Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong goes “glocal” to stand out in art fair crowd – interview



In this Art Radar interview with Camilla Hewitson, Director of the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong, find out more about the region’s growing appetite for original artwork and what the event is doing to support young local artists.

Camilla Hewitson spearheads the launch of Hong Kong’s inaugural edition of the Affordable Art Fair in March 2013. With the ethos of making “contemporary art accessible to everyone”, the fair aims to provide “a fun, inspiring, informative and pressure free environment in which to view and buy art”.

Camilla Hewitson, Fair Director, AAF Hong Kong. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

Camilla Hewitson, Fair Director, AAF Hong Kong. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

The Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong (AAF Hong Kong) opens on 14 March 2013, and some recently announced highlights include

  • art themed workshops hosted by the Sunkids Art Studio for children aged four to twelve.
  • an educational programme organised by Art Equity, the official education partner, to provide fair attendees with an insight into the art world.
  • Arty-licious (Friday 15 March from 6 to 9 pm), a fun filled evening of music, art and talks.

Also much anticipated by many in the Hong Kong art world is the Young Talent Hong Kong Programme, an exhibition that centres around the theme “City” and features more than thirty artworks by young Hong Kong artists, including

Inside Affordable Art Fair Singapore, held 15 to 18 November 2012. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

Inside Affordable Art Fair Singapore, held 15 to 18 November 2012. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

In the interview below, Camilla Hewitson reveals to Art Radar her expectations for the fair and the challenges of bringing it to Asia’s world city.

What was the impetus for launching the AAF in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong being the leading contemporary art market in Asia, Affordable Art Fair is the next step in the evolution of the Hong Kong art market, a market with vast potential. … [We] aim to create an art buying culture in Hong Kong, apart from providing a platform for galleries and artists, we create the opportunity for the general public to understand art, and [inspire them to become] art collectors. For the past three years, we have been selected as one of the top 100 CoolBrands in the UK. We’re in good company: others include Apple, Alexander McQueen and the Tate. This has given [us] confidence in terms of launching.

What were some of the operational hurdles you encountered in getting the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong running from the ground up?

We have been researching the idea to launch in Hong Kong for a couple of years, but finding the perfect venue was always one of the key factors of success for us to launch. We are delighted that the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre offered us a slot in their annual calendar.

Andrew Baines, 'Contingence of the Perplexed', 2012, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 cm, at REDSEA Gallery. Image courtesy of Affordable Art Fair

Andrew Baines, 'Contingence of the Perplexed', 2012, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 cm, at REDSEA Gallery. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

How will the Hong Kong edition stand out from the Affordable Art Fair in other cities?

The ‘glocal’ concept: global diversities, local taste and preference. A good example of a difference is in London, the children’s area acts more like a crèche to give Mum a break and a chance for a cup of coffee with a friend, whereas in Singapore and Hong Kong, the children’s area, the Sunkids Art Studio, is more of an education space dedicated to offering four- to twelve-year [olds] the chance to get creative themselves. The Young Talent Hong Kong Programme is a recent graduate exhibition in some other cities, whereas in Hong Kong we have adopted a broader programme…. We have invited experienced Hong Kong curator Eric Leung Shiu Kee to curate this exhibition. It provides local young artists up to thirty years old the platform to display their creativity and will show artworks by more than fifteen up-and-coming Hong Kong young artists.

What kinds of visitors do you hope will attend the AAF Hong Kong?

The Fair attracts both seasoned collectors and new art buyers: approximately thirty percent of visitors have never bought an original work of art before. By creating a new generation of collectors and making art accessible to more people, the fair is playing a role in developing the art market in Hong Kong.

Will Ramsay, Founder of Affordable Art Fair, with a fair visitor. Image courtesy of Affordable Art Fair.

Will Ramsay, Founder of Affordable Art Fair, with a fair visitor. Image courtesy of Affordable Art Fair.

You have provided a lot of information on your website for new art collectors. Is there anything at the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong for more experienced collectors?

[We present] a unique opportunity to see a number of lesser known artists…. Many seasoned collectors tell us they enjoy the opportunity to see fresh works by a range of artists all working today and the chance to encounter new favourites.

You will be showcasing artworks brought to the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong by a total of eighty galleries. How many galleries originally signed up to participate?

More than 115 art galleries. We are delighted to see an over-subscription, which highlights the interest from the art community within Hong Kong, as well as from all over the world.

Damien Matthews, 'Bibliotheque 1', 2010, photographic print of digital animation, 420 x 560 mm, at Mur Nomade. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

Damien Matthews, 'Bibliotheque 1', 2010, photographic print of digital animation, 420 x 560 mm, at Mur Nomade. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

Sixty percent of the galleries exhibiting at AAF Hong Kong are from Asia and forty percent are from the rest of the world. In terms of the artworks on offer, what is your focus for the fair?

The Fair is a contemporary art fair so every art work is made by a living artist. We also focus on ensuring that the artworks on display are original and not reproductions. Photography and prints must be signed by the artist and be within a certain edition number to ensure that all artwork on display at any Affordable Art Fair worldwide keeps to our exhibition criteria. In terms of styles of works, we are interested in a mixture of local and international art being on display. What we look for is original, quality contemporary art all under one roof and below USD12,900 (HKD100,000).

Can you tell me about your gallery selection criteria?

Any art gallery is welcome to send in an application. The galleries must submit a proposal containing a minimum of three artists. No one artist can be on more than two stands and all artworks must be by living artists.

Tay Bak Chiang, 'Same Old Place', 2010, Chinese ink and pigments on rice paper, 123 x 200 cm, at Art Projects Gallery. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

Tay Bak Chiang, 'Same Old Place', 2010, Chinese ink and pigments on rice paper, 123 x 200 cm, at Art Projects Gallery. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

Affordable Art Fair Singapore was launched in 2010 and it is the fair’s first Asian outpost. How has the Asian art market evolved since you launched the fair in Singapore?

[There is a] growing appetite for contemporary art, as reflected by the new records set at Singapore’s third Affordable Art Fair: an approximately 15 percent increase in visitors and over 25 percent surge in sales compared to last year’s [2011] event.

You held a cocktail launch for AAF Hong Kong at The Cat Street Gallery on 29 January 2013. What is the response that you have had so far from the media and the art community in Hong Kong?

Very good, and we keep getting questions like “What should I buy?” [and] “What tips would you advise for first time buyers like me?”

Inside Affordable Art Fair Singapore, held 15 to 18 November 2012. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

Inside Affordable Art Fair Singapore, held 15 to 18 November 2012. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair.

What are your expectations for AAF Hong Kong?

Having had such a great response from galleries who exhibit with the Fair, we are expecting to reach our target visitor number of 15,000 visitors.

Which city is next for Affordable Art Fair in Asia?

There is nothing set on yet, but watch this space as we are interested in opportunities in other cities.

The Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong will run from the 15 to 17 March 2013 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

CMS/KN/HH

Related Topics: art fairs in Asia and beyondHong Kong art eventsemerging artists, art market watch – globalisation

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