In line with the third Art Basel in Hong Kong and the launch of new satellite fair Art Central, Hong Kong is abuzz with art this March like never before. As one of the highlights, The Peninsula Hong Kong will unveil a ground-breaking public art installation by renowned British artist and sculptor Richard Wilson RA, presented in collaboration with Britain's most celebrated artist-led institution, the Royal Academy of Arts on Thursday 12 March 2015.
The work, Hang On A Minute Lads…I've Got A Great Idea, features a full-sized replica of a vintage twin-axel Harrington Legionnaire coach that appears to be teetering on the edge of The Peninsula's seventh-floor Sun Terrace, temporarily transforming the hotel's iconic Grade I-listed heritage façade and offering up an astonishing visual treat for the public. Inspired by the final line of the seminal 1969 British heist movie The Italian Job, as spoken by British screen legend Michael Caine, the work will be on display until 8 April 2015, and marks the beginning of The Peninsula's pioneering three-year collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts.
"We hope that this collaboration will contribute to Hong Kong's position in the international arts community, and the growing perception of our city as an arts hub," said Regional Vice President, The Peninsula Hotels and General Manager, The Peninsula Hong Kong, Ms Rainy Chan. "It was our wish to collaborate with an institutional art partner that shares the values of meaningfully bringing art to the community. Stemming from our combined 333-year history, the Royal Academy's deep commitment to art and its strong belief in the contribution that artists make to the world remains unchallenged. Celebrating The Peninsula's status as a Grade I-listed heritage building, we hope to work with select artists to interact with the building in surprising and inspired ways. Ultimately, we would like to realise a dream, which is to showcase pioneering public art that excites, challenges and spurs dialogue."
Overlooking The Peninsula's grand entrance, the kinetic sculpture weighs in at a hefty six tonnes at its core, uses hydraulic equipment programmed to rock the coach by up to 12 degrees at random intervals, giving the impression that it could plunge to the ground at any moment from the legendary façade of the hotel. As an architectural intervention, Wilson's work draws attention to the hotel's unique architecture, thus articulating the building in surprising and unexpected new ways.
Re-commissioned by The Peninsula Hong Kong, the work was originally created for the De La Warr Pavilion, a Grade I-listed modernist building located on the seafront in England's Bexhill-On-Sea and an important centre for the contemporary arts.
Wilson, who has twice been nominated for the Turner Prize and who is best known for his ingenious sculptural installations that play with space, context and perception, said: "The ultimate goal is to make something structurally daring, a spectacle teetering on the edge of being and not being, and between stability and collapse. It speaks of the limits one wanted to go as an artist, how daring one is willing to be in terms of sculptural ideas."
As well as being instantly familiar to fans of the classic Michael Caine film, which is also famed for a car chase around Turin involving a trio of Mini Coopers, the work will no doubt strike a chord with anyone who witnessed the excitement in the UK during the 2012 Olympics. Originally created as part of the London 2012 Festival, a major cultural programme celebrating the Olympic Games, the red, white and blue sculpture became an emblem of Team GB's endeavours and ambition, summed up by quintessential British humour, and attracting more than 100,000 visitors at the time.
On the collaboration with The Peninsula, Tim Marlow, Director of Artistic Programmes at the Royal Academy of Arts said, "The Peninsula Hong Kong is one of the world's historic hotels. Situated in Kowloon, it is increasingly located at the heart of Hong Kong's vibrant developing arts scene, where the Hong Kong Museum of Art will soon be complemented by M+, the city's hotly anticipated future museum for visual culture. The Royal Academy is a place where art is made, restored, exhibited, discussed and debated. As an artist-led organisation, we are increasingly interested in presenting artists and architects abroad and contributing to international dialogue about how art can be presented within the fabric of cities."
He continues: "Richard Wilson RA, one of Britain's most renowned sculptors, is a phenomenal artist to launch this programme. His work develops in dialogue with its environment, enlisting buildings as part of the sculpture. In effect he explores the boundaries of where sculpture ends and architecture begins – and vice versa – and he does so in ways which are at once playful, inventive, analytical and profound."
This year's pioneering collaboration for Love Art at The Peninsula, featuring Wilson and the Royal Academy, follows on from 2014's successful launch of the hotel's unique programme of public art exhibitions, events and culinary creativity that included striking installations by British contemporary art icon and Royal Academician Tracey Emin and visionary Chinese artist Su Xiaobai.