Terry Richardson x Michael Lau extravaganza!

terry richardson michael lau hong kong art hk

Not only did Diesel deliver perhaps the most provocative art exhibition to hit Hong Kong in recent memory, they held one of the top parties of 2007 on the same night!

While most of Hong Kong’s art world is content to sleepwalk through the boom in tepid China art, Diesel put on what was indeed a brave exhibition, pairing Terry Richardson, a notorious international photographer, with Hong Kong’s top contemporary artist, Michael Lau.

The Exhibit

The special preview exhibition began Friday night at eight. The two floors of the gallery space were filled with photos from Terry Richardson’s recent trip to Rio, in addition to special works created by Michael Lau for the show.

Entering the gallery, guests were greeted by a life-sized nude figure of Terry Richardson (complete with tattoos,) splayed out on the floor. Hanging on the wall overlooking the figure is Michael Lau’s portrait of Mr. Richardson. Though known mostly for his toy-figures, Michael Lau is a gifted painter who has a distinct style and a great use of texture (as in the portrait above). A genius detail in the work is the brain in the shape of a female nude.

Michael Lau deserves credit for creating a body of work for this show that serves as the perfect companion to the world Terry Richardson exhibits in his photos. Perhaps Michael Lau is the only local artist that could have pulled this off.

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Walking deeper into the exhibit you can either head upstairs or downstairs. In either direction, the photos on display are charismatic nudes featuring both the famous and name-less of Rio. Sandwiched between these are a smattering of humble portraits of city dwellers in addition to shots of distinctive Brazilian buildings from the 1960’s. (To this day, these buildings look elegantly futuristic and hold their own against the best in contemporary architecture.)

Shocking for its over abundance of male nudity, the show brings up a host of interesting issues including the commercialization of art.

Walking through the photos you see that Terry Richardson is not just an observer, but often a participant in the shots. Whether present in a group, or solo, he appears sporting his signature grin (if nothing else!) It makes you wonder, are these photos just enhancing the cult of Terry Richardson, or are they staged works of a performance art / photographic hybrid? Appearing in so many of his photos it does seem to be self-aggrandizing. Does this build his status and make him more commercially viable? Does this make others more comfortable shooting with him? Seeing his body of work, does this actually create a snowball effect, where average people and famous people alike, lower their inhibitions and agree to partake in his style of shoot? It’s probably a combination of all of the above.

At the far end of the top floor is a small installation shop left over from the last Diesel exhibit. Here they were selling an assortment of Terry Richardson t-shirts, a special Michael Lau / Terry Richardson book featuring drawings created by the artist for the show, and other miscellaneous merchandise. Downstairs, another interesting part of the exhibit was a large portrait of Mr. Richardson holding a newspaper and dropping his pants. Guests were encouraged to pose in front of it to have their photo taken.

There’s so much nudity here, that it’s novel. It takes the sexually-charged atmosphere of contemporary advertising (that photographers like Richardson have helped pioneer,) three step further. It shows you the goods, so to speak.

The Party

The soundtrack for the night began with a d.j. who played Funk music from Brazil. This particular genre comes from Rio’s slums and was inline with the show’s theme, “From Rio To Hong Kong”. The music features raw beats similar to old school Hip Hop and contains overtly sexual lyrics in Portuguese.

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After ten o’clock there was a band show featuring Love Puzzle from Beijing followed by local groups Hardpack and Qiu Hong. As people filtered up to the party space above the gallery, Love Puzzle played the first set.

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Their reception was good, but their song selection for the night was more like a concert, and featured slow to medium tempo selections, rather than fast paced licks more suitable for a raucous party. Hardpack, who I’ve mentioned before came on next and completely tore up the place.

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The energy level jumped through the roof!

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Qiu Hong took the stage next and put on an equally killer set.

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Qiu Hong has a cool rocker chick as one of their main members – something SUPER rare in Hong Kong!

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Many of those in the audience had never been to a Hong Kong band show before (there’s a dearth of live music in the city.) Having never seen or heard anything like it, and incited by the rocking music, the crowd was going nuts.

The atmosphere was perfect for this sort of event. The performance space was a large open area with a stage set up towards the front. There was no over-bearing security which made for a friendly vibe, allowing party-goers to surround the stage for an intimate performance. A large supply of Heineken in strategically placed buckets helped as well.

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The energy and excellent stage presence of the live bands made it one of the best parties of the year.

At one point in the night I ventured back downstairs to look for a friend in the gallery. As I walked towards her I caught a glimpse of Terry Richardson admiring my brand new CLOT flannel shirt! Speaking of flannel, it seems that the photographer’s trademark choice of shirt was inordinately represented on the night of the opening. Could it be that Terry Richardson is now also a fashion icon?

The turnout for the event was excellent. The exhibition was packed with celebrities, including several top singers and movie stars. There was even a rare appearance by Baat Lung Gum, one of my all-time favorite character actors in Hong Kong movies. Here he is with his son, note the matching outfits! I wondered who was going to show up next, Teddy Robin?

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Diesel deserves special praise for their ambitious BRAVE series which highlighted both local and international talents during the three exhibits. Federico Tan from Diesel can be singled out for masterminding the event.

As much as I complain about contemporary art only being brought to the surface by commercial interests, to some extent, nothing has changed in hundreds of years. Walking home from the party I began to realize that brands, instead of royalty are the new patrons of cutting-edge international art.

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5 Comments

  • Thanks Patrick! You’re right! Alive Not Dead was one of the main organizers of the event, and part of the reason it drew such an interesting crowd. Alive Not Dead is an online social network built around singers, actors, and personalities who have blogs and share aspects of their lives. The Diesel event brought them out in full force, for a star-studded party!

  • Hey! I was so bummed to have missed this, though I was able to take a peek at the exhibition the other night…

    As a local artist (trying to meet other creatives in HK), how can I get involved/more knowledgeable about these events?

    Any recommendations ?

    I always seem to hear about it too late! 🙂

  • Hi Emily,

    One of the most requested features for Hong Kong Hustle is a list of upcoming events. I get emails from people all the time regarding this type of info… I wish I had the time to answer them all. I’m working on cooking something up. It’s a little tricky though, because many of the events are invitation only, and I don’t like over-publicizing things that are meant to be kept small. I guess by going to shows and galleries, getting on mailing lists, you can be informed of some functions. Others are a little more tricky.

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