Hong Kong hailed as art’s Promised Land by Art+Auction Magazine

HONG KONG ART MARKET

Sanyu, Lotus et poissons rouges, 1955

The state of the arts in Hong Kong are strong and flourishing, earning Hong Kong the high praise of being touted as Asia’s arts ‘promised land’ by Art +Auction Magazine in the March 2010 issue.

The article entitled ‘Promised Land’ describes the active art market in the city, which has recently expanded financially and creatively.

David Spalding writes for Art +Auction that:

‘Hong Kong is rising as a major art center, thanks to its thriving auction market and rapidly growing contemporary-art scene.’

‘The Hong Kong art scene has evolved rapidly, overcoming its regional myopia to become a key continentwide player and gaining prominence within the local cultural landscape.’

Auction Market

Hong Kong achieved the distinction as the 3rd largest auction market in the world in 2007, after the U.S. and U.K, and has maintained this positioning through 2009. A March 2010 article in The Economist titled How China Bucked the Trend: What Really Happened in 2009, states:

In 2009, when the global art market shrunk by more than a third to $43.5 billion, compared with $63.9 billion at its peak two years earlier, the Chinese art market bucked the trend. Sales in mainland China and Hong Kong reached a record high of $5.5 billion, up from $5 billion in 2008, boosting China’s share of the world art market that year to 14%, its highest share ever.

Indeed money freely flowed at Hong Kong’s various art auctions in late 2009, which set records and continually surpassed expectations. The following Fall 2009 Hong Kong auctions caught the attention of art world:

Zeng Fanzhi’s Untitled (Hospital Series), 1994

Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s October 6th sale of 20th-Century Chinese Art was estimated to generate $10.4 million USD in sales, but instead produced an impressive $14 million USD. This successful sale included Sanyu’s Lotus et poissons rouges, 1955,  which sold for $4.7 million, 31% higher than its greatest estimated price.  This is the artist’s 2nd highest auction price to date, and solely accounted for a third of the show’s total revenue.

The Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings sale yielded $6.4 million, more than double its estimated yield and 76% more than the spring sale in this category.

The sale’s standout work was Indonesian painter Lee Man Fong’s Magnificent Horses, 1966, which was estimated to sell for approximately $200,000–$320,000 USD, but raked in an artist-record of $1 million USD.

Christie’s

Christie’s also experienced successful sales in November that produced $213 million USD over 5 days. A reported 47% of the buyers of contemporary Asian works were from mainland China, and favored pieces by more-established artists.

In the November 29th sale of Asian Contemporary Art and Chinese 20th-Century Art, Zeng Fanzhi’s Untitled (Hospital Series), 1994, surpassed its expected high of $1.5 million to attain $2.5 million. The November 30th Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary sale featured Indonesian painter I Nyoman Masriadi’s Master Yoga, 2009, which also exceeded its high estimate of $130,000 to realize $467,102.

Socially active gallery scene, international flavor

Hong Kong has also earned the designation as Asia’s visual contemporary arts ‘promised land’ due to its vibrant and growing gallery scene, which features fine art not only from Asia, but the entire world. In addition, many of these socially responsible Hong Kong galleries have taken it as their mission to connect to and nurture the larger creative community. Hong Kong’s 10th annual ArtWalk, which was held on March 17th,  included 62 participating galleries that opened their doors to the public for this charity event that supported Hong Kong’s Society for Community Organization (SoCo).

Notable galleries featuring Asian artworks include:

Hanart TZ, founded in 1983 by the local critic and curator Johnson Chang Tsong-zung, has helped bring international exposure to mainland Chinese artists throughout the 1990s. This work has continued most recently with a solo exhibition of new paintings and mixed-media work by the young Fo Tan artist Lam Tung-pang (who is also represented in a concurrent group show at the Hong Kong Museum of Art through April 25).

The Osage Gallery focuses on East and Southeast Asian art, while 10 Chancery Lane Gallery holds exhibitions of Vietnamese and Cambodian contemporary art. The Thai gallery Tang Contemporary Art — which has become significant here since opening a space on Hollywood Road in 2008 — offers an eclectic mix. The artists represented in its booth at last year’s Hong Kong art fair included the Thai-Indian Navin Rawanchaikul, the Beijing-based Yan Lei and longtime Paris resident Wang Du.

Western art represented in Asia

There is also a growing local Hong Kong market for Western art, and numerous galleries have risen to meet this need.

The London gallery Ben Brown Fine Arts opened a Hong Kong space last November showing works by leading Western artists Gerhard RichterThomas Ruff and Jeff Wall, alongside those of established Asian artists like the Japanese Yayoi Kusama and the Calcutta-born, Brooklyn-based Rina Banerjee.

The Schoeni Art Gallery, which opened in 1993 with an exhibition of works by Chinese, Russian and Swiss artists, is boldly mixing things up, with the 2008 launch of Adapta, a collaboration with the U.K.-based Web magazine UKAdapta on projects involving urban and  graffiti artists like Banksy.

Additional galleries facilitating the introduction of Western art to Asia include: the Cat Street Gallery, Art Statements, and the Fabrik Gallery.

EW/KCE

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