Building on its ground-breaking history of championing public art in Hong Kong, The Peninsula is once again celebrating the power of creativity this spring with the launch of its fourth annual “Love Art at The Peninsula” programme. The initiative, which highlights the iconic hotel’s strong connections to the city’s cultural and artistic landscape, is this year spearheaded by renowned conceptual artist Sir Michael Craig-Martin RA – also known as “The Godfather of Brit Art” – who will be presenting a new site-specific installation to mark the third year of The Peninsula’s collaboration with lauded British cultural institution the Royal Academy of Arts.
The brand new sculptural work by Craig-Martin, Bright Idea (2016) will be on display at The Peninsula’s forecourt from 20 March to 31 May 2017, and its unveiling has been timed to coincide with the fifth edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong. The striking work – a four-metre-high, bright yellow lightbulb constructed from solid, high-tensile, powder-coated steel which has been created using a computer-controlled water-jet-cutting technique – appears to emerge from the fountain, creating an eye-catching spectacle, while challenging the way common objects are perceived by changing their dimensions and setting.
Bright Idea turns the concept of conventional sculpture on its head. Featuring lucid lines that clearly demarcate it from its surrounding environment, the work was envisaged as a sculpture of a drawing, rather than as a sculpture of the object itself. The largest sculpture of its kind created by Craig-Martin, Bright Idea was conceived to stand out against the hotel’s towering façade in terms of colour and scale. The setting allows viewers to look through the transparent space within the object from either side of The Peninsula’s forecourt, allowing the work to interact with varied backdrops depending on the perspective; offering multiple viewing experiences from different angles.
“The unusual thing about my sculptures is that, in a sense, they are sculptures of drawings rather than of objects,” says Craig-Martin. “Most sculptures create their three-dimensionality by mimicking the dimensionality of their subject. However, as mine are actually sculptures of drawings rather than objects, they are essentially flat and depend on pictorial rather than sculptural illusionism. They have a powerful presence, but consisting only of line, very little mass, and their transparency makes them appear virtually weightless.”
Instantly striking, Bright Idea draws much of its power from the fact that it has been conceived as both a drawing in space and as a single object, and the consequent ways in which it plays with notions of two dimensionality versus three dimensionality. By walking around the fountain, viewers can make the work evaporate into a single line, before seeing it reappear in its full three-dimensional form as they emerge on the other side. This sense of transformation, and the notion that one thing can become another, is central to the entire oeuvre of Craig-Martin. By layering physical and philosophical concepts on top of each other, and expressing them through a universally recognisable object, the artist provides a tangible base for viewers from all cultures to truly experience a “lightbulb moment”.
Highly visible from the street, the sculpture conveys a deceptive sense of weightlessness, appearing almost as if it is floating. Positioned to both frame and be framed by the water within the Peninsula’s iconic Fountain, Craig-Martin’s sculpture is intended to reflect both the symmetry of the courtyard and the sense of transience and changeability exuded from this point of convergence.
“When I was invited to visit The Peninsula with the idea of making a work for the hotel, I looked at various possibilities, various locations,” said Michael Craig-Martin RA. “I became interested in the idea of an image that would appear to float at the centre of the courtyard by the fountain. That was the initial idea. The courtyard is an exciting and dramatic space, and therefore difficult to command with a sculpture. For this reason I decided on the image of the lightbulb, that it should be yellow, and that it would need to be as big as possible. This lightbulb is one of the largest sculptures I’ve done.”
Tim Marlow, Artistic Director at the Royal Academy of Arts, said: “For the third manifestation of the RA Peninsula project comes a Bright Idea in every sense. Hovering between object and image and sometimes reading as a free-floating drawing in space, Michael Craig-Martin's sculpture will engage in some serious play in the Peninsula courtyard. At various points in the visitor's journey to and from the hotel, one will encounter a monumental neon lightbulb seemingly dancing in the fountain, framing the entrance, almost disappearing into thin air and then illuminating both façade and cityscape. Dazzling, I’d say - in an understated way.”
To complement Bright Idea, and as part of The Peninsula’s ongoing commitment to promote the appreciation of public art in the city, an exhibition of new paintings by Craig-Martin will go on display on the hotel’s first floor. These paintings of everyday objects originate from the same drawings that gave rise to Bright Idea, and will allow viewers to place the sculpture within the broader context of Craig-Martin’s work. “Someone can see the painting and they can understand how the sculptures might have arisen from the paintings,” says Craig-Martin, adding. “Although the sculpture is the outline drawing in yellow and the painting - as I normally do the outline – is black, the bulb itself can have the colour. It’s a kind of play on the sculpture that is in the courtyard.”
This juxtaposition not only serves to deepen the resonance of both works, but also gives viewers a clearer understanding of the relationship between Bright Idea and Craig-Martin’s paintings.
Offering an even deeper insight into his work, Craig-Martin will be discussing his remarkable career as both an artist and teacher in conversation with the Royal Academy’s Artistic Director Tim Marlow on Monday 20 March 2017. Taking place at the Grand Hall of the Lee Shau Kee Lecture Centre at The University of Hong Kong, this talk is co-hosted by Hong Kong University’s School of Humanities and Department of Fine Arts, who have teamed up with The Peninsula Hong Kong and auxiliary partners the Asia Society Hong Kong Center and the British Council to present what is sure to be a fascinating discourse charting the artist’s extraordinary career.
Beginning at 6:00 pm, this event is part of the Love Art at The Peninsula programme and is free to the public upon registration. For registration and ticketing, please visit https://www.ticketflap.com/love-art.
Ms Rainy Chan, Regional Vice President of The Peninsula Hotels and General Manager of The Peninsula Hong Kong, said: “With Love Art at The Peninsula, we are proud to be able to demonstrate our commitment to promoting the enjoyment of public art in the city, and this year we are hugely excited to have the opportunity to work with an artist as talented and significant as Sir Michael Craig-Martin RA. We hope that through Bright Idea and the public talk at Hong Kong University, we can help to inspire a new generation of art lovers and practitioners in Hong Kong, and add further depth to the growing tide of public enjoyment of the arts within the city.”
About The Artist: Sir Michael Craig-Martin RA
Michael Craig-Martin has been one of the leading figures of British conceptual art for the past four decades, both as a hugely influential artist and an esteemed teacher. Born 1941 in Dublin, Ireland, he moved to the United States at a young age and went on to study Fine Art at the Yale School of Art and Architecture, before returning to Britain in 1966. His early work saw him swiftly gain reputation for a minimal touch and keen sense of the tension between objects and language, which has continued to this day. His early interest in provoking a discourse around the semantics of everyday experience and language was exemplified by “An Oak Tree” (1973), a provocative installation that saw the artist position a simple glass of water on a shelf, accompanied by a written assertion that he has changed the glass of water into an oak tree.
Since the 1990s, Craig-Martin has focused on painting, developing a signature style with everyday objects depicted in bold, black outlines and painted in a palette of vibrant colours. Today, these defining works can be found in contemporary art collections around the world.
In 2014, Craig-Martin hosted a landmark exhibition of 12 large scale powder-coated steel sculptures in the grounds of 17th-century British stately home Chatsworth House. Here – everyday objects such as a hammer, an umbrella or pitchfork provoked contemplation of objects we take for granted – while retaining a sense of playfulness in their simple forms and bright colours.
Represented by Gagosian and Alan Cristea Gallery, Craig-Martin was elected to the Royal Academy in 2006 and was commissioned as coordinator of the Royal Academy’s annual Summer Exhibition in 2015. He was awarded a CBE in 2000, and in 2016, was knighted by the Queen for his services to art.
Michael Craig-Martin is also celebrated for his time teaching at Goldsmiths College, University of London, between 1974 and 1988, and then again from 1994 to 2000. During this time, Craig-Martin taught and had a profound influence on an emerging generation of artists who went on to become known as the Young British Artists or “YBAs”. This group included some of the biggest names in contemporary art today – Damien Hirst, Julien Opie, Sarah Lucas and Gary Hume – creating a legacy that earned Craig-Martin the nickname “The Godfather of Brit Art”.
About The Royal Academy of Arts
The Royal Academy of Arts was founded by King George III of England in 1768. It has a unique position in being an independent, privately funded institution led by eminent artists and architects whose purpose is to be a clear, strong voice for art and artists. Its public programmes promote the creation, enjoyment and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions, education and debate. The Royal Academy of Arts is governed by 80 Royal Academicians who are all practising artists and architects including Michael Craig-Martin, Thomas Heatherwick, Chantal Joffe, Conrad Shawcross, Yinka Shonibare, Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley. Honorary Academicians are distinguished artists who are not resident in the UK. They include Marina Abramovic, Tadao Ando, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Jeff Koons, Renzo Piano, Cindy Sherman, Frank Stella and Ai Weiwei.
The RA has unveiled plans for a transformative redevelopment that will be completed in time for its 250th anniversary in 2018. Burlington House on Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens will be united through designs by internationally acclaimed architect David Chipperfield RA (for more information on the RA visit www.royalacademy.org.uk/ra250#video).
The partnership with The Peninsula builds on the RA’s recent collaborations with cultural and educational institutions across Asia. These have included exhibitions in Singapore, Japan, Qatar and Australia, an artist exchange programme in partnership with Hong Kong-based not-for-profit Arts in Heritage Research Limited and the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, and a student exchange programme with Tokyo University of the Arts.
The RA has also launched an art-handling training scheme in collaboration with Art Basel Hong Kong. Prior to this, the RA launched a professional development programme for Hong Kong arts professionals in partnership with the Hong Kong government in 2012, and it has been behind a number of high-profile artist’s talks in the city over the past three years.
About Love Art at The Peninsula
Launched in 2014, Love Art at The Peninsula is an ongoing programme centred around public art and innovative events and experiences which aim to enrich and celebrate Hong Kong’s burgeoning arts scene. Building on The Peninsula’s longstanding history of arts patronage and its location close
to the eagerly anticipated M+ Museum for Visual Culture, set to open in West Kowloon in 2019, Love Art at The Peninsula gives hotel guests as well as the public at large the opportunity to see works by some of the world’s most exciting artists in a unique heritage setting.
Previous highlights include “My Heart Is With You Always” (2014) by Tracey Emin RA, a laser animation based on one of the British artist’s neon artworks projected onto the façade of The Peninsula’s tower during the artist’s first public exhibition in Greater China; “Three Hundred Leafs” (2014), a site-specific installation by Chinese artist Su Xiaobai extending from the hotel’s Grand Staircase; “Hang On A Minute Lads, I’ve Got a Great Idea” (2015) by sculptor Richard Wilson RA, which featured a full-sized replica of a bus that appeared to be teetering off the edge of the hotel’s Grade I-listed façade; and “The ADA Project” (2016), a richly layered work by Conrad Shawcross RA, that combined sculpture, robotics and music to produce a dramatic visual spectacle when it was installed in The Peninsula’s Lobby.