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BMW Art Journey artist Leelee Chan explores traditional craftsmanship and innovative materials in Europe. Artist completes first leg of her travel and plans to continue to Mexico.

For nearly two months, the ninth awardee of the BMW Art Journey, Leelee Chan, represented by Capsule Shanghai, travelled across Europe to further develop her artistic practice. During this first part of her BMW Art Journey, an initiative of Art Basel and BMW, Leelee Chan visited Italy, Switzerland and Germany from August 28 to October 21, 2020.

Cultural Issues

Munich. For nearly two months, the ninth awardee of the BMW Art Journey, Leelee Chan, represented by Capsule Shanghai, travelled across Europe to further develop her artistic practice. During this first part of her BMW Art Journey, an initiative of Art Basel and BMW, Leelee Chan visited Italy, Switzerland and Germany from August 28 to October 21, 2020. Now, the Hong Kong-based artist pauses her journey and is currently in the process of planning the coming leg of her trip to Mexico which she would like to take as soon as travel and health conditions permit.

“It was such a privilege to be able to travel and complete the European leg of my journey in this ongoing difficult situation due to Covid-19. Connecting with all the artisans, scientists and other people making this journey possible was a truly incredible and eye-opening experience,” says Leelee Chan.

In her BMW Art Journey “Tokens from Time”, Leelee Chan intends to trace material culture from the past, present and future. Chan interprets “tokens” as material objects and their respective historical development which represent the key qualities and feelings of living in societies across different historical and cultural contexts.

In Italy, the artist visited a number of cities including Florence and Pietrasanta, where she attended workshops run by the sculptors Franco Cervietti, Nicola Stagetti, and other local artisans to gain deeper insights into the artistic manipulation of marble. She went on to Ravenna and Sicily to attend a class at the Mosaic Art School and to visit some of the world’s oldest and largest early Christian and Roman mosaics, which are recognised as UNESCO World Heritage. Leelee Chan then continued her journey to Agnone to study the processing of copper with the heirs of ancient family-run workshops, a path that led her to the 1000 years old bell foundry, the Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli.

BMW Art Journey: Leelee Chan, marble workshop, Pietrasanta (Italy), 2020. Photo: Eunice Tsang. (11/2020)

While travelling across Switzerland and Germany, Chan shifted her focus to the possibilities of future materials and the direct exchange with leading scientists and experts in the field of material science. She met Prof. Karen Scrivener at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Lausanne to learn about the making and impact of low carbon emission cement.

As part of her journey, Leelee Chan also visited BMW’s headquarters and research centres in Munich as first BMW Art Journey awardee. There, she was able to exchange ideas with experts from the fields of textiles, glass, recycling and design. Beyond that she visited the Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg and the architectural glass and mosaic workshop Franz Mayer of Munich, both traditional Munich enterprises.  

BMW Art Journey: Leelee Chan, (f.l.t.r.) Roberto Rossetti (Development Vehicle Life Cycle) and Leelee Chan,  Munich (Germany), 2020. © BMW AG (10/2020)

BMW Art Journey: Leelee Chan, (f.l.t.r.) Leelee Chan and Petra Mayer, architect and co-owner, Mayer of Munich (Germany), 2020. © BMW AG (10/2020)

Chan will round up her research with video conference and a related exchange with the microbiologist Prof. Han Wösten from the field of “Fungal Biology” at the University of Utrecht.  Through the artist’s numerous talks and visits to laboratories, the artist gained a deeper understanding of how engineered materials can play a part of a more sustainable future.

Because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Leelee Chan decided to adapt her original travelling plans and to start her BMW Art Journey in Europe. She currently plans to travel further to Mexico to study the symbolic value and meaning of crystals in Maya culture and explore the traditional and artistic manipulation of silver. The further course of her journey strongly depends on the development of the pandemic and will be monitored closely and be adapted to respect the latest rules and regulations.

Art Basel and BMW collaborate with the artist to document the journey and share it with a broader public through print publications, online and social media.

For further information and press material about the BMW Art Journey artists and their projects, please visit the new press section:

About Leelee Chan at Capsule Shanghai, Shanghai
Leelee Chan (b. 1984) lives and works in Hong Kong. She received her MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2009 and her BFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago in 2006. Chan’s sculptures reflect her experience with the extreme urbanization in Hong Kong and are almost always comprised of dumpster detritus household ephemera, and mundane objects from her daily life not generally considered memorable or worth preserving. Derived from an impulse to interrogate these objects’ status and value, Chan imaginatively explores their transformative potential and reconfigures each item according to its unique qualities. Chan’s solo exhibition includes Capsule Shanghai. She has exhibited in recent group shows at Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong, and UCCA Dune, Qinhuangdao and Skulpturenpark Köln, Cologne.

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. 

The next BMW Art Journey shortlist of three artists will presumably be announced in March 2021 during Art Basel Hong Kong.

Launched in 2015, the BMW Art Journey is a collaboration between Art Basel and BMW, created to recognize and support emerging artists worldwide. Now in its sixth year the initiative is evolving. Since 2020, the circle of eligible artists has been broadened. For the first time, eligible participants included not only emerging and mid-career artists from the Discoveries sector, but also artists represented by participating galleries founded no more than ten years ago. As this year's Art Basel show in Hong Kong had to be cancelled due to the outbreak and spread of Covid-19, the jury conducted its selection process online. Artists and their galleries were invited to submit digital applications, including a short video by the artists explaining their work and process.

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