Cultural resilience in times of change

UBS Digital Insights program from Art Basel in Hong Kong

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Adeline Ooi, Director Asia, Art Basel shares the highlights of Art Basel in Hong Kong’s 2021 edition

Highlights reel of Digital Insight Program

As the world continues to grapple with the effects of the pandemic, the art world too has had to acclimatize to one of the most restrictive moments in modern history. From digital viewing platforms to webinars, from virtual showrooms to satellite booths, the cultural sphere has adapted to current circumstances, reinventing itself. Meanwhile the core purpose of art itself: to inspire, communicate ideas, and challenge the status quo has gained renewed importance.

Within this context, UBS spoke to some of Asia’s leading cultural figures, to explore the different facets of resilience. One of the most powerful connectors between this diverse group is the passion and sense of purpose that each of them possess. To them, success is often defined by the idea of growth and partnership, between gallerist and artist, between culture and entrepreneurship, and between patron and artist.

These symbiotic relationships are centred around an ecosystem that nurtures the development and circulation of cultural forms and practices. Within this framework, education is being reshaped by an increasingly intuitive, technology driven teaching and learning process. According to Dr. Isaac Leung, Practicing Artist, Curator and Scholar in Art and Culture, the enhanced ability to transfer knowledge has the power to redefine age-old narratives, enabling “artists to keep their integrity whilst developing completely new viewing and exhibition experiences to disrupt conventional gallery or museum spaces.”

This spirit of innovation and collaboration is also embodied most recognisably in the work of the artist collective teamLab. Reflecting on the impacts of COVID-19, teamLab shares that whilst the pandemic didn’t see the invention of any new technology in their practice per se, it hastened its acceptance. Navigating the confluence of art, science, technology, and the natural world, teamLab’s oeuvre offers new perceptions of our world through art that interacts, inspires, and often addresses the subject of sustainability.

In conversation with Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles, Mizuki Takahashi, Ewan Venters, CEO of Hauser & Wirth underlines that the result of “All of our research and all of our listening to our artists and to our collectors, is that the subject of sustainability, the subject of the environment is of paramount importance to everyone.” Inspired by artists like Mika Rottenberg, he explains that the gallery is in the process of creating a 'carbon budget' for each of their projects.

The rising urgency of sustainability and increasing dependence on technology are also mobilising a younger generation. Their strong engagement in art is reflected in the evolution of the collecting landscape in China. Fuelled by powerful communication platforms such as WeChat and Weibo, Amber Wang, Director of Gallery Weekend Beijing shares that “these young collectors have myriad channels through which to enter the contemporary art world. They are learning while collecting at the same time. We feel that this group of collectors will play an important role in the future.”

In this sense, art fairs in new hybrid forms continue to provide a platform for discovery, learning, innovation, collaboration, and appreciation, offering places for exchange and connection among wider audiences. It is with this conviction that UBS welcomes the return of the Art Basel shows, continuing the firm’s long history of supporting contemporary art and artists.

May 2021