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Behind ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks with Polo Bourieau and Alison Pickett


“Understanding sculpture is enjoying a rhythmic choreography of volumes and shapes in matter,” says Hong Kong-based French artist Polo Bourieau. Renowned for his large-scale sculptures, Polo will debut largest solo exhibition to date at ArtisTree as part of this year’s Swire Properties Arts Month.


Supported by curator and partner Alison Pickett, Polo will reveal his original stone sculptures at ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks starting from 16 March to 9 April 2023. The show seeks to stimulate the community through wondrous sculptures as they each tell a fictitious story of their own while arranged in a formation that brings to mind landscapes, maps and futuristic architecture. We sit down with Polo and Alison to find out more about the creative journey behind this highly anticipated exhibition.


Hello, Polo! Hong Kong audiences have loved your previous work, like Reflection in 2014, and now you’ve created a bespoke collection for ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks.

Polo Bourieau (PB): Hello! Yes, I’ve concentrated most of my creative activities on monumental and public sculptures. This new collection has a more intimate approach and destination, but even in my figurative pieces, the dialogue between sculpture and architecture is always present.

Alison Pickett (AP): These are personal sculptures that were conceived and sculpted during the lockdown in Italy. They were inspired by our home city of Hong Kong, along with Polo’s long-time desire to create a collection that reflects a contemporary take on traditional scholars’ rocks that were formed by nature; a collection of original sculptures made by hand.

Why rocks?

Photo Credit: Pak Chung

PB: I’ve always found inspiration in Chinese scholars’ rocks. Shaped by nature over time, they offer imaginary travel to mystical peaks and cave paradises. Similarly, Urban Rocks represents an imaginary panorama wherein to find a place, each of the sculptures tell different stories in different materials, by different ways of execution. I hope visitors will find in [the sculptures] their own refuge of the mind.

AP: Stone is the unsung hero of the art world. It requires nothing else but the raw material and the artists’ hand to reveal its hidden stories, connecting us to the past, present and future from one simple touch. The imagination, concept and skills of the artist, along with the use of modern technology and tools, takes this hard, unforgiving material and turns it into something beautiful and inspiring.

Alison, what has your experience been in curating artwork for Taikoo Place?

AP: I have had the pleasure of curating both public art and now an exhibition for Taikoo Place.

For site-specific work like Two to Tango at Dorset House, or Organic Float at the side entrance of ArtisTree, even before we select the artist, we worked closely with Swire Properties, architects and landscapers to assess the suitable location, scale and type of sculpture, as well as how we want the public to respond to the art. In this way, the sculpture becomes an integral aspect of the urban fabric of the development.

And for this exhibition?

AP: Curating for an exhibition is to showcase something new and exciting for a public domain. Within the closed walls of an exhibition space, the artwork can be more provocative or challenging, letting viewers take inspiration away with them, implanted into their memories forever.

So for ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks – how do you want the audience to experience the show?

PB: I want people to enjoy the show as one “big thing”, like a contemporary Stonehenge.

We have 12 vertical sculptures which seem to be floating in the ArtisTree space, with no beginning and end. I wanted to avoid the passive colonnade you find in museums. I wanted to create an installation where the viewer is at the centre of it – you get to decide your own travel and choose which sculptures to go to. It’s a full immersion in a “landscape of landscapes” and you become part of it!

The stones that you have selected for sculptures are stunning – tell us more about them.

An impactful visual encounter: Visitors were bedazzled by the interplay between the theatrical light and shadow setting in the exhibition. Inset is a one-off dramatic scene designed by Polo. 

Photo Credit: Pak Chung

PB: The main source comes from Carrara, Italy, but we also have travertine from Iran, Brescia from Kurdistan region, marble from Spain and France, and malachite from Canada. Each stone has its own particularities: some can take the polish, some are more interesting when they are rough, some take both. To me, that is the beauty of it.

We’re sure it was no easy feat to gather this material…

PB: Quarrying the stones is a work of Titans; you lose any conceptions of scale in the middle of it. Take the white marble Carrara. I selected it directly from the quarry, and from the quarry to ArtisTree, you had to cut the block, put it on a truck, transport it to the workshop, and then lift it in position with cranes. A lot of effort is made before I even pick up the chisel!

Ultimately, what do you want visitors to take away from ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks?

PB: Stones are time machines. Their formation witnessed our own evolution – they are the evidence of our own existence. Stone is earth, and earth is where we all come from; we have the same origin. This is a great reflection to have about the boundaries between culture and nature.

AP: ArtisTree excels at bringing unique exhibitions that build community outside of the workplace, and seeing a beautiful piece of art when going to and from work everyday can remind [you] that there is beauty around us at all times. We hope the exhibition can ultimately bring people together and stimulate evolving conversations around art.

Polo Bourieau’s ArtisTree Selects: Urban Rocks debuts at ArtisTree from 16 March to 9 April 2023. Seize the chance to book a free ticket now for your own face-to-face encounter with the artist’s stunning sculptures.

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