Vue Privée will inaugurate on Apr 26 its new gallery at Spottiswoode Park with 'Buy Bye,' a group exhibition that looks at the subject of luxury consumerism in Asian society.
With incomes rising rapidly among Asiaʼs burgeoning middle class, the region has been transitioning from a saving culture to one where conspicuous spending is unashamedly celebrated as aspirational goals revolve around amassing branded luxury goods. With shifting attitudes toward the ostentatious display of wealth, Western luxury brands have been flocking to the regionʼs gleaming new malls to meet the ever-increasing demand. Once shunned in communist China, the country is expected to become the worldʼs largest market for luxury goods by 2020.
Buy Bye” brings together six talented artists from across the region: Astari (Indonesia), Aíman (Singapore), Han Yajuan (China), Justin Lee (Singapore), Pham Huy Thong (Vietnam) and Tr853-1 (Singapore).
The selected artists are building on a tradition of investigating mass consumerism in artistic practice
imbuing them with contemporary Asian experiences. In the 1960s, Pop Art artists such as Andy
Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein transformed simple, everyday items into iconic works of art, using
logos from the popular brands in their artwork to comment on the world around them. Fast-forward
into the 21st century and Asian artists are now looking at the growing consumption of luxury branded goods as these become the everyday objects people aspire to own and collect, locking them in a cycle of increasing mass luxury consumerism and allowing themselves to be judged by their possessions.
Established artist Astari is using the imagery of luxury handbags in her paintings and sculptures to create thoughtprovoking works that reflect on the fast changing world around her, wittily lampooning societyʼs craving for luxury goods. Her works provoke and amuse at the same time – In the sculpture Home Bag, she sets the 1930ʼs cartoon character Betty Boop dressed in a blue Chinese qipao inside a birdcage that is a representation of a Hermes Kelly Bag.
Young Chinese girlsʼ endless appetite for the latest fashion accessories is at the heart of Han Yajuanʼs Bling Bling series where she presents her vision of the “me-first” generation of newly empowered women. Using a cartoonish style, her cute characters have all the trappings of materialistic city girls and appear to live a guilt-free life of consumerism. In My Whole World, they are trapped inside a wardrobe, but seem completely content, self-absorbed in their recent purchases of colour-coordinated clothes and accessories, oblivious to the world around them.
Pham Huy Thongʼs Dong Bao series has been using the narrative of an old Vietnamese legend to discuss the political and social discontent he perceives in his native Vietnam. According to the legend, all Vietnamese descend from Lac Long Quan (a dragon from the ocean) and Au Co (a fairy
from the mountains). Au Co gave birth to 100 sons and since then Vietnamese have been calling each other “Dong bao,” or children from the same womb. Using a crimson background and babies linked by an umbilical cord as if the scenes are still taking place in Au Coʼs womb, Pham presents todayʼs Vietnamese in search of new pursuits – keeping up with the latest trends. In To the Top, the babies are pushing a Rolls Royce up a steep hill of hundred dollar bills, working together in search of a better life.
For ʻBuy Bye,” Singaporean artist Justin Lee is revisiting some of his older works giving them a new twist. In Happy Meal Series – Paris 2012, his cherubic Chinese children are now eyeing a trip to Paris where they can consume culture at some of the worldʼs top museums, but also snack at Fauchon, a renowned fine grocery store and of course indulge in shopping for their favourite luxury brands. While reflecting on how the Chinese are now consuming luxuries as though they are everyday items, like a hamburger, Lee also draws attention to broadening horizons and the growth in the number of Asian consumers now seen on the streets of Paris.
In More Maneki Neko, More! (top image), young Singapore artist present the Fortune Car and his moving arm, a common Japanese ornament, which is believed to bring good luck to its owner and which can often be found in Singapore's small shops and restaurants. Here, Aiman mixes it with another iconic feline image, Hello Kitty, the immensely popular Japanese cat that has over the years amassed a great fortune. Sitting on a pile of Lego bricks of what seems to form a throne, and which children would play with, Aiman hint to this exposure to consumerism from an early age and how this can shape children character. This rich cat, adorned with a branded collar and bib, is still unsatisfied with his accessories and asking for more with an additional elongated arm for good measure.
The ʻBuy Byeʼ exhibition, which I curated, will bring together entirely new works especially commissioned for the show, as well as older works in a new medium (print, lithograph, silk scarves)