Feng shui experts call giant art installation in Hong Kong a bad omen


'GIANTS: Rising Up' (2023) by French artist JR depicts a high-jumper seemingly floating in the air, not far from Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour. Photo: AFP

The highly anticipated Art Basel Hong Kong fair is back in force for its 10th edition. To mark the occasion, the French artist JR has been invited to install one of his monumental works on the roof of the Harbour City shopping mall. But this installation has been met with some criticism.

The reason for this criticism is surprising, to say the least.

In fact, feng shui consultants and fortune-tellers claim that this gigantic work, entitled GIANTS: Rising Up, is a bad omen for the city-state, according to the specialist magazine Artnet News.

This black and white photographic collage depicts a high-jumper seemingly floating in mid air, not far from Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour. An athletic posture that is "an invitation to take off, to achieve more," as JR explains in a statement.

This artwork is inspired by a series of installations, named "GIANTS," that the French street artist installed all around Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during the 2016 Summer Olympics.

In homage to Hong Kong Arts Month, JR fixed GIANTS: Rising Up on bamboo scaffolding, rather than using his usual metal structure. Yet this seemingly Asian touch isn't doing much to convince the project's critics, who have taken to social networks to share their dismay at an art installation they think shows a jumper impaled on bamboo canes.

"Doesn’t it look like someone who fell off from a building landing on a bamboo scaffolding, and the body is pierced through by the bamboos?" said the feng shui master, Po Sin, in a video posted on his YouTube channel and spotted by Artnet News.

A feng shui kind of place

Many practitioners of this age-old Taoist art share this opinion, while others argue that it is simply superstition. If the extent of this controversy may surprise Westerners, it testifies to the importance of feng shui in the spatial organisation of Hong Kong.

Indeed, the location of each building in the island-city is determined in relation to the wind or the rain, in order to influence the prosperity, luck or health of its occupants.

It is therefore not surprising that JR's latest creation has been subject to the same conditions. The American street artist KAWS also experienced this in March 2019, when he installed one of his colossally large inflatable sculptures in Victoria Harbour.

"Call me superstitious, but placing a ‘floating dead body’ in the middle of Victoria Harbour, the sight is unbearable," a feng shui practitioner wrote at the time on social media, reports Artnet News.

Whatever the case, this year's edition of Art Basel Hong Kong intends to show the world that the peninsula remains at the centre of the lucrative Asian art market. Some 177 galleries from 32 countries and territories are participating in the Asian edition of the major contemporary art fair, which will be running through March 25.

Art Basel Hong Kong is still not back to its pre-pandemic size, but the number of exhibitors is up significantly from the 2021 and 2022 editions. Alongside the fair, Hong Kong is staging various events and art installations to take advantage of the presence of foreign visitors attracted by the Asian edition of Art Basel. - AFP

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Art Basel , Hong Kong , feng shui , French , artist , JR


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