Yuk King Tan


NameYuk King Tan (she/her)
Also known as陳玉瓊
Country of BirthAustralia
Place of ResidenceHong Kong
Dealer GalleryStarkwhite
ArtformVisual arts
Decades Active1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Yuk King Tan is a contemporary artist from Aotearoa New Zealand, now living in Hong Kong. After graduating from Elam School of Fine Arts in 1993, Tan quickly became well-known for her visually striking sculptures and installations, many of which explore icons of Chinese cultural identity and systems of value and exchange. She is one of a handful of Aotearoa Asian artists who rose to prominence during the 1990s, alongside Denise Kum, Simon Kaan, Luise Fong, and Haruhiko Sameshima.

Tan was born in Townsville, Australia, while her parents were there on sabbatical (her father was a lecturer in physics at the University of Auckland). During her childhood, they lived in Australia, Malaysia and the United States, as well as Aotearoa.

While studying at Elam in the early 1990s, Tan became friends with other, now well-known, artists including Ani O’Neill and fellow Aotearoa Asian artist Denise Kum, who was in the year above her. After leaving art school, Tan was actively involved in the emerging artist-run art scene in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, presenting work at galleries such as Teststrip alongside artists like Kum and O’Neill. Early reviews highlighted the qualities that were to become her signature. A 1993 art-school sculpture, Strung Out, was described by Stuart McKenzie in NZ Listener as resonating with its “socio-political” context while “at the same time transforming the stuff of everyday life.”

Tan’s work was soon picked up by public galleries around the country, as well as art spaces abroad. From the mid-1990s onwards, she was included in a number of international exhibitions, including Localities of Desire at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, the 1996 Asia-Pacific Triennial in Brisbane, Fusion and TransFusion (an exchange between Hong Kong and Auckland), and Toi Toi Toi, which presented contemporary art from New Zealand in Kassel, Germany, in 1999. She also took part in artist residencies in Aotearoa, Australia, Europe, and the United Kingdom.

By 1995, she had been invited to exhibit in the window space at Auckland Art Gallery, for which she produced The New Temple — I Give So That You May Give, I Give So That You May Go And Stay Away, which is now part of the art collection at Te Papa. Tan placed a classified advertisement in the paper, asking people to gift objects “they had an affinity with, that were interesting, that they would get back in a different way.” These objects were dipped in red wax and displayed together. The work is an early example of Tan’s interest in economies of exchange, gifts, and reciprocity. Many of Tan’s works during the 1990s explored her cultural identity as a Chinese New Zealander, leaning into stereotypical visual symbols such as red tassels and Chinese fans in order to surprise or subvert the viewer’s expectations.

In 2005, City Gallery Wellington presented her first large-scale solo exhibition, Overflow. The show featured works made from objects purchased in Hong Kong and Aotearoa, as well as a series of photographs made in collaboration with Neil Pardington in Hong Kong. Tan had moved to Hong Kong earlier that year, and this body of work signalled the expanding geographical and cultural scope of her practice. Recent works, such as Crisis of the Ordinary (2019) continue to reflect this context, incorporating found objects from democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The transformation of objects is a recurring strategy in her work. Tan plays with the language of symbols, modifying objects heavy with cultural connotation. She takes these objects and cuts them up, binds them together, wraps them in thread, or dips them in wax. Her artworks have incorporated cans of Coke, fireworks, newspapers, police-grade cable ties, vomit, and Tiger Balm. The symbolism of colour is also a common feature in Tan’s practice — some works explore the cultural connotations of a single colour such as red, or white, or incorporate multiple colours that refer to the coding found in national flags.

Tan maintains connections with Aotearoa through family and friends and continues to exhibit work in New Zealand public galleries and with Starkwhite, her dealer gallery in Tāmaki Mākaurau. Her work has been widely shown internationally, including at the Camden Art Centre in London (2000), Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (2002), and at the Asia-Pacific Triennial (1996) and the 26th São Paolo Biennal (2004).


Key works / presentations

2022 — Elsewhere and nowhere else, Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau

2021 — Fault Lines, Present Projects, Hong Kong

2019 — Ruth Buchanan: The Scene In Which I Find Myself. Or, Where Does My Body Belong, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, Ngāmotu

2017 — Your Hotel Brain, Christchurch Art Gallery, Ōtautahi

2017 — (An)other-Half: Being a Wife/Mother and the Practices of the Self, Osage Art Gallery, Hong Kong

2016 — Performance Portraits, Auckland Art Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau

2010 — Conjunctures within Breach, Nam June Paik Art Center, Seoul

2008 — Turbulence - 3rd Auckland Triennial, Auckland Art Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau

2008 — Your place is my place, Kunstverein, Hamburg

2008 — News from the Island, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney

2008 — Reversing Horizons, Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art

2005 — Overflow, City Gallery Wellington, Pōneke

2004 — Remember New Zealand, 26th São Paolo Biennal, São Paolo

2002 — Centre of Attraction, 8th Baltic Triennial, Lithuania

2000 — The Territorials, Camden Arts Centre, London

2000 — Art from New Zealand, Chianti Foundation, Texas

2000 — passerby, Artspace, Tāmaki Makaurau

2000 — W.A.D.A.M., Artspace, Sydney

1999 — instant!, Ludwig Forum Museum fur Internationalist Style Kunst, Aachen

1999 — badsituationsim, Mehrwertt Vitrine, Aachen

1999 — Toi Toi Toi, Auckland Art Gallery, Museum Friedericianum, Kassel

1999 — Take 5, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Pōneke

1997 — The Picturesque, Govett Brewster Art Gallery, Ngāmotu

1997 — sleepeasy, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Ōtepoti

1996 — Fusion, Auckland Art Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau

1996 — Asia-Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane

1996 — TransFusion, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong

1995 — The New Temple — I Give So That You May Give, I Give So That You May Go And Stay Away, Window Project, Auckland Art Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau

1995 — The Nervous System, Govett Brewster Art Gallery, Ngāmotu and Wellington City Gallery, Pōneke

1994 — Localities of Desire – Art in an International World, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

Key awards

2002 — Artist in residence, Baltic Triennial, Lithuania

2001 — Artist in residence, Kunstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf

2000 — Artist in residence, Camden Arts Centre, London

1999 — Artist in residence, Artspace Centre for Contemporary Arts, Sydney

1999 — Artist in residence, Ludwig Forum fur International Kunst, Aachen, Germany

1997 — Artist in residence, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Ōtepoti

1997 — Artist in residence, Govett Brewster Art Gallery, Ngāmotu

Related entries

Last updated: 2 March 2024 Suggest an Edit


Ian Wedde, 'Where everyone gets a Buddha', NZ Listener, December 31, 2005

[pdf ↓]

Stella Brennan, 'Walk on by', NZ Listener, July 15, 2000

[pdf ↓]

Peter Shand, 'Transfusion: The Hong Kong Connection'

[pdf ↓]

Mark Amery, 'Chinese Fan', Metro, July 1995

[pdf ↓]

Mark Amery, 'Letting artists in', Sunday Encore, July 17, 1994

[pdf ↓]

Bernadette Rae, 'Personal perspective of a pagoda', NZ Herald, July 28, 1994

[pdf ↓]

John Daly-Peoples, 'New Zealand artists explore boundaries', The National Business Review, November 11, 1994

[pdf ↓]

Hero Brown, 'Mutual migrants... but travelling in separate waka', NZ Listener, October 5, 1996

[pdf ↓]

TJ McNamara, 'World-class art in fascinating show', NZ Herald, October 31, 1996

[pdf ↓]

John Daly-Peoples, 'New Zealand art reaches a milestone in Germany', The National Business Review, February 5, 1999

[pdf ↓]