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PROJECTNAME A Beauty Centre @ Juming Museum: Yeo Chee-Kiong Solo Exhibition DATE 2017/05/20-2017/10/29 GALLERY Gallery II & Interchange Area LINK A Beauty Centre @ Juming Museum Curatorial Concept

Beauty, like the roses it describes, is a thorny word.

In contemporary society, it is a sensitive concept, much politicized and often associated with women, the media and the commercial world. In the world of contemporary art, the idea is equally if not more prickly. While the general public might easily relate beauty to art, beauty is however much disdained, derided, and dismissed in an art world where western ideals dominate. After conceptual art in the West had denounced sensory pleasures to extol instead ideas and immateriality of the art object in the 1960s, one risks being superficial in speaking about beauty in their creative endeavors. As the preeminent American art critic Arthur Danto describes, “beauty had almost entirely disappeared from artistic reality in the twentieth century, as if attractiveness was a stigma, with its crass commercial implications”. (Danto, 2003)

Nevertheless, despite the controversies, the pursuit for beauty in human history is intriguingly perpetual and relentless. Even the art world did not manage to cleanly sever ties with it.

With an intention to provoke thoughts surrounding the idea of “beauty”, A Beauty Centre is constructed as a twofold world where the retail saloon industry and the art gallery as an institution overlaps and meets. On the one hand, there is the rather mischievous mimicry of a retail space; on the other there is the actuality of the art exhibition itself taking place within the gallery compound. The two worlds collapse into one as the system of the saloon as a site for the negotiation of beauty for vanity slips into the framework of a gallery where sensuous objects created by the artist are being consumed by the gallery goers. By juxtaposing the two, the artist poses questions and manifests the hidden affinity between the beauty business and the art world.

In Chinese philosophy “beauty” is associated with “truth” and “goodness”. In Plato’s Symposium, “beauty” is further taken to be the ultimate object of “love”; the pursuit has its root in human’s carnal wants, but concludes itself by embracing the remote “form” of things that are beautiful. In the art world, contemporary writers lament that this idea of beauty as the “object of love” has been significantly diminished in 20th century art (Nehamas, 2007). In A Beauty Centre, with a series of quirky forms situated within a staged environment, it is interesting to see the artist’s apparent fascination with form, materiality, and space. In his own words, he wishes to “explore our primal desire for material and spiritual satisfaction within the absurd world of delusion.”

Arthur Danto once proposed for “a detoxification of beauty in contemporary art”, contending that works of art are capable of embodying “beauty” that operates from within its own conceptual framework (Danto, 2002). A Beauty Centre may be seen as an ambitious project with agenda comparable to this idea. Complete with a pseudo parlor, an online counterpart, and the operation of the entire scheme as an art show, the exhibition not only makes enquiries into the notions of beauty in various dimension, it also seeks to define the boundaries of materiality and non-materiality, and explores possibilities from which beauty and materiality could transform one’s perceptual experiences.

Artist/Yeo Chee-Kiong
Yeo Chee-Kiong (b.1970) is a contemporary sculptor and installation artist who is fascinated with the language and spatial relationship between object, space and authorship. His work destabilizes the familiar notions of spatial proportions and perspectives, whilst examining the human conditions in the construction of an extended surreal world.

In the course of his career, Yeo has held several appointments including Acting President of the Sculpture Society Singapore (2014-15), Chairman of Telok Kurau Studios Management Committee (2014-16), Advisor, Norwegian Collaborative Organization for Contemporary Art Abroad, London (2011-15), Committee Member of Public Art Appraisal Committee, National Heritage Board, (2010-13), Member of Curriculum Development Advisory Committee of NAFA, Fine Art Department (2011-14), and Panel Member of Young Artist Award’s Specialist Panel for Visual Art, National Arts Council (2012, 2013, 2016). He is currently the President of the Sculpture Society Singapore (2005-09, 2015-19). Yeo is currently an adjunct lecturer at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and LASALLE College of the Arts.

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