Project Tracing Material Culture Wins 2020 BMW Art Journey
By Charmaine Kong
On June 18, sculptural artist Leelee Chan was announced the winner of the ninth iteration of BMW Art Journey, a joint venture by the German automobile company BMW and Art Basel. Chan will embark on a funded research trip, pending Covid-19 regulations, to materialize her new project.
Chan’s winning proposal, titled “Tokens from Time,” outlines an examination of material culture over time with a particular focus on the foreseeable substitution of organic materials by post-industrial synthetic ones. She plans to visit artisan families to explore ancient handcraftsmanship, conduct site visits in places such as Mexican crystal caves and Japanese high-tech synthetic quartz factories, and engage with scientists to dissect contemporary issues of eco-cultural sustainability. Explaining their unanimous decision, jury members stated in a press release that they “were impressed by how Leelee Chan engages with materials that are charged with needs, values and ideas,” which probes bigger questions of “what it means to be a sculptor working today and tomorrow.”
The Hong Kong born-and-based artist is known for her playful adaptation of materials. She manipulates household items or found objects by incorporating industrial and natural elements including artificial plants, asphalt, and seashells into her creations. The reconfigurations often reflect metropolitan sceneries, criticizing effects of urbanization and consumerism.
Chan was selected digitally by an international panel of jurors from a shortlist of three finalists. The other finalists include Brooklyn-based Jes Fan, whose glass assemblages examine the biological and ontological construction of identity and “otherness,” and New York and Manila-based artist duo Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho, who create research-based installations that highlight globalization issues in a post-colonial framework.
Since its establishment in 2015, this marks the first time that the BMW Art Journey initiative also includes mid-career artists in addition to emerging artists. Candidates have to be represented by galleries founded within the last ten years or featured in the Discoveries sector of Art Basel Hong Kong. Past winners of the award include Hong Kong composer-artist Samson Young, New Zealand artist Zac Langdon-Pole, and Shanghai-based multimedia artist Lu Yang, among others.
Charmaine Kong is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.
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