STUMBLING INTO THE FUTURE
Oscar Wilde wrote that art is “the most intense mode of individualism the world has known”. He was referring to the way true art is upsetting to popular opinion or appeal; that true art shouldn’t even be popular at all. We commonly link art to humanity in its most expressive form. Marshall Mcluhan, the legendary media theorist, referred to art, “at its most significant”, as an early warning, to let “older culture know what was about to happen to it.”
And yet, machine learning can soon be applied to your taste in art. What happens when algorithms that determine what you like in music or Youtube videos are applied to art?
Or consider the fact that algorithms could make art in future. Google is already working on getting a machine to draw. What will an art world 20 years from now be like in the face of such advancements?
Start-ups and established auction houses alike are already working on advanced technologies related to e-commerce, AI and a host of other things. Christie Lee, our London-based art correspondent, takes a look at the crosscurrents of technology that are starting to impact the art market, in everything from tastemakers to online purchasing.
One of the never-ending concerns about art and any similar alternative asset whose value can fluctuate on a whim is provenance. Usually, the question comes up with regards to forgeries and fakes. But as Eduard Fernandez discovered, there is another aspect: what happens when looted antiquities are given legal status? As it happens, Hong Kong’s legal system has allowed the trade in illegally acquired antiquities to carry on. So even if a blockchain were to be established about the provenance of a particular antiquity, would this just be a way to make theft permanent?
As the art world lands in Hong Kong for Art Basel this month, it’s worth noting some of the local developments. David Zwirner, a man who has been on the march to the top of the gallery game since his start in New York in the 1990s, has just opened his first Asian gallery in Hong Kong at the new H Queen’s building, purpose-built for galleries. Michele Koh Morollo met him and his new staff to get a sense of the world’s most powerful gallerist (currently) and what his intentions for Hong Kong are.
Finally, our cover story this month is Lam Leung-tim, the elder statesman of the Hong Kong toy industry. His story is emblematic of Hong Kong in many respects. Born into hardship, he rose to fame designing and manufacturing simple toys, including the rubber duck that became synonymous with so many children’s bath time in Europe and North America.
His hard work and industry were rewarded with a considerable fortune. But that period of Hong Kong’s history was almost forgotten until Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman landed in Hong Kong in 2013 and floated a giant rubber duck in Victoria Harbour. That act of artistic mischief seems to have prompted the 94year old Lam out of retirement and start a new company devoted to selling more rubber ducks yet. So art and industry found a way to merge, uncomfortably, in Hong Kong.
Almost in anticipation of a giant duck being called art, Andy Warhol is widely credited with the expression: “Art is what you can get away with”. According to some, he copied that phrase from Mcluhan. RYAN SWIFT