Elmgreen & Dragset’s proposal for Art Basel Hong Kong Encounters manifests the idea of an imaginary city in the form of a scaled model, installed upside-down. This installation can be seen from various angles, with different details experienced according to the viewer’s position. The work builds a new architecture inspired by the fair’s location in Hong Kong and invites viewers to gaze up at the fantasy city above their heads.
Architectural interventions and richly detailed fictional settings constitute a substantial part of Elmgreen & Dragset’s artistic practice. With this proposal, the artists have created a kaleidoscopic installation of an entirely imaginary urban space in which the illuminated skyscrapers and modern tower buildings are made in several different designs. Depending on how visitors view the work, they will notice different details: they can scan the inverted aerial view or let their eyes travel between the various structures.
As cities grow and global competition between metropolises becomes more intense, local identities are increasingly influenced by what happens in other parts of the world. Today, many cities profile themselves in relation to other cities, aiming to measure up in terms of size, economy, infrastructure, cultural offerings, tourist attractions, living standards, etc. And there are many divergent opinions, visions, and aspirations attached to a city’s history and development: urban planners, politicians, businesses, and citizens all put their stamp on a city’s future in a complex interplay. Elmgreen & Dragset’s proposal resembles a downtown center that would be found in such a metropolis. This architectural model need never be realized, but it can titillate visitors’ imaginations, and prompt them to think about how their own ideal future city might take shape.
The proposal is inspired by the fair’s location in the city of Hong Kong, the rapid transformation of London, where Michael Elmgreen lived for almost a decade, and by the artist duo’s many travels to new mega-cities throughout Asia, in China, Korea, and Singapore.