Bubbles in Mid-summer’s Night Market

It’s summer, inevitably hot and rainy summer.

To fight against heat and occasional showers, one may shelter under shade or lead a vampire life, or both. A night market is popped up at an air-conditioned gallery for three consecutive weekends. Quite an idea, isn’t it?

Market Forces, a project debuted by Osage Art Foundation last year, put together works of participating artists and pop-up booths of art students and young artists within the same exhibition space. Twisting this practice, Market Forces sequel exhibition was held prior, followed by a weekend pop-up night market, children art workshops and two solo exhibitions all under one roof.

Instead of focusing on what I buy in any other night markets, I am more interested to know how they make money. In this case, it is a no-brainer for the “stall owners” to dig out their own works, mark a price and get ready to sell. Merchandises for the first weekend range from paintings, photographic or silk-screened prints, soft sculptures, accessories, music tunes and poems to daily necessities like salt and bread. Some prefer selling services like singing, travelling advice. All in all, monetary transaction is highly encouraged this year – product-selling booth outnumbers non-selling/ conceptual ones – as compared to last year. It is obviously a conscious decision of the judging panel and the project objective.

Among these booths, I met a guest artist who confessed that he has struggled a lot about pricing and selling. It isn’t because he condemns exchange of wealth and artwork, but the “financial system”. Roy Ng has presented his bubble-making machine out of dry ice (solid form of carbon dioxide) so the white bubbles blown out from the soap solution drop faster than air-filled transparent bubbles; they vanish as smoke at burst. It’s so magical that attracts not only kids but curious adults.


Roy Ng produces magical bubbles to interact with little audience (photo taken from Osage Gallery Facebook page]

With this bubble idea in mind for long, Roy decided to invest in this machine for the show. After a meeting, he realised he couldn’t sell it as the ceiling for each work is set at $3,000, gallery commission included. It couldn’t even cover the production cost. Luckier than other guest artists, he was able to make a last-minute change to a form of “play as you pay” service/ entertainment. Nevertheless, the payment method was found to be so tedious and discouraged instant gratification – buyers need to fill a form, take it to a counter and pay, come back to redeem the purchase. Finally the artist placed a bowl for freewill contribution. No matter how the work was evolved along the way, the investment became a bubble. “The most rewarding part, however, is to interact with people I don’t frequently meet in the art scene,” said Roy.

Regarding rules within a system, one has few options of decision (i) conform, (ii) challenge, (iii) quit entirely. The artists from the urban-rural living art exhibition (「我愛我家-城鄉生活藝術展」) decided to quit, while the controversial teacher interrogating police officers chose to challenge. Some guest artists in this exhibition comply with the rules and price their products just at or below the ceiling while some prefer sharing.

Anyhow, the night market is just like bubbles vanishing in a blink (it will be gone in the morning or after three weekends). Is it an interpretation of the art market as well?

Visited BOING! Pop-Up Night Market on Jul 27 at Osage Kwun Tong

The article was also posted at The House News.


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