Draped across the central façade of the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong is what appears to be a colourful and scintillating large piece of fabric. The exterior of the hotel has retained its 1928 façade and earned the nickname of Grande Dame of the Far East; its U shape offers the ideal setting for a large-scale work of art.
Entitled Earthtime 1.26, the seemingly undulating piece of fabric is an installation by Janet Echelman made of proprietary technology to incorporate the simplest materials, like netting used by fisherman across cultures for hundreds of years in order to reference the number of microseconds that have shifted in a day and shortened.
Janet Echelman. Earthtime 1.26 (Hong Kong). 2019. Fiber, buildings and sky combined with coloured lighting. and fibers braided with polyester and UHMWPE (Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene). Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Peninsula Group
A lighting system illuminates the vibrant range of colours she has incorporated as well as the flow of the drapery, bringing to life not just the artwork, but the hotel itself with newfound purpose. “My work is experiential—it stops being an object or commodity that you look at and becomes something that you experience,” says Echelman, one of four artists the Peninsula Hotel Group chose to be part of its first Art in Resonance programme.
“The work is about our interconnectedness; its physical manifestation is this interconnected network,” adds Echelman. “This for me is about the discovery that things I thought were constant are actually in flux. I’ve discovered that the earth’s rotation and the length in a day is changing and its form is a mapping of surface of the ocean.”
Timothy Paul Myers’s work entitled Alizarin, located in the lobby of The Peninsula Hong Kong. Courtesy of the Peninsula Group
Interconnectedness and communication across cultures is the message The Peninsula Hotels aim to achieve with the programme. Launched in March 2019 at The Peninsula’s flagship in Hong Kong during Art Basel Hong Kong, the luxury hotel group worked with New York-based curators Bettina Prentice, an art consultant who set up Prentice Communications over 10 years ago in New York and who has worked with clients such as Bulgari and Google, and Isolde Brielmaier, a noted curator and scholar whose résumé includes teaching at NYU in New York, the Guggenheim and the Bronx Museum of Art.
The pair selected four emerging and mid-career artists—Echelman, Iván Navarro, Timothy Paul Myers, and the Shanghai-based architecture collective MINAX—to create new works for the launch, which will then travel to Peninsula locations around the world, with newly commissioned works added in each city. The next stop is The Peninsula Paris.
Curators Bettina Prentice and Isolde Brielmaier. Courtesy of the Peninsula Group
“You can either be a venue or you can be an originator,” says Brielmaier. “In this day and age, we need to be forward thinking. If you can be an originator and impact artists directly as well as the cultural ecosystem where every one of your hotels and offices is located then that to me is next level.” This programme makes headway during a time when the arts have been sidelined across the world due largely to government cuts.
Yet many would argue that now, in a period where there seem to be more borders dividing and safeguarding nations, the arts are needed like never before. The role the private sector can play in the international transmission of art and culture is crucial and it is exemplified in the Peninsula’s new programme. “So much art funding has been cut in the US,” adds Brielmaier.
Iván Navarro’s HOME. Courtesy of the Peninsula Group
“There’s now this interesting role that the private sector can or cannot play in order to support art and culture, and do it in an articulate, engaging and impactful way.” Prentice and Brielmaier worked directly with the artists and through the Peninsula provided them with the logistical and financial means to create the works.
“There was a sense of integrity that spoke to me about the project,” she says. “We are all part of this ecosystem. We need to think about the next generation and how to build communities and this is a luxury brand that is doing exactly that.”
To read the full article, pick up the Summer 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Art