Collectors love: Alexander Seton - Art Collector

Issue 63, January - March 2013

This profile appeared in the Collectors love feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2013.

Alexander Seton, Soloist, 2012. Bianco carrara marble, 95 x 75 x 70cm. Photo: Per Ericson. Courtesy: the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney

Alexander Seton’s reputation has been growing apace in recent years, and his most recent exposure at Art HK12 (now Art Basel Hong Kong) with Sullivan+Strumpf Fine Art has left the marketplace in no doubt of his arrival as a contemporary talent on the world stage. Elegy on Resistance, a dramatically lit display of his realist marble sculptures, was his debut solo exhibition outside Australia. Yet the audience was highly responsive. By day two of the four-day fair, 14 works had found homes.

The centrepiece was a work called
Soloist, a hoodie-clad and faceless marble figure sitting cross-legged in the sombre light. It sold for $110,000, intended for the New York home of an international collector. Bronze editions of this work of the same size sold to private collectors in Singapore and Hong Kong (at $80,000 to $90,000).

Edmund Hubbard, curator for Fidelity Worldwide Investment, selected two works in marble for the Hong Kong office from a series of hoodies on clothes hangers. Each of these works was titled
Chorus. Flamboyant Singaporean collector Jackson See also purchased from this series.

On the last day, 10 minutes prior to the show’s closure, two of Seton’s smaller scale editioned bronzes of
Refrain sold.

Critical response was also strong, with Seton’s sculptures noted in media coverage on the fair and discussed in titles from the
South China Post to The Sydney Morning Herald. There was also interest from international private museums and other parties in Europe, China and other parts of Asia, which, for gallery co-director Joanna Strumpf, marked the success of the fair.

“This fair was more than just sales,” she says. “The work was brilliant and held together so well – in my opinion his strongest to date. And the audience responded – collectors, curators and writers.” She also points to “Hong Kong locals [and] the thousands of art fair visitors who came out in force, shot hundreds of photos, uploaded, downloaded, blogged, and were genuinely intrigued and engaged by the work.”

The compelling aspect of Seton’s work is his defiance of the reality of its source material. His hoodies – from the hoodie-clad centrepiece (
Soloist) to the jumpers on hangers (Chorus) and the hoodie lying discarded on a plinth (Refrain) – all evoked the softness of sweater material even though they were carved from cold hard marble. With the moody lighting of the stand in marked contrast to the art fair brightness outside, people did not necessarily note the sculptural medium as marble at first. Word of mouth brought traffic and the stand was increasingly packed as the fair progressed.

There is also a political dimension to Seton’s use of the hoodie. While it refers to global issues of privacy – particularly pertinent in China and with resonance for the Hong Kong audience – it also notes the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in the United States this year. The hoodie was an identifiable element in the British riots in 2011 and, although it may be worn by monks, sportspeople or youths, points to social conformity. Seton’s technical prowess as a sculptor in this demanding medium is matched by the conceptual depth in his work. At 36 years old, his status as an artist to watch would appear assured.

Louise Martin-Chew

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