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Yayoi Kusama is Officially 2023’s Highest Selling Contemporary Artist

The coveted position of top selling contemporary artist previously belonged to British artist David Hockney; in 2023, however, Kusama generated $80.9 million at auction alone last year, exceeding Hockney who made $50.3 million. Most of Kusama’s sales in 2023 took place in Hong Kong, signifying strong Asian demand for the Japanese artist’s work. At 95, Kusama is undeniably one of the most significant female artists in history, reigning in a field still unfortunately dominated by men. However, there are hopeful signs of change: in the last 5 years, the number of works by contemporary female artists rose by 179%, suggesting an increased appreciation for female perspectives. Recent blockbuster exhibitions such as the Yoko Ono retrospective at Tate Modern and MoMA’s Leslie Thornton are also likely why female artists have been paid greater attention.  

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UOB Funds Southeast Asian Art Education

Though initially announced in November 2023, the United Overseas Bank (UOB) has finalised an undisclosed grant to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) this week, which will be dedicated to a host of programmes seeking to broaden understandings of Southeast Asian art. One of the key projects involved is a new online course titled UOB Introduction to SEA Arts, which will be made compulsory for all first-year NAFA students from next year onwards. Moreover, NAFA will also set up an annual SEA travel grant to send 30 students to cultural hubs in the region, such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. UOB will also be further supporting NAFA”s existing artist-in-residency programme, which sends two prominent Southeast Asian artists to Paris every year. An additional two regional artists will be awarded residencies in Singapore, an annual programme that will continue over the next five years. Finally, UOB’s funds will go to supporting the annual Southeast Asian Arts Forum, which hosts dialogues and performances from artists and educators in the region.  

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Louvre Architect I.M. Pei Gets Hong Kong Retrospective

Hong Kong’s M+ Museum is currently hosting a major retrospective of the works of architect I.M. Pei, whose career spanned six decades and several countries. Born to an affluent family in Guangzhou, China, Pei spent his early years moving around Hong Kong and Shanghai, before being sent to obtain an architecture degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1940. After graduating, Pei transitioned to Harvard to study under Walter Gropius, the founder of the influential Bauhaus School, which left an unmistakable impression on the young architect’s aesthetic vision. Taking up the post of head architect at development company Zeckendorf, Pei worked on large-scale public projects in the US, such as Kips Bay Plaza and Silver Towers in New York and Society Hill Towers in Philadelphia. Striking out on his own, Pei was awarded the assignment of the John F. Kennedy Library, and also designed several other museums in New York and Washington. His work in Washington caught the eye of the French government, who commissioned Pei to design the now-iconic Louvre entrance. Though staying away from China for much of his career, Pei finally returned to design the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Suzhou Museum in his family’s hometown.  Having passed away in 2019, Pei remains an icon of architectural ingenuity and a lasting bridge between East and West. 

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‘Biennale bump’: Venice Biennale’s Transformative Effect for Contemporary Artists

Despite the Venice Biennale’s early origins as a commercial art fair in 1895, the Biennale today prides itself for growing beyond this capitalist slant, dedicating itself to focusing purely on art and cultural exchange. While all that is certainly the case, an artist’s participation in the fair has an undeniable effect on their prices and market success: as the world’s largest international biennale, artists are given important exposure to potential collectors, who can be expected to pursue transactions with dealers after the Biennale’s closure. Participation in the fair is a “gold-leaf star on an artist’s curriculum vitae”, assuring buyers of the artist’s ascent to fame. Venice Biennale in particular also shifts the spotlight to deserving but underappreciated female artists, creating a more equitable art market. After participating in the biennale, artists will often undergo a “financial restructuring of their market” as prices increase alongside demand. According to gallery president Nick Olney, the Biennale is a “natural organic way that leads to more interest, dialogue, exposure, and of course, demand for an artist’s work.” 

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ART021 Fair Arrives In Hong Kong 

Previously based exclusively in Shanghai and Beijing, the annual ART021 has announced ambitions to come to Hong Kong in 2024, a move enabled in part by Hong Kong’s Mega Ace Fair which supports large cultural projects in the region. Though some may view the market in Hong Kong as fairly saturated, founder David Chau seeks to “change the traditional fair model [which] has become a burden for galleries and collectors.” He also pointed out that “Hong Kong has enough [of an art] market, the biggest in Asia, but it lacks enough focus on art for its own sake.” The ART021 Hong Kong fair will take place in summer of 2024, placing emphasis on exhibitions, public art and programming, and focus on collaborating with local institutions and galleries. Moreover, the fair will also seek to integrate a number of participating galleries from Southeast Asia and the rest of the Global South, with sights set on India, Pakistan, Africa and South America, working to connect them with mainland Chinese collectors. 

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Museum Removes Employee For Hanging Own Art In Collection

Last week, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich reported a highly unusual crime: a museum technician had hung one of his own paintings in the museum’s modern art collection, where it remained for an indeterminate span of time before being discovered and subsequently taken down. The culprit, a reportedly “well-respected employee”, was subsequently removed from the museum staff and banned from returning to his former workplace. This incident comes at the heels of another strangely similar case in October last year, where an anonymous artist added their own work to an exhibition on identity and immigration in the west German city of Bonn. However, no charges were raised against the artist, and the museum in question even helped to raise awareness of the sale of the work, the proceeds of which were donated to charity. 

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Published on April 19, 2024
Yu Ke Dong

Ke Dong is a seasoned art writer and current double major in English Literature and Art History at NTU. Having worked with esteemed art institutions in Singapore, Ke Dong now regularly contributes his keen research skills, adept writing abilities and passion for art to the Art Works discourse.


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