Singapore artist hurt in HK, police investigating

[SINGAPORE] One of Singapore's most respected artists was hospitalised in Hong Kong over the weekend after a suspected assault at one of its universities.

Lee Wen lost consciousness in the university toilet and woke up to find bumps, bruises and cuts on his forehead and chin, and under his eye.

"I didn't feel a thing or see anyone approaching . . . I blacked out. When I regained consciousness half an hour later, my face was all covered in blood," Lee Wen told BT in a phone interview yesterday afternoon from the hospital. He said he had no other recollection of the incident.

The Hong Kong police is investigating the case.

Lee, a Cultural Medallion recipient, was showing his artworks at the iPreciation gallery booth at Art Basel Hong Kong, which was held from last Wednesday to yesterday. iPreciation owner Helina Chan reported strong sales from day one, with several works priced upwards of $8,000 sold.

Last Saturday, Lee went to the City University of Hong Kong to attend a forum discussion on Art and Value. According to observers, Lee stood up during the Q&A and commented on the arrest by the Chinese government of Chen Guang, a Tiananmen Square soldier who became an artist. Earlier this month, Chen privately staged a performance art piece commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen incident.

Lee posed a question to the panel and audience of about 60 on the value of art when governments and lawmakers take over.

When the forum ended, Lee went to the toilet alone, where he lost consciousness and woke up half an hour later with a bloodied face. He managed to walk slowly to the road and stopped a taxi to go to his hotel.

There, iPreciation gallery manager June Ong called for an ambulance, which took him to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai, before he was transferred to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, an acute care hospital in Chai Wan.

Hospital scans showed no blood clots, and he was discharged yesterday with three facial bandages.

Lee, 57, suffers from Parkinson's disease and scoliosis, and takes more than 15 pills a day to treat his conditions. Hence there is a possibility that he fainted - though that has not happened before, said Ms Ong.

iPreciation owner Ms Chan said: "We don't know if it's an assault or a blackout, and the doctors are unable to ascertain it. For now, the police are treating it as a case of assault, and the hospital charges have been waived - as they usually are for cases of assault."

Lee is flying back to Singapore this evening. He told BT: "I just want to come home."

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