Kurt Tong | Hong Kong
Is Life Worth Living?
110 x 29cm
Welcome to Charity!
The multi-cultural couple that makes up MAP Office, Laurent Gutierrez, from Morocco and Valérie Portefaix, from France, were the Grand Prize Winners in The 2013 Sovereign Asian Art Prize. Living in Hong Kong since 1996, they are leaders in Asia’s art scene. As veteran creators — in a city known as a melting pot of culture — we talk Asian art inspirations and evolutions across the last three decades, plus where to look next. Psst… It’s island-haunts shaping the next stage of their artistic journey.
Since winning The Grand Prize in 2013, how has your career and artistic vision changed?
In 2013, we received an invitation by MoMA to reflect on the future of Hong Kong. From then on, we have connected our research with a multi-disciplinary/multi-medium format style of exhibition.
As a duo, you moved to Hong Kong three decades ago, what brought you here?
We came here, freshly graduated in Architecture to teach in the newly opened Chinese University architecture department. It was 1995, a key moment in Hong Kong’s political history, the first elections held for the new Legislative Council, a mere two years before the official China-British handover.
What inspires you about Hong Kong and Asia?
Hong Kong has always been a fantastic laboratory. First the urban density and human behaviours to adjust to the extreme living conditions. Then the community of the islands, each with their own approach to the local economy and culture. For many years, we extend this knowledge in Asia, from Indonesia to Japan, learning from sea gypsies and the many coastline communities.
How have you seen the city’s creative scene change in the last three decades?
The art scene is very fluid and in constant movement. Of course, it has grown a lot with the impact of new school programs and the growing art market.
Which styles and mediums have been the most prolific?
None particularly but the mix of all as a whole. For us, we always start with a text, a narrative that becomes the guidelines for drawing, film, sculpture, etc.
In which ways do you think culture is affecting Asia’s art scene?
The archipelagic condition of Asia, the many islands have shaped artistic practices.
Moving further abroad, where should we be looking for contemporary art and why?
Our focus is on islands as unique laboratories with specific knowledge. Many art projects are now happening on islands, in JeJu (South Korea), Setouchi Sea (Japan) and Krabi (Thailand Biennale).
What’s next for MAP Office?
MAP Office is slowly moving to the island of Ishigaki in Japan, to develop a new form of residency involving art, science and design, and become MAP Ocean.