Awol Erizku creates Afro-Asian connections in Hong Kong

Siddhartha Mitter for Art Basel
The artist’s giant inflatable sculpture of Tutankhamun marks the first time Art Basel Hong Kong’s Encounters sector has ventured offsite 


A golden bust of Tutankhamun surges 10 meters high in the atrium of Pacific Place. The pharaoh wears a calm but searching expression, eyes raised slightly, as if to meet the gaze of shoppers and commuters who pass along the busy complex’s upper floors.


A cobra and vulture protrude from his forehead, and a narrow beard drops straight from his chin. Down at ground level, the immense effigy – a high-grade inflatable artwork with richly patinated colors, installed for the duration of Art Basel Hong Kong 2023 – reveals a darkened passageway that the public can enter to find precious cultural riches.


The reference image is familiar, even baked into the global subconscious: the gold funerary mask of Tutankhamun, the ‘boy king’ of Ancient Egypt, who died circa 1324 BCE aged around 19. It’s the scale and location of this iteration that may seem uncanny: What’s a huge King Tut doing in a Hong Kong mall? For Awol Erizku, the Los Angeles-based conceptual artist who imagined the installation, that visual dissonance is an invitation to communicate.

March 16, 2023