The Rabbit and The Mood – A Review of Art Basel Hong Kong 2019


Our art week in Hong Kong kicked off with seeing a friend’s piece in the lobby of the Old Mandarin Hotel.

The work was a piano painted by Konstantin Bessmertny. It was colorful, and surreal, with characters both recognizable and new. It was a nice neo-blend of Dada and Surrealism – a waggish call to look and touch, a serious declaration to create, experiment, and be free.


konstantin bessmertny - Ping Pong Piano Theory Illustrated - 2019
Konstantin Bessmertny, “Ping Pong Piano Theory Illustrated,” 2019


Days later, we visited Art Basel in the Wan Chai Convention Centre – and while several works stood out, the entire sum of its parts (at least on the first floor) left us feeling that the art world missed an opportunity to challenge or provoke.

Many of our friends wanted to be confronted by works that touched or elevated them, that spoke to their life, their hopes and their culture.

Instead, galleries and artists put viewers on a collision course with an art trend we call “Mood-a-lism” – a focus on color and medium to express an artist’s own feeling and state of mind.

Basically, the collection, taken as a whole, forgot about the viewer’s need to engage, and the audience was exposed to technically-excellent works that just boiled down to “Hong Kong, let us tell you how WE’RE feeling.”

Just visit other stories about this year’s Art Basel in Hong Kong and ask yourself… Does the piece stir you? Does it have any connection to your life? Does it have any relevant linkage to the times we live in? Or, while impressive in color or technical proficiency, does it just capture an artist’s feeling, state of mind, or whim?


To us, the best art is not an investment that could raise in value.

To us, the best art is not a sly gimmick or a decorative pop piece that looks stunning paired with a rug and sofa.

To us, the best art is not about the mood or impulse of an artist, a gallery, or an event organizer.

The BEST ART is a shared experience – a two-way communication that should leave the viewer inspired, moved, or challenged.


There were some great examples of BEST ART at Art Basel Hong Kong 2019. We really enjoyed works by Su Misu (Chi-Wen Gallery); Liu Xiadong (Massimo De Carlo Gallery); Markus Lüpertz (Michael Werner Gallery); Wang Tuo (White Space Beijing), Prudence Flint (Mother’s Tankstation Limited); and Nina Chanel Abney (Pace Prints).

But we think the one piece that went against the grain of Mood-a-lism and best exemplified the TRUE ART SPIRIT this time around was Dan Colen‘s “Rabbit and the Moon” courtesy of the Lévy Gorvy Gallery.


hong kong art basel 2019 - dan colen - rabbit and the moon - featureDan Colen, “Rabbit and the Moon,” 2017-2018, Sculpture: Stainless steel, epoxy primer, acrylic paint, auto paint, Rabbit: Rabbit fur, urethane foam, polyester resin, stainless steel, glass, 70 x 30 x 22 inches (177.8 x 76.2 x 55.9 cm)


Here, guests were treated to a statue of a life-sized woman. She’s nude, resting on a white elevated base, and playfully holding a furry rabbit in her left hand.

We saw the woman as a mature Alice, a modern-day adult who felt no need to chase a woodland creature and descend into the absurdity of Wonderland. She’s above ground, in plain sight, examining a rabbit in the real world, a place that is often as complex and confusing as any Lewis Carroll creation.

Alice is all grown up and outside the looking glass. As viewers, we can reflect on this scene – and put whatever stamp we want on it.

Is it a scene of calm and freedom and inspection? Does it talk to womanhood? The environment? Time itself?

Clearly, the artist fashioned more than a mood ring – and we’re thankful for it.


Images Courtesy of NewsWhistle