The Peninsula Hong Kong Presents Bright Idea, An Extraordinary New Site-Specific Work By Michael Craig-Martin Ra, Marking The Third Year In Collaboration With Britain’s Royal Academy Of Arts
Building on its ground-breaking history of championing public art in Hong Kong, The Peninsula is once again celebrating the power of creativity this spring with the launch of its fourth annual “Love Art at The Peninsula” programme. The initiative, which highlights the iconic hotel’s strong connections to the city’s cultural and artistic landscape, is this year spearheaded by renowned conceptual artist Sir Michael Craig-Martin RA – also known as “The Godfather of Brit Art” – who will be presenting a new site-specific installation to mark the third year of The Peninsula’s collaboration with lauded British cultural institution the Royal Academy of Arts.
The brand new sculptural work by Craig-Martin, Bright Idea (2016) will be on display at The Peninsula’s forecourt from 20 March to 31 May 2017, and its unveiling has been timed to coincide with the fifth edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong. The striking work – a four-metre-high, bright yellow lightbulb constructed from solid, high-tensile, powder-coated steel which has been created using a computer-controlled water-jet-cutting technique – appears to emerge from the fountain, creating an eye-catching spectacle, while challenging the way common objects are perceived by changing their dimensions and setting.
Bright Idea turns the concept of conventional sculpture on its head. Featuring lucid lines that clearly demarcate it from its surrounding environment, the work was envisaged as a sculpture of a drawing, rather than as a sculpture of the object itself. The largest sculpture of its kind created by Craig-Martin, Bright Idea was conceived to stand out against the hotel’s towering façade in terms of colour and scale. The setting allows viewers to look through the transparent space within the object from either side of The Peninsula’s forecourt, allowing the work to interact with varied backdrops depending on the perspective; offering multiple viewing experiences from different angles.
“The unusual thing about my sculptures is that, in a sense, they are sculptures of drawings rather than of objects,” says Craig-Martin. “Most sculptures create their three-dimensionality by mimicking the dimensionality of their subject. However, as mine are actually sculptures of drawings rather than objects, they are essentially flat and depend on pictorial rather than sculptural illusionism. They have a powerful presence, but consisting only of line, very little mass, and their transparency makes them appear virtually weightless.”
Instantly striking, Bright Idea draws much of its power from the fact that it has been conceived as both a drawing in space and as a single object, and the consequent ways in which it plays with notions of two dimensionality versus three dimensionality. By walking around the fountain, viewers can make the work evaporate into a single line, before seeing it reappear in its full three-dimensional form as they emerge on the other side. This sense of transformation, and the notion that one thing can become another, is central to the entire oeuvre of Craig-Martin. By layering physical and philosophical concepts on top of each other, and expressing them through a universally recognisable object, the artist provides a tangible base for viewers from all cultures to truly experience a “lightbulb moment”.
Highly visible from the street, the sculpture conveys a deceptive sense of weightlessness, appearing almost as if it is floating. Positioned to both frame and be framed by the water within the Peninsula’s iconic Fountain, Craig-Martin’s sculpture is intended to reflect both the symmetry of the courtyard and the sense of transience and changeability exuded from this point of convergence.
“When I was invited to visit The Peninsula with the idea of making a work for the hotel, I looked at various possibilities, various locations,” said Michael Craig-Martin RA. “I became interested in the idea of an image that would appear to float at the centre of the courtyard by the fountain. That was the initial idea. The courtyard is an exciting and dramatic space, and therefore difficult to command with a sculpture. For this reason I decided on the image of the lightbulb, that it should be yellow, and that it would need to be as big as possible. This lightbulb is one of the largest sculptures I’ve done.”
Tim Marlow, Artistic Director at the Royal Academy of Arts, said: “For the third manifestation of the RA Peninsula project comes a Bright Idea in every sense. Hovering between object and image and sometimes reading as a free-floating drawing in space, Michael Craig-Martin’s sculpture will engage in some serious play in the Peninsula courtyard. At various points in the visitor’s journey to and from the hotel, one will encounter a monumental neon lightbulb seemingly dancing in the fountain, framing the entrance, almost disappearing into thin air and then illuminating both façade and cityscape. Dazzling, I’d say – in an understated way.”
To complement Bright Idea, and as part of The Peninsula’s ongoing commitment to promote the appreciation of public art in the city, an exhibition of new paintings by Craig-Martin will go on display on the hotel’s first floor. These paintings of everyday objects originate from the same drawings that gave rise to Bright Idea, and will allow viewers to place the sculpture within the broader context of Craig-Martin’s work. “Someone can see the painting and they can understand how the sculptures might have arisen from the paintings,” says Craig-Martin, adding. “Although the sculpture is the outline drawing in yellow and the painting – as I normally do the outline – is black, the bulb itself can have the colour. It’s a kind of play on the sculpture that is in the courtyard.”
This juxtaposition not only serves to deepen the resonance of both works, but also gives viewers a clearer understanding of the relationship between Bright Idea and Craig-Martin’s paintings.
Offering an even deeper insight into his work, Craig-Martin will be discussing his remarkable career as both an artist and teacher in conversation with the Royal Academy’s Artistic Director Tim Marlow on Monday 20 March 2017. Taking place at the Grand Hall of the Lee Shau Kee Lecture Centre at The University of Hong Kong, this talk is co-hosted by Hong Kong University’s School of Humanities and Department of Fine Arts, who have teamed up with The Peninsula Hong Kong and auxiliary partners the Asia Society Hong Kong Center and the British Council to present what is sure to be a fascinating discourse charting the artist’s extraordinary career.
Beginning at 6:00 pm, this event is part of the Love Art at The Peninsula programme and is free to the public upon registration. For registration and ticketing, please visit https://www.ticketflap.com/love-art.
Ms Rainy Chan, Regional Vice President of The Peninsula Hotels and General Manager of The Peninsula Hong Kong, said: “With Love Art at The Peninsula, we are proud to be able to demonstrate our commitment to promoting the enjoyment of public art in the city, and this year we are hugely excited to have the opportunity to work with an artist as talented and significant as Sir Michael Craig-Martin RA. We hope that through Bright Idea and the public talk at Hong Kong University, we can help to inspire a new generation of art lovers and practitioners in Hong Kong, and add further depth to the growing tide of public enjoyment of the arts within the city.”