An artwork has been removed from a show that was advertised as “the first major survey exhibition on LGBTQ+ perspectives in Hong Kong,” The Art Newspaper reported on Friday.
The exhibition, titled Myth Makers—Spectrosynthesis III, is the third installment of the “Spectrosynthesis” exhibition series on LGBTQ+ Asian art, which was put together by the Sunpride Foundation, an organization founded by Hong Kong real estate developer Patrick Sun to support queer Asian art in 2014.
The work removed was a video from Taiwanese-American artist Shu Lea Cheang’s “3x3x6” series, a mixed media installation showing the stories of ten jailed sexual and gender non-conformists. In the show, it was replaced by a document of rejection for explicit sexual content. The piece debuted in the Palazzo delle Prigioni—the site of a former prison—at the 2019 Venice Biennale.
Cheang has been pushing the bounds of internet–based art with her exploration of queer cinema since the 1980s. In the digital, her work highlights topics of sexual politics and institutional oppression—those which are not possible IRL among mainstream Chinese culture.
Another piece by a participating Indian artist was reportedly also altered ahead of the exhibition.
Sun told the Art Newspaper, however, that despite the recent censorship the show has received “tremendous community support.”
When “Spectrosynthesis” debuted in 2017 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, it was the first major LGBTQ+ survey in a mainstream institution in Asia.
However, the removal at the most recent edition comes as censorship escalates in the Chinese administrative region, according to reports in the Guardian and Bloomberg, as well as the Washington D.C.–based nonprofit Freedom House and the New York–based think tank Council on Foreign Relations.
Though there are gay art scenes in China, many artists still remain closeted, as it is not widely accepted throughout the country. Shanghai’s Pride festival stopped in 2020, for example, following official harassment. More broadly, across Asia, Singapore recently decriminalized gay sex, but continued its ban on gay marriage.