Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Chinaman Vision Of Art

An excerpt from the

conversation with the founder

of The China Club - Mr David TANG


A visual study of his choice of decorations

"A bit of culture," Tang pronounces with a regal wave of his Cohiba. "Somebody has to keep a little culture going around here, don't you know. And I really like to do this sort of thing. Never mind if only a handful come, I like to do it anyway." He winks and takes a satisfied drag on his cigar. Then wagging an admonishing forefinger, he adds, "But no more than an hour for the music, because anything longer than that here in Hong Kong is too long."

If China Club members have a limited tolerance for classical music, most seem to enjoy the spectacular exhibition of contemporary Chinese art that hangs everywhere in the club. Put together with Johnson Tsong-Zung Chang, a brilliant curator with whom Tang owns the Hanart TZ Gallery downstairs, the 350 works in the China Club's collection consist not only of original paintings for old Maoist posters, campy socialist realist oils of the "Dear Leader" school of art and kitschy Communist bric-a-brac, but an extensive collection of post-Mao avant-garde paintings that mine the iconography of China's revolution and the dark side of Mao's megalomania in an ironic way that manages to be both oblique and affecting.

Among the best-known paintings is a Yu Youhan version of Mao attired in a floral Laura Ashley Mao suit, Wang Guangyi's militant worker heroes saluting a Tang breakfast drink logo, Yu Youhan's Chairman Mao and Whitney Houston, and a marvelous high-camp ceramic sculpture of Mao surrounded by stereotypes of adoring Third World revolutionary compatriots: a Mexican in a sombrero, an African woman in a nappy, an Albanian in regulation oppressed-peasant overalls, an Arab in a kafir and a Red Guard girl ardently hugging Mao's arm. Everyone is, of course, smiling deliriously with socialist intoxication.

The presence of this extraordinary collection makes the China Club more than just a clever replication of old Shanghai for young culturally defoliated businessmen in search of ersatz atmosphere. The fact that Tang has done so much to introduce China's new wave of iconoclastic artists to the outside world puts him on the cultural cutting edge and gives the China Club an air of being authentic, something that is rare in this international city where so much is borrowed and simulated from elsewhere.

"I created the China Club to be the kind of place I'd like to go to myself," Tang says. "Maybe for most it's just a kind of museum where they can eat and hold events, but I think that everyone feels somehow proud to be associated with it"--proud enough to remain on a long waiting list and then pay a $25,000 membership fee (corporate fees are $55,000) for the privilege of joining. Tang and his co-owner, T.T. Tsui, claim to have already earned nearly $30 million in memberships.

What is so unprecedented about the vortex of energy and activity that swirls around Tang and the China Club is that until its opening in l991, there was little socializing between Chinese and the British/ex-pat community in Hong Kong. There had been even less between Hong Kong residents and Mainlanders who were known mostly for their Maoist rhetoric, badly cut suits and social ineptitude. But through Tang's style of celebrity matchmaking between East and West, this three-way divide has started to be bridged. By doing more and more business and traveling on both sides of the border, a new generation of Chinese that views itself not so much as being from Hong Kong or Shanghai but as being just "Chinese" is coming to the fore. To be around Tang on this widening but still narrow littoral, where these once dissimilar and separate worlds have started to overlap, is to be in a new world.

And how do comrades from Beijing take to his cigars? "Well, yes," Tang says with an upper-class English harrumph. "Cigars are truly the greatest symbols of big capitalists, aren't they? I wouldn't think party leaders in Beijing would ever be caught dead with one in their hands. To see a Communist with a big fat corona or robusto would be a bit surreal, wouldn't it!"

Despite the many obvious differences in the way people live, think and are governed on each side of the border, Chinese on both sides are collectively searching for cultural roots in a process that has begun to evince a new nationalist pride. That this growing sense of "Chinese-ness" has become tinged with patriotism--and not infrequently more than a little arrogance and anti-foreignism--is an aspect of Asia's economic renaissance that has surprised many, especially when it has found expression here in Hong Kong. But as Tang explains, "More and more I have come to view China as my future, just as it is also the future of Hong Kong." In fact, he has just opened another China Club, this one in an old palace courtyard complexin Beijing that was once the Sichuan Restaurant, where he may be able to become more a junzi, a "Confucian gentleman," than a British dandy.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Salvador Dali lives today in Antibes

La Galerie d'Art
Autour de l'Art
13 Av du Grand Cavalier

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Magical Pictorial Stroll Through ANTIBES

If you are like me, having heard a lot about Antibes both good and bad, and are unsure of what to expect when you get there; here's your chance to let your finger do some clicking instead of using your feet. You can see for yourself first hand as to what you are likely to find when you do get there.

A Bit Of Background Information:

Over 2000 years ago the Ancient Greeks colonised the site of Antibes as the jewel of the Cote d'Azur. Ever since, Antibes' wonderfully sandy beaches have given it the reputation as the most enjoyable place to be along the whole of the Mediterranean French Riviera.

Antibes is an ancient city whose varied and fascinating history goes back 2,400 years. Events which have been part of the evolution of the town from Antipolis to Antibes Juan-les-Pins are written of in the history of France and of Europe.

In the 19th century, the town started to develop and grow, and demolishment of the ramparts began. The adjacent beach resort of Juan-les-Pins was created in 1882.

The town continued to increase in size after the first World War, but remained less urbanised than other towns on the coast. It is perhaps for this reason that it has retained its charm, and attracted such artists as Prévert, Audiberti, Greene, Picasso and Monet who found great inspiration in the quaint, historic atmosphere of the town.

The town is a living testimony to what has gone before, and the ramparts and archaeological sites recall the rich history of Antibes Juan-les-Pins and are a great part of its charm.

This is a place where life is good, the sky is blue, the long nights are warm, restaurants welcome you, there are luxury hotels, discotheques and casinos. City of culture, tourism and history,
Antibes Juan-les-Pins has something for everyone. It stages many prestigious international events, including the famous "Music at the Heart", "Juan-les-Pins Jazz Festival", the oldest in Europe, "Underwater Images World Festival", and the renowned "Old Antibes Antique Fair".

Antibes Juan-les-Pins is the second town in the department of Alpes Maritimes today with more than 73,000 inhabitants and has the largest yachting harbour in Europe. It is a major player in the development of the Cote d'Azur, due to its great diversity and many natural assets. Its economic development is centred around summer beach resort tourism, culture and sport as well as business interests and information technology in Sophia Antipolis.

Antibes Juan-les-Pins also contains the Picasso Museum, and the Peynet Museum, through which it has attained its reputation as being the town of lovers and one of the most romantic in Europe.

There is also the marine zoo, Marineland, Villa Eilenroc and the beautiful villas on Cap d'Antibes where the rich and famous of the world hide away.

Antibes Juan-les-Pins also closely guards its environment and the quality of life of its residents. On 25 May 1999, the town was the first in the department to sign the State Charter of the Environment, planning numerous projects to conserve the environment and respect the quality of life.

Antibes Juan-les-Pins is optimistic about the future with a population comprising 25% of inhabitants under 25 years of age. The town will continue to harmoniously develop in the areas of sport, economy and culture, respecting the environment and the well-being of residents. It will always endeavour to guard its specialness and energy, while looking to the future with optimism and fresh ideas.

Antibes is also the luxury yacht capital of the world today. There is a whole industry that grows up to depend on serving the needs of the truly well-heeled.

Stroll through the ancient gate from the international, multi-million dollar marina and you are immediately taken back in time. The Old Town, le vieil Antibes is a truly authentic unspoilt cobblestoned village of more than 2,000 years old; far removed from the high tech in the port.

Vieil Antibes has survived the modernisation and tourist 'development' of the last 50 years, and maintains the dignity and atmosphere of its past. A short visit to the bureau du tourisme will
arm you with as much information as you like, so as to get the most from a visit to Antibes.

As well as the myriad restaurants, bars and street cafes of Vieil Antibes, there is the Cours Massena which becomes a bustling local marketplace each morning. Around the marketplace is a network of narrow cobbled streets filled with small shops offering a mix of local meats and cheeses combined with art, antiques and gifts. The yachting industry and the computer laboratories of nearby Sophia Antipolis give Antibes one of the highest concentrations of English
speakers in France.

And then there's the Picasso Museum. Pablo Picasso spent 1946 living and painting in the Grimaldi Castle. Many of his paintings and pottery from this period are on permanent display in the Chateau Grimaldi.

Antibes also hosts one of the largest antique shows in Europe each spring. From then on until late September the roads and streets buzz with people from all over the world. Pull up a chair at a street side cafe, order a pastis or glass of local vin rosé and become part of a truly unique part of the world. So much for the background information; here you become a virtual visitor strolling through Antibes on foot; starting from the Gare d'Antibes and finishing at the Port via the Old Town. Have fun; but take your time; it's really a very nice experience!

Your virtual walk starts from here at the S.N.C.F train station.

After leaving the station, you would turn right to head towards Ave. Robert SOLEAU.

If you are coming in on the Bord de Mer route, you'll need to cross over the railway track by the 60's-looking round building; then turn right into Ave. Robert SOLEAU; which is a 1-way street running into the main square of the town - Place de Général de GAUL:-

After you've seen this, you're heading the right way into the old town. But first, you would be walking through Antibes' banking district full of --well 'banks' and lawyers and notaires offices; yes Ave. Robert SOLEAU is it!

In case you're wanting to buy some postcards already; check this little shop out. It's run by a nice young guy that does NOT speak any English; but his taste in English cards is good! It's on your left of Ave. Robert SOLEAU.

Next, you'd come to a little roundabout with a big pharmacy on the left and the HSBC bank on the opposite side.

On the left corner of the pharmacy is Ave. du Grand Cavalier, where you will find the ONLY art gallery in Antibes.

This is where you will find many original oil paintings available for sale at a very reasonable price. They also do some fantastic copies of the masterpieces as well as excellent b & w photos. However, if you need help on framing your own masterpieces; they'll be able to help you find the best frame that your money can buy. A nice bunch of people that speaks both French and English.

Continuing along Ave. Robert SOLEAU, you would come pass the 'Sorbonne' bookshop where you would find a hugh collection of art books; mostly in French but do ask some of the helpful staff who would be prepared to order your copy for you.

By the way, if you are taking your car into Antibes; it is always as difficult as it is anywhere else to park on the Côte d'Azur. However, try using the Vieil Chêne open-air carpark; they charge 4 euros per half-day. Very reasonable.

After this, you should be coming into the South-East corner of the main square Place de Général de GAUL.

There are 3 main roads connected to the Place de Général de GAUL; Boulevard WILSON which is a 1-way street leading in from Juan Les Pins:-

The second one is Boulevard Albert 1° which runs off to the Cap d'Antibe - the 'rich people' area of Antibes.

The third one is the one you'd need to take to go into the Old Town. It's called Rue de la République.

Once you're heading the right way into the Old Town via Rue de la République; you would be inevitably led to the Port side of Antibes. Have a nice day enjoying the quaint town of ANTIBES. It's marvellous!

Print this article out and take it with you when you have decided to visit
ANTIBES; it really is as nice as it looks!