostly like to feel physically and mentally exhausted after seeing all of them in one go. Being overdosed on art does not make one feel inspired.


art baselart baselDjordje Ozbolttanada kojiart basel ahmed mater

2nd row middle: Djordje Ozbolt’s ‘Les objects mystique plastique’; 2nd row right: Tanada Koji; Bottom right: Ahmed Mater’s ‘Pre-illumination’


4. Subtleties do not work well at art fairs; showcase the most outrageous and prodigious pieces, then the galleries are most likely to receive the maximum footfall.

5. On the day of my visit, a majority of the visitors (mostly Mainland Chinese) were more interested in photo opportunities/ selfies than the art itself. And after being shoved around by them, I decided to photograph the behaviour of these art-lovers. It turned out to be the most entertaining part of the event.


Eko Nugroho Lot lostVik Muniz's Forbidden city sam jinks, standing pietaart baselAnish Kapoorart basel

The efforts required to take the perfect photos at Art Basel


6. Speaking to my local friend after the fair, she also expressed her (and her friends’) disappointments of the event. Their verdict was that the newer and smaller Art Central was more enjoyable than Art Basel. Lesson learnt for all of us.

7. Big names and record-breaking sales transactions at the art fair don’t necessary mean that the general public care more art. If the footfall to art museums and galleries is consistent all year round, then it veritably demonstrates the real impact of the fair.


art baselWim Delvoye's "Twisted Dump Truck" Yoshitomo nara

Bottom left: Wim Delvoye’s ‘Twisted Dump Truck’; Bottom right: Yoshitomo Nara’s ‘Puff Marshie


8. Without a world class art museum (M+ is due to open in 2018), art is still fairly inaccessible to the general public in Hong Kong. Most of the art galleries in Hong Kong are targeted at art buyers or investors, hence it explains the popularity of the annual art fair.

9. Due to lack of support from the Government, Hong Kong artists perpetually struggle to make ends meet or gain recognition beyond the city or Asia. This is partly to do with the art education system and misconceptions towards art and other creative industries. Art only became ‘important’ in recent years because of the money involved. Without these transactions, art is merely regarded as a frivolous profession in Hong Kong.

10. Hong Konger are more artistic and creative than people realise… but these artistic activities take place on the streets rather than indoor. The artists are the street vendors, small shop owners, scaffolding construction workers, cupboard collectors and wet market stall sellers etc.

What Hong Kongers fail to understand is that art is around them all the time, and best of all, it is free of charge.


art basel art baselart basel art basel

The mysterious man in white shirt who was constantly blocking my view, so I used him as my subject at the fair. I was THAT bored.



London’s art & design exhibitions (Winter/Spring 15)

Richard TuttleRichard Tuttle tate britain

Top & bottom left: Richard Tuttle’s ‘I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language’ at Tate Modern. Bottom right: Phillip King’s sculptures at Tate Britain


As usual, there is a diverse array of art, design and photography exhibitions being shown across London at major museums and smaller galleries. Here is a recap of some that I have visited during the past few months:

Major shows and retrospectives

Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden at Tate Modern (until 10 May) – Undisputedly, South African artist Marlene Dumas is one of the most successful (and expensive) living female artist working today. Her paintings have regularly been sold for millions (each) at auctions in the past decade. This is highly significant in the male-dominated art world and yet bizarrely, she is still relatively unknown outside of the art world.

One of the most interesting aspect about her work is that they are all photo-based. Her subject matter usually revolves around social issues like injustices, racism, iniquities, as well as human emotions and desires. This is an inspiring and thought-provoking exhibition, which I think is eloquent and apt in our ever-divided world today.

Late Turner: Painting Set Free at Tate Britain (ended) – British artists J.M.W. Turner was the talk of the town in 2014, thanks to Mike Leigh‘s film and this retrospective. I have never fully appreciated works by Turner and I only visited the show out of curiosity after seeing the film. However, despite the crowds and being slightly unwell on the day, I was glad that I went. I have previously seen the artist’s famous large oil paintings on landscape and sea, yet I have seldom seen his more spontaneous holiday sketches and drawings. I can’t say that I was swept away by all his work, but I felt that I understood the artist and the relevance of his work more after the show.

Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude at The Courtauld gallery (ended) As with most art students, life drawing was a crucial part of my portfolio at school and university. It was then that I discovered Schiele‘s work and was completely blown away by it. Schiele‘s nude drawings are confrontational, grim, disturbing, and unflinchingly graphic. Yet one can’t help being fixated on his work, because its provoking and mesmerising quality. After the show, I couldn’t help but wonder what the artist could have achieved if his life was not cut short at the young age of 28.


Incident in the Corridor near the Kitchen by Iliya and Emilia Kabakov Post Pop: East Meets WestAlexander Kosolapov's Hero, Leader, God 'Dollar and Hammer' by Leonid SokovPost Pop: East Meets WestMei Dean-E's 'Confucius's Confusion'Sergey Shutov's Abacus Colour vases by Ai WeiweiPost Pop: East Meets Westpost pop: east meets west Gu Wenda's 'United Nations: Man and Space' 'tennis player' by Oleg Kulik'Deep into Russia' by Oleg Kulik'Deep into Russia' by Oleg Kulik

Top row left: ‘Incident in the Corridor near the Kitchen’ by Iliya and Emilia Kabakov; 2nd row: ‘Hero, Leader, God’ by Alexander Kosolapov; 3rd left: ‘Dollar and Hammer’ by Leonid Sokov; 3rd right: ‘Confucius’s Confusion’ by Mei Dean-E; 4th left: ‘Abacus’ by Sergey Shutov; 4th right: ‘Colour vases’ by Ai Weiwei; 6th row right: ‘United Nations: Man and Space’ by Gu Wenda; Bottom left: ‘Tennis player’ by Oleg Kulik; Middle & right: ‘Deep into Russia’ by Oleg Kulik


Post pop: East meets West at Saatchi Gallery (ended) Even though I am not a huge fan of pop art, I was interested to see its influence on contemporary artists from the East and the West. Probably not for the faint hearted, the exhibition featured 250 works by 110 artists from China, the Former Soviet Union, Taiwan, the UK and the USA spanning three decades. It was full on with plenty of trashy, provocative, cynical, humourous and commercial works on display.

While I was at the exhibition, there was a school outing with some young primary kids and they were utterly disgusted by Gu Wenda‘s ‘United Nations: Man and Space’ when they learned that it was made of human hair. I found their reactions quite hilarious. Over all, it was the works by Chinese and Russian artists that stood out for me. The exhibition did not change my perspective on pop art, but it was certainly the most entertaining exhibition I have visited recently.


Royal academy of art

Inflated Star and Wooden Star by Frank Stella at the Royal Academy of Arts


Disappointing shows

Rubens ad his legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne at The Royal Academy of Arts (until 10th April) I felt slightly disappointed and misled by this highly-anticipated show because I was expecting to see more of Rubens‘ work. Yet the old master’s paintings are few and far between, instead we are presented with work by artists who were influenced by him.

The most disappointing room is the one ‘inspired’ by The Fall of the Damned. I walked around the room and examined all the paintings and labels meticulously, and I couldn’t find the actual painting. I was about to ask the security guard when it suddenly dawned on me that the painting is NOT in the room! There is not even a photo of the original work for comparison, this seems to me as rather absurd.

Yes, there are many remarkable Rubenesque work by other famous and influential artists at the show, but it doesn’t compensate for the fact that non of Ruben‘s masterpieces are being exhibited. For the ticket price of £16.50, one would expect at least one at the show… If you want to see Ruben‘s masterpiece, then perhaps it’s best to head to Banqueting house, where entrance fee is only £6.10. See my previous entry here on Ruben‘s magnificent painted ceiling.

The Institute of Sexology at Wellcome Collection (until 20th Sept) Given the subject matter, the exhibition is bound to draw attention and crowds. Yet I didn’t expect it to be so packed on a weekday afternoon, and constantly trying to squeeze my way in and get closer towards the display window. It was exhausting.

Having previously enjoyed many exhibitions at the Wellcome Collection, there is something lacking for me at this show. Sure there are many fascinating stories and objects on display, but the show merely scratches the surface of a complex and challenging subject without sufficient insight nor context. And the lack of contemporary issues is one of its biggest flaws. I didn’t feel provoked, shocked nor ‘aroused’, instead I left feeling rather apathetic. I couldn’t help but wonder what the exhibition would have been like if it was curated by the French or Italians… Oops.


hayward gallery

Bloodhound surface-to-air guided missiles at Hayward Gallery’s ‘History Is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain’


History Is Now: 7 Artists Take On Britain‘ at Hayward Gallery (until 26th April) I am not sure whether it is the curation or content (or both), but I found this exhibition inconsistent, confusing and banal. The show invited seven British to curate a section each, with the aim of reflecting on post-war British history through their choice of artworks and objects. Personally, I found Richard Wentworth‘s section upstairs the strongest of the lot, and it even features a surviving Bloodhound surface-to-air guided missiles deployed by the RAF during the Cold War out on the terrace. Otherwise, it is a missed opportunity and one of the weakest exhibitions I have seen recently.

Christian Marclay at White Cube Bermondsey (until 12th April) I suggested a viewing of the solo exhibition of London-based Swiss/American artist Christian Marclay to my friend after reading many positive reviews. But we left wondering if we had gone to the wrong exhibition! Having previously seen part of his highly acclaimed 24-hour video montage ‘The Clock’, I was genuinely disappointed with this show.

We felt underwhelmed by his pop art style onomatopoeic paintings (and there is an entire room of them), and felt nauseatic after spending five minutes watching the immersive video installation ‘Surround Sounds’.

His new video installation ‘Pub crawl’ that records impromptu street sounds of East London is the most memorable piece for me. And since we missed the sound performances, our visit to the gallery ended quicker than we anticipated.


Russian avant-garde

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract art and society 1915-2015 at Whitechapel Gallery (6th April) Taking Suprematist movement pioneer Kazimir Malevich’s ‘Black square’ (1915) as the starting point, this ambitious and intriguing exhibition traces the course of geometric abstraction across the last century, featuring over 100 artists from around the world. This show is not to be missed if you are a fan of Russian avant-garde and abstract art. It is also timely after the major retrospective of Kazimir Malevich at Tate Modern last year. What could a simple black square inspire? There is in store for you to find out. And as soon you step out of the gallery, it would hard not to notice all the geometric forms and patterns around you!


Russian avant garde theatreRussian avant garde theatreRussian avant garde theatreRussian avant garde theatreRussian avant garde theatre

Russian Avant-garde Theatre at the V & A museum


Russian Avant-garde Theatre at the V & A museum (ended) – This was one of my favourites of the season, partly because I am a fan of Constructivism. Curated in collaboration with the A.A.Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum, the show exhibited more than 150 radical theatrical set and costume designs conceived between 1913 and 1933 by 45 leading Russian artists and designers including Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexandra Exter, El Lissitsky, Liubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova.

Again, Kazimir Malevich was the starting point of this exhibition. The display began with Malevich‘s sketches and lithographs of set and costume designs for ‘Victory Over the Sun’, a Futurist opera which premiered in 1913 in St Petersburg. Interestingly, the exhibition rooms were painted in red, and arranged in a maze-like irregular format which complemented the vibrant, dramatic and experimental work on display.

Although it was a turbulent period in the Russia, the creativity and ideas that emerged turned out to be the most exciting and optimistic in Russian art. And almost a century later, the works still look radical, futuristic and startling. Amazing!


Bold at GRADBold at GRADBold at GRADBold at GRAD

BOLT at Gallery for Russian Arts and Design


BOLT at Gallery for Russian Arts and Design (ended) This small exhibition was a good supplement to the V & A exhibition. Curated in collaboration with the St Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music, rarely seen original designs, photographs and costumes from Dmitri Shostakovich‘s 1931 ballet ‘The Bolt’ were on display together for the first time in this vivid exhibition.

Choreographed by Fyodor Lopukhov to a score by Shostakovich, with designs by Tatiana Bruni, the satirical piece was banned after just one performance by the Soviet authorities. I love Bruni‘s playful and larger than life costumes, and again the designs and photographs reveal the height of creativity during a tumultuous period in Russia.


Julie Verhoeven Julie VerhoevenWalead BeshtyWalead BeshtyMapping the City Mapping the City

Top row: British illustrator and designer Julie Verhoeven‘s immersive installation on feminism at the ICA; 2nd & 3rd row: Walead Beshty’s 2,000 cyanotype prints at Barbican’s the Curve gallery; Bottom row: Mapping the city at Somerset house


Glenn Ligon: Call and ResponseGlenn Ligon Call and ResponseRuth Ewan Ruth Ewan Ruth Ewan

Top 2 rows: Glenn Ligon’s ‘Call and response’; Bottom 2 rows: Ruth Ewan’s ‘Back to the fields’ at Camden arts centre


Ruth Ewan: Back to the Fields & João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva – Papagaio at Camden arts centre (until 29th March) The London-based artist Ruth Ewan has transformed the gallery at Camden Arts Centre into a mini indoor garden! Inspired by the French Republican Calendar (used from 1793 to 1805 in the aftermath of the French Revolution), the wonderful installation reflect the restructuring of the months and seasons in accordance with nature and agriculture and not religion.

In the adjacent rooms, there are video installations by Portuguese artists João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva. There are some rather meditative and enigmatic short films on animals, bicycle wheels and food being shown simultaneously. Bizarre but immensely captivating.


Asian art and architecture


Out of the Ordinary Out of the OrdinaryOut of the Ordinary

Out of the ordinary exhibition at The Cass Bank Gallery


Out of the ordinary: Award Winning Works by Young Korean Architects at The Cass Bank Gallery (ended) I visited Seoul for the first time about 5 years ago, and was very surprised by the prominent and futuristic contemporary architecture scattering all over the city. This exhibition at the London Metropolitan University campus showcased award winning work by young Korean Architects curated by Hyungmin Pai.

The exhibition featured a diverse range of work, from private homes, public housing and schools, to museums, commercial developments, rural schemes and small-scale interventions. Once again, the work by these young Korean architects provide a glimpse into the rapidly changing Korean society and their determination to innovate while searching for a new identity in the global world.


enoki chuNam June PaikNam June Paik Bakelite Robotenoki chuMorimuma rayIsao Miura's Sketches from the Poem Road Isao Miura at poetry cafe

Top & 2nd right: Chu Enoki: Enoki Chu at White Rainbow Gallery; 2nd row left & middle: Nam June Paik at Tate Modern; 3rd row: Morimura Ray’s ‘Garden in Moonlight’ at Contemporary art of Japan: Not just woodblock prints; Bottom two rows: Sketches from the Poem Road exhibition at Poetry Cafe


Chu Enoki: Enoki Chu at White Rainbow Gallery (until 11th April) Chu Enoki is a self-taught seminal figure in contemporary Japanese art who is still relatively unknown outside of Japan.

Walking down Mortimer Street, it would be hard to miss the several rows of de-activated weapons: ‘AK-47/AR-15’ (2000–03) and a life-size cannon replica ‘Salute H2C2’ (2009) in a reference to the cold war at the front of the gallery.

This exhibition also details one of Enoki’s pioneering performance, ‘Going to Hungary with HANGARI (1977)’, which was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s act of shaving a star shape into his hair. The project documented Enoki shaving all of the hair on the right side of his body in Hungary, which subsequently attracted the attention of the police several times. But he returned four years later to complete the performance by shaving his left half of his body.

If you are unfamiliar with the artist’s work, this small but fascinating exhibition would make an excellent starting point.

Contemporary art of Japan: Not just woodblock prints at The Hospital Club (until 5th April) I am not a member of The Hospital Club, but I walked past it one day and saw the exhibition being advertised. I walked in to enquire about the exhibition, and I was told that the work is displayed on the 2nd floor inside the restaurant and bar.

The selection of prints are hung on the walls throughout the restaurant and bar area, hence I felt slightly out of place towering over some business men seated next to the walls. However, if you are interested in Japanese woodblock prints and calligraphy, then this exhibition is not to be missed as it is curated by leading Japanese gallery, The Tolman Collection, which specializes in contemporary Japanese graphic prints.

Sketches from the Poem Road at The Poetry cafe (until 25th April) Not far from The Hospital Club is The Poetry cafe, where you will find another exhibition related to Japanese art and calligraphy.

The exhibition features drawings and poems by London-based Japanese artist Isao Miura, whose work is inspired by 17th century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho’s iconic work, ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’. The work at the exhibition is the result of Isao collaborating with poet Chris Beckett on an interpretative journey from text to image, and often back again.


Graphic design


100 years of graphic design 100 years of graphic design100 years of graphic design100 years of graphic design100 years of graphic design

Preview of 100 years of graphic design at Kemistry Gallery’s pop up space


100 years of graphic design at Kemistry Gallery (ended) 100 Years of Graphic Design was Kemistry Gallery’s first pop-up incarnation since it was forced out of its Shoreditch home by property developer in December 2014. Subsequently, this leading graphic design gallery started a Kickstarter campaign to pledge support or donation for a new permanent space.

As one of the 500+ supporters, I was invited to the preview of this exhibition in Shoreditch one evening. The exhibition was a retrospective of some of the most iconic and exciting moments in graphic design history ranging from 1914 to the present day with work by renowned designers like Milton Glaser, Saul Bass and Anthony Burrill.

I am appalled by the growing power of profit-driven property developers in London, and I don’t think they are any different from the City bankers. I supported the campaign not only because of my graphic design background, but also I don’t want the city to lose an important arts & cultural institute to pave way for more chained shops and restaurants that are making our high streets ever more homogeneous.



Conflict, Time, Photography at Tate Modern (ended) In the last 6 months, I have visited many excellent photography exhibitions in London, but this was undoubtedly the most powerful and poignant.

Most of us have seen harrowing photographs of war and its devastating impact on the victims and landscape around the world. Yet this exhibition was arranged according to the time elapsed between the conflict and when the picture was taken. Images were taken minutes, days, weeks, months and years after the event; thus making the viewers become more aware of the brutal and tragic aftermath of these conflicts.

This was not an ordinary photography exhibition, but one that evoke viewers to contemplate and question human’s intrinsic values and meanings in life.


guy bourdin guy bourdinIMG_3649-compressed IMG_3651-compressed

Top row: ‘Guy Bourdin: Image maker’ at Somerset House; Bottom row: ‘Human Rights Human Wrongs’ at The Photographers’ gallery


Guy Bourdin: Image maker at Somerset House (ended) It is hard not to be mesmorised by Surrealist photographer Guy Bourdin‘s uncanny, witty and provocative images. Over 100 colour exhibition prints were exhibited at this major retrospective, of which many were created for the then prestigious French fashion house, Charles Jourdan in the 1960s & 70s. As the protégé of Man Ray, Bourdin was a master of story-telling. All his photos were often staged meticulously with strong contrasts, simple and yet unusual compositions, rich textures and bold colours. Decades on, his images are still striking to look at and they out today’s highly-photoshopped fashion images to shame.

Human rights, human wrongs at The Photographers’ gallery (until 6th April) This exhibition explores 50 years of photojournalism (1945 until early 1990s), showcasing more than 200 original press prints from Toronto’s prestigious Black Star collection. It examines major political upheavals, conflict, war and struggles against racism, poverty and colonisation after World War II. Akin to the ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ exhibition, there are many brutal and haunting photos that are almost too shocking to digest. Yet these photographs serve as a reminder of the importance of human rights, and they celebrate the courage of those who sacrificed their lives for their beliefs and humanity.


Paris Asiatique


Musée Guimet


Aside from the Japanese gardens in Albert Kahn‘s museum and gardens, there are many other places in Paris for Asian culture enthusiasts because the French have always had a passion/interest in Asian arts and culture, much more so than the English. Although London is a multicultural city with many great museums, it does not have museums that are dedicated to Asian arts only, but there are two of them in Paris!

The most well-known of the two is Musée Guimet ( 6, place d’Iéna, 75016), which has one of the largest collections of Asian art outside Asia. Founded in 1879 by an industrialist, Émile Étienne Guimet, the museum’s collection is splendid and you would need a good few hours to wander and examine the vast historical artifacts and art work spanning over five millenniums and covers the entire region including Afghanistan and central Asia. This museum is not to be missed!


musee guimetmuee guimetmusee guimetmuee guimet musee guimet

Musée Guimet


Just round the corner from the museum, the museum has a hidden annexe called Galeries du Panthéon Bouddhique/ The Panthéon Bouddhique (19 Avenue d’Iéna). The gallery is located within a former private mansion of banker Alfred Heidelbach (1851–1922), built in 1913 by René Sergent. The entire gallery is dedicated to Buddhist art, with over 250 works from Japan and some from China gathered in 1876 by Émile Étienne Guimet.

To mark the museum’s 10th anniversary in 2001, a Japanese pavilion was added in the garden where tea ceremony would be performed. This is probably one of the most tranquil spots in the city, and if you don’t have the time to visit the Japanese gardens at the Albert Kahn‘s museum and gardens, then this garden would be ideal if you want to spend some time to reflect or even meditate.


Panthéon Bouddhique IMG_9877Panthéon BouddhiquePanthéon BouddhiquePanthéon BouddhiquePanthéon BouddhiquePanthéon Bouddhique

Galeries du Panthéon Bouddhique and its Japanese garden


For a long time, I have wanted to visit UNESCO’s Headquarters ( 7 Place Fontenoy 75007) partly to see the architecture and excellent art collection (including Angel of Nagasaki and works by Le Corbusier, Joan Miro and Henry Moore etc ). But the highlights here are the Japanese garden, Garden of Peace created by Japanese-American the acclaimed artist and sculptor Isamu Noguchi in 1958, and the ‘Meditation space’ designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Unfortunately, a group tour ( 30 mins long) of the building and garden must be made well in advance via email and I was never organised enough to do so, hence I will have to leave this for my next trip.





The second museum dedicated to Asian art is Musée Cernuschi ( 7 avenue Vélasquez 75008) next to Parc Monceau. The museum was founded in 1898 by Henri Cernuschi (1821–1896) and is located in the small mansion which used to be his home. The permanent collection here is mostly ancient Chinese, while others are from Japan and Korea, including a large prominent Buddha of Meguro, a Japanese bronze from the 18th century, collected by Cernuschi.

The museum also some contemporary collection by Asian artists and temporary Asian art exhibitions are held in the galleries on the ground floor. This museum is now one of the 14 City of Paris museums and offers free admission ( another gem is the Musée Zadkine near Jardin du Luxemburg). There many wonderful museums in Paris, but this one is a must if you are interested in Asian art.


Cernuschi MuseumCernuschi MuseumCernuschi MuseumCernuschi Museum Cernuschi MuseumMusée CernuschiMusée CernuschiMusée Cernuschi

 Musée Cernuschi


If you are looking for the most unusual and beautiful cinema in Paris, then you must visit the Cinéma Étoile Pagode/ La Pagoda ( 57 bis, rue de Babylone, 75007). This dance-hall turned independent cinema is replica of an antique Japanese pagoda designed by architect Alexandre Marcel in 1896. It was built as a gift from Monsieur Morin, owner of Le Bon Marché department store to his wife probably to save a failing marriage, though it didn’t work because she left him a year later for his associate ( so I guess a beautiful cinema is not enough to save a marriage).

The cinema officially opened in 1931 and has screened many premieres including Jean Cocteau‘s Testament d’Orphée in 1959 and from films The New Wave directors. The cinema was saved from demolition in the 1970s, and now you can still enjoy watching films in the two screening rooms including the exuberant ‘Japanese room’, or have tea/cocktails in the tranquil and leafy Japanese garden.


Cinéma Étoile PagodeCinéma Étoile Pagodecinema pagodaCinéma Étoile PagodeCinéma Étoile Pagode Cinéma Étoile Pagode

Cinéma Étoile Pagode 


Interestingly, there is another pagoda near Parc Monceau, and it is simply called The Pagoda/ La Maison Loo ( 48 rue de Courcelles, 75008). Originally constructed as a hôtel particulier in the French Louis Philippe style, the building was bought in 1925 by Mr. Ching Tsai Loo (1880-1957), a celebrated collector and dealer of Chinese and Asian art and antiques.

With the help of prominent architect Fernand Bloch (1864-1945), the building was transformed into the Pagoda, aiming to be build a cultural bridge between France and China. It is now a private museum, offering exhibitions and shows throughout the year.


A Japanese Zen rock garden at the entrance of Maison Européenne de la Photographie


Last but not least, Maison de la culture du Japon /Japanese cultural centre ( 101 bis, quai Branly 75015) is a good venue for those who love the Japanese culture. This massive glass building near the Eiffel Tower has a concert hall, theatre, cinema, exhibition area, library and a pavilion dedicated to tea tradition. There is also an interesting bookshop on the ground floor that sells books related to Japanese arts and culture as well as stationery.