Artist duo Elm­green & Dragset are gain­ing ex­po­sure on both sides of the world, thanks to Lon­don’s Whitechapel Gallery and Adrian Cheng’s K11 Art Foun­da­tion

The artist duo Elm­green & Dragset are gain­ing ex­po­sure on both sides of the world this month, thanks to Lon­don’s Whitechapel Gallery and Adrian Cheng’s K11 Art Foun­da­tion

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

Michael Elm­green and In­gar Dragset have a knack for mak­ing peo­ple feel un­com­fort­able. For twenty-plus years, the Scan­di­na­vian duo have been mak­ing clever, thought­pro­vok­ing sculp­tures and in­stal­la­tions ex­plor­ing every­thing from cap­i­tal­ism and the Aids cri­sis to ar­chi­tec­ture and pub­lic space. For one work, Death of a Col­lec­tor, they built a fully func­tion­ing swim­ming pool and floated a life-size sculp­ture of a be­suited man face-down on the wa­ter. When this in­stal­la­tion was un­veiled at the Venice Bi­en­nale in 2009, art col­lec­tors stood pool­side and watched their fic­tional coun­ter­part float by. Another of the duo’s sculp­tures was sim­ply a frosted-glass door on which the let­ters VIP were en­graved at head height— but the door couldn’t be opened. Does this make ev­ery­one a VIP, or is the work sug­gest­ing that no one is truly im­por­tant?

Elm­green & Dragset’s work may make peo­ple squirm, but art in­sid­ers love them for it. The duo have won nu­mer­ous in­ter­na­tional prizes, been awarded hon­orary doc­tor­ates and been the sub­ject of ex­hi­bi­tions at lead­ing in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing the Ul­lens Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Art in Bei­jing, the Pom­pi­dou Cen­tre in Paris and mul­ti­ple mu­se­ums in Scan­di­navia.

But this month, their fame is set to reach even greater heights. Whitechapel Gallery in Lon­don is host­ing the artists’ first mid-ca­reer ret­ro­spec­tive in the UK and has com­mis­sioned a new im­mer­sive in­stal­la­tion ex­plor­ing the gentrification of Lon­don’s East End and the cur­rent age of aus­ter­ity in Bri­tain. Ti­tled This Is How We Bite Our Tongue, the ex­hi­bi­tion runs un­til Jan­uary 13, 2019. On the other side of the world, Adrian Cheng and his K11 Art Foun­da­tion have brought Elm­green & Dragset’s largest sculp­ture—an empty full-size swim­ming pool sit­ting on its side—to Guangzhou, where it is be­ing ex­hib­ited at the K11 Art Mall. Ti­tled Van Gogh’s Ear, it was first shown by the Pub­lic Art Fund in 2016 at New York’s Rock­e­feller Cen­ter. “The sculp­ture,” the artists said at the time, “re­calls the 1950s-style pools found in front of some Cal­i­for­nian pri­vate homes. One can dream of lazy days un­der the sun while sur­rounded by all the traf­fic and business go­ing on at Rock­e­feller Plaza.”

After the sculp­ture comes down in Guangzhou later this year, the foun­da­tion plans to tour the work to other K11 lo­ca­tions around China in what may well be­come a years­long project. With Elm­green & Dragset’s name on the lips of art lovers from Whitechapel to Wuhan, they’re def­i­nitely a duo to watch.

For the lat­est in­for­ma­tion about the K11 Art Foun­da­tion’s tour of Van Gogh’s Ear by Elm­green & Dragset, visit k11art­foun­da­tion.org

THINK­ING BIG From top: Van Gogh’s Ear by Elm­green & Dragset in­stalled at the Rock­e­feller Cen­ter in New York; In­gar Dragset (left) and Michael Elm­green; Death of a Col­lec­tor

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