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5 socially conscious art experiences to explore this summer

From creative streaks during social isolation to immersive gardens with a story, these artistic events examine social justice issues from all angles.

Activism and art go hand-in-hand: In 1916, the anti-war, anti-capitalist Dada movement emerged as a response to World War I; and in recent times, graffiti artist Banksy’s satirical street art distills social commentary with spray paint. Meanwhile, the annual Hong Kong Human Rights Arts Prize shines a light on the city’s marginalised communities.  

Although many events have been cancelled or postponed this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, we have found a few fascinating exhibitions – offline and online – for your calendar:  

The 2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize Finalists Exhibition

Editor’s note: As of July 15, due to Hong Kong’s latest COVID-19 regulations, the exhibition is open by appointment-only.

At the annual 2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize Finalists Exhibition at the K11 Atelier King’s Road art space in Quarry Bay, visitors will discover the works of 31 shortlisted artists – each of whom expresses a distinct style and message through their art. 

Among the highlights, don’t miss the work of socially conscious artist  Peggy Chan, who harnesses her multi-media installations to raise awareness about Macao’s diminishing wetlands, marine conservation and biodiversity. 

In addition to the in-person event, you can also participate in an online auction. Proceeds will benefit both the artists and several charity programmes for disadvantaged families and children across Asia. 

Runs through 19 July. Visit in person at K11 Atelier King’s Road or check it out online via a virtual tour

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2020 Sovereign Asian Art Prize Finalist Exhibition. Credit: The Sovereign Art Foundation

TBD Salon II: E.T. Chong and Ace Lehner

The second iteration of TDB Salon – a virtual art studio visit and conversation with art activists – is taking place online on 19 July (Hong Kong time). Turning its focus to LGBT+ identity and representation, the event provides a unique opportunity to spend time with two influential LGBT+ artists in the US: Asian-American ET Chong and Ace Lehner. 

Through his performance and media installation work, Chong focuses on creating safe spaces for queer and non-binary minorities within the Asian-Pacific Islander community. Meanwhile, Lehner is a multi-disciplinary scholar who communicates queer and trans themes through their contemporary photography and video work. 

The exhibition will support artists, curators and gallery owners who have been financially affected by COVID-19. It will also donate 10 per cent of proceeds to the Okra Project’s Nina Pop and Tony McDade mental health recovery funds.

Taking place on 19 July at 7:30 am HKT via Zoom, the event will feature virtual conversations and studio visits with the artists. 

“Stretching Arms” Viewing Room

A Women’s Thing, a socially conscious publication based in the US, and AucArt, an online auction house that specialises in young and emerging artists, have teamed up to launch the “Stretching Arms” Viewing Room.

Showcasing the vibrant paintings of four talented female artists, the virtual experience aims to address  an important question: “In the midst of this global pandemic, how do we transcend solitude and foster community?” 

Emerging artists Natasha Wright, Viktoryia Shydlouskaya, Katya Granova and Tao Xian have taken this challenging time as an opportunity for introspection, self-reflection and meaningful social connections – struggles and sentiments that are communicated through their contemporary styles. 

In addition, 10 per cent of AucArt’s sales from the exhibition will benefit Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI), which fights against racist, homophobic, disablist and gender-related hate crimes.     

To take a virtual tour, visit online before 30 July. 

14-days Stay Home Notice

Focusing on the connection between isolation and creativity, 14-days Stay Home Notice features a diverse series of stories and creations by 14 artists from all around the world, including Japan, Korea and the US. 

The work – ranging from intimate portraits to modern calligraphy, Indian silkscreens, watercolours and mixed-media collages – takes isolation head-on, as the artists embrace their imagination, hopes, fears during the lockdown.

Spearheaded by Singapore-based art institution INSTINC, 25 per cent of sales will be donated to the World Health Organization’s COVID19 Solidarity Response Fund

Check it out online between 12 and 26 August. 

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The 14 featured artists of the 14-days Stay Home Notice online exhibition. Credit: INSTINC

Para Site: Garden of Six Seasons

Editor’s note: Due to Hong Kong’s latest COVID-19 regulations, the exhibition will be closed from July 15-19, with further closure pending.

Bringing together more than 30 international artists, the Hong Kong-based Garden of Six Seasons exhibition serves as a prelude to the upcoming Kathmandu Triennale at the end of 2020.

The exhibition, which is named after the English-styled garden built by the nation’s prime minister a century ago, takes a literal and metaphorical look at nature. From colonialism to gender roles, each artwork examines how gardens have documented and shaped the world throughout history.

Visitors will encounter various artistic experiences and styles, from hyper-realistic gongbi-style Chinese paintings to flourishing landscape paintings, leafy houseplant installations and sculptures inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, as a metaphor for the healing power of nature.

Running until 30 August, the exhibition can be found at two locations: Para Site gallery in Quarry Bay and Soho House in Sheung Wan.