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Art What!: BMW Art Journey winner Leelee Chan begins her journey to explore the possibilities of ancient and future materials

Screenshot 2020-06-22 at 6.24.18 PM
Leelee Chan, BMW Art Journey winner, represented by Capsule, Shanghai. © Leelee Chan

BMW Art Journey winner Leelee Chan, represented by Capsule Shanghai gallery, begins her journey across Europe in September 2020 to explore the possibilities of ancient and future materials, while bringing herself into dialogues with craftspeople, innovators and scientists. Leelee Chan is the ninth recipient of the BMW Art Journey, a collaboration between Art Basel and BMW since 2015, created to recognize and support emerging artists worldwide.

From the beginning of September until the end of October 2020, Leelee Chan’s BMW Art Journey ‘Tokens From Time’ will take her to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Great Britain to trace material culture from the past, present and future. Therefore, the artist will take part in artisan workshops, learning more about the practice of ancient craftsmanship techniques using copper and marble and will visit several UNESCO World Heritage Sites including some of the oldest and largest Christian and Roman mosaics. Along her journey, Leelee Chan will engage in dialogues with scientists and experts to understand how natural materials may be substituted by synthetic materials in the future.

Leelee Chan, “Sunset Capsule”, site-specific sculptural installation, construction: lights, metal stands, crystal pieces from a scavenged chandelier, concrete, fiberglass, metal hardware, gel filters. Installation dimensions variable, each light ranges from 146 x 38 x 38 cm to 150 x 38 x 38 cm, 146 x 38 x 38 cm, 150 x 38 x 38 cm, 2019. Photo: UCCA Dune. © Leelee Chan and Capsule Shanghai

Investigating ancient materials and their future substitutes from the emerging fields of nanotechnology and biotechnology, Leelee Chan’s BMW Art Journey project describes the evolving relationship between people and materials and touches on contemporary debates surrounding ecological and cultural sustainability. Spanning from the hand-crafted to the industrial to the post-industrial, the artist’s investigation of materials ultimately asks the question, ‘What does it mean to be a sculptor today?’

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Leelee Chan adjusted her original travel plans and starts her BMW Art Journey in Europe. Other destinations, such as Japan and Mexico, have been postponed and the further course of her journey is depending on the developments of the pandemic. Leelee Chan’s travels in Europe will be carefully monitored and adjusted according to the latest guidelines and regulations.

Leelee Chan, “Protector”, found materials including car windshield, seashells, a bag of chandelier crystal balls, polystyrene packagings, mother of pearl tiles, egg packagings, aqua-resin, resin, fiberglass, concrete, wood, metal hardware, pigment, 179 x 77.5 x 54 cm, 2018. © Leelee Chan and Capsule Shanghai

‘This is only my second day in Italy and I am already amazed by my chance encounters and conservations with various craftspeople that hand make brass picture frames, marble paper, and domestic pottery in the corners of their small workshops. Living under the COVID-19 restrictions in Hong Kong, people have become so used to not touching anything outside their homes. I believe living like this for many months has made me hypersensitive to my new surroundings – watching the hand movements of the craftspeople, feeling their worn tools and materials in my hands, I am ready to soak it all in,’ says Leelee Chan.

Leelee Chan, “Navel”, scavenged polystyrene packaging and cosmetic container, found seashell, jesmonite, fiberglass, resin, pigment, epoxy putty, 151 x 30 x 30 cm, 2018. © Leelee Chan and Capsule Shanghai

Leelee Chan was selected as ninth BMW Art Journey winner from a shortlist of three artists, represented by galleries originally accepted into this year’s Art Basel show in Hong Kong, during an online process. The international jury of experts included Claire Hsu, Executive Director, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong; Matthias Mühling, Director, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich; Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, President, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin; Philip Tinari, Director, UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and Samson Young, artist and winner of the first BMW Art Journey.

Art Basel and BMW will collaborate with the artist to document the journey and share it with a broader public through print publications, online and social media. The next BMW Art Journey shortlist of three artists will be announced in March 2021 during Art Basel in Hong Kong.

Find out more about BMW Art Journey on their website here

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