press release

For over a decade, Lee Mingwei has played a pivotal role in expanding the terrain of what might be called 'invitational aesthetics' wherein participation, conversation and the relationships that form through his projects exist as their heart and momentum. This exhibition, curated by Director Rhana Devenport is the first presentation of the artist's work in New Zealand and features two projects informed by qualities of hospitality and the nature of home.

Lee Mingwei's projects often provide a stage for interpersonal exchange inspired by ordinary human events or activities such as sleeping, dining, collecting and gifting. His participatory installations offer a fresh avenue to find meaning within museums today and register a generous and intimate kind of contemporary art-making.

Through The Living Room Project (2000-2008) the Govett-Brewster is turned inside-out as it offers a temporary home for seldom-seen private collections to be revealed and encountered. These local collections – ranging from West African masks to meccano and Maori potatoes – are each presented in the living room for a fortnight. A day is devoted to the collector who plays host in the space, talking casually with visitors about their collection, its beginnings, its evolution, and the stories these objects trigger.

Lee Mingwei's second work, Nomad Exquisite (2008) is a new project conceived for the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery that harnesses early twentieth century classical music and the natural world as metaphor for human behaviour, along with the artist's abiding interests in architectural space and Ch'an Buddhist aesthetics. The proportions of the room refer to Tadao Ando's theory of a contained aesthetic within domestic architecture. A hermit crab dances into view to Debussy's 'Serenade for the Doll', it inhabits a discarded shell that has become its ideal yet temporary home.

Lee Mingwei is Taiwan-born and New York-based, he has exhibited extensively in the US, Taiwan and Australia and has participated in the Venice Biennale, Whitney Biennial, Liverpool Biennial, Taipei Biennial, Asian Contemporary Art Biennial, Echigo-Tsumari Triennial and the Asia-Pacific Triennial. Currently, Lee Mingwei is preparing for a solo exhibition at Edinburgh Festival 2009 and Smithsonian's Freer & Sackler Galleries in 2009-2010.

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Lee Mingwei: Uncommon Senses
Kurator: Rhana Devenport