An enormous, colourful octopus clad in a riotous patchwork of velvet, crochet, sequins, beads, Oriental silk and LED lights has taken up residence in the central plaza of Macau’s vast MGM hotel, resort and casino complex.
The monumental sculpture is the work of Portuguese contemporary artist Joana Vasconcelos who first made her mark on the international art circuit with ‘The Bride,’ an 18th century-inspired candelabra made of 25,000 white tampons at the 2005 Venice Biennale.
In Macau, Vasconcelos' extravagant organic form – the largest installation she has ever created – showcases the artisanal knitting, crochet and traditional Portuguese Nisa embroidery that typically embellish her voluptuous soft sculptures.
The handcrafted elements deliberately bring crafts traditionally performed in a private domestic space by women into a different, more highly valued, perspective, says Vasconcelos.
The specially commissioned sculpture created in Vasconcelos’ Lisbon studio by a team of 52 specialists took ten days to install. Part of the artist’s ‘Valkyries’ series evoking feminine figures of Norse mythology, Vasconcelos says she took inspiration from the plaza’s striking eight-meter-high aquarium.
'I was inspired by deep sea creatures with strange magical lights and so tried to create a floating creature above and around the aquarium.'
The installation marks two significant departures for the artist. Instead of her usual Pop-saturated bright colours, advice from a feng shui master helped create a noticeably softer palette. Synthetic filling was also replaced by inflatables enabling much larger and wider pieces to be suspended from the plaza’s skylight dome.
'It allowed me to make a connection with the architecture,' Vasconcelos explains. 'The work does not fill an empty space but instead connects with the architecture generating a new dynamic.'
'It also helped defy gravity!' she adds.
The soft sculptural work also references the artist’s personal connection with Macau. 'My grandmother was a painter and always spoke of Macau, where she lived in the 1950s, as a happy place. In a way I am coming back, but to a contemporary Macau that has a new energy. I’m really curious about this place. I have the feeling that anything could happen.'