The Peak (Hong Kong) - - The View From The Peak - As­so­ciate Pub­lisher and Chief Ed­i­tor

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

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