Hong Kong’s newest satellite art fair: Art Central – interview

Art Radar catches up with the Managing Director and Co-directors of Art Central, the newest art fair in Hong Kong.

Art Central is debuting alongside Art Basel Hong Kong in mid-March 2015. Art Radar talked to Charles Ross, Fair Managing Director, as well as to Fair Co-directors Eve Share Banghart and Maree Di Pasquale on the unique vision and expectations for Hong Kong’s newest art fair.

Art Central's tent render on the Central Harbourfront, Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. Image courtesy Art Central.

Art Central’s tent render on the Central Harbourfront, Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong. Image courtesy Art Central.

Art Central will launch its first edition at the Central Harbourfront in Hong Kong from 14 to 16 March 2015 (VIP Preview on 13 March), just a short walk from Art Basel. The new art fair is co-founded by Tim Etchells, Sandy Angus and Will Ramsay, who are all Co-founders of ART HK, now Art Basel Hong Kong. The promising executive team includes Charles Ross as Managing Director, previously Managing Director of ART HK and currently of ART13 London since its inception. The Fair Co-directors are Eve Share Banghart, previously with Gagosian Gallery, ART HK and then Gallery and Project Manager for Art Basel Hong Kong; and Maree Di Pasquale, who was the Assistant Director of the Melbourne Art Fair and the first edition of Sydney Contemporary.

While a number of publications have questioned the potential success of the new art fair which runs alongside its behemoth competitor Art Basel, the presentation of Art Central as an international-standard ‘satellite’ art fair promises a winning story – both for its team’s capabilities and for the audacity of Hong Kong’s art market which attracts a world-class art crowd.

Art Radar spoke with Co-founder and Managing Director Charles Ross to find out more about how Art Central has come into being, what it offers, why Art Basel is not a threat and what the team expects from the art fair. Art Radar also caught up with Fair Co-directors Eve Share Banghart and Maree Di Pasquale to hear about how they have made Art Central unique and why we should be looking forward to visiting it.

Charles Ross, Managing Director of Art Central. Image courtesy Art Central.

Charles Ross, Managing Director of Art Central. Image courtesy Art Central.

Charles Ross, Managing Director, Art Central

As the Founders of ART HK, you must be proud of the success of the first Hong Kong art fair and its development over the years, ultimately becoming Art Basel. What have you learned from the ART HK experience that you are transposing to Art Central?

We are very proud and we have taken learnings from ART HK to all the fairs we have since launched around the world. In coming back to Hong Kong, our wish with Art Central is to create a fair with a fresh energy, that compliments Art Basel, and presents a fair for both leading international galleries and the next generation of talent.

Art Central is a smaller fair, compared to ART HK when it first started. What is your target with Art Central? What kinds of galleries and art are you trying to attract, and what kinds of collectors? Will Ramsay, founder of the Affordable Art Fair, is also a co-founder of Art Central. What will be the direction of Art Central, as ART HK and the AAF are two very different fairs?

Our focus is on both attracting leading international galleries as well as younger galleries who are presenting the next generation of talent. We have also placed much emphasis on attracting a significant number of galleries from across Asia Pacific, and at Art Central 65 percent of our galleries are from the region. Attending collectors will be both established and new, and the fair will also be of great appeal to buyers.

Mo Yi, 'Deng Xiaoping', 2011 - 13, coloured ceramic tiles, wood, thread, 87 x 73 cm. Image courtesy Contemporary by Angela Li.

Mo Yi, ‘Deng Xiaoping’, 2011 – 13, coloured ceramic tiles, wood, thread, 87 x 73 cm. Image courtesy Contemporary by Angela Li.

A recent article on Artnet News mentions the importance of satellite art fairs in the development of a location into an integrated, global art hub. In founding Art Central, you must have thought that this is the right time for Hong Kong to be growing into a major art hub in Asia. Why do you think that is the case for Hong Kong right now? What makes it ready for it?

Hong Kong is undoubtedly the art hub of Asia. The creation of ART HK helped build the city’s solid foundation as an art hub and put Hong Kong’s art scene on the international stage. On the commercial side, there has been an influx of galleries opening here – the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association now has more than fifty members – and the city is now the third largest auction market in the world. Many of these galleries tested the waters with ART HK, deciding to open up gallery spaces here only after seeing the potential in the region following their success at the fair.

The organic growth of the not-for-profit scene has been essential as well. With the addition of the Asia Society Hong Kong Center and the plans for the new West Kowloon Cultural District, among others, the Hong Kong art world is booming. In just five years, the art scene in Hong Kong has experienced incredible growth. The fact that there is zero tax on the import and export of art, the lack of censorship and the great infrastructure means no other Asian city is able to rival Hong Kong.

Helmut Koller, 'Leopard on Red', 2013, acrylic on linen, signed, 122 x 198 cm. Image courtesy Galerie DUMONTEIL.

Helmut Koller, ‘Leopard on Red’, 2013, acrylic on linen, signed, 122 x 198 cm. Image courtesy Galerie DUMONTEIL.

An art scene needs diversification in order to not stagnate. Hong Kong is constantly growing and, with Art Basel, it is becoming a global focus for art in Asia. What are your strategies to keep Art Central interesting and unique, and prevent it from becoming, as Artnet News says, a ‘mini Art Basel’?

Art Central is distinguished by being Hong Kong’s first world-class satellite fair. It is a vibrant and fresh new event in the Art Week calendar and it is exclusive to Hong Kong. The fair is completely rooted in our city, with a significant focus on Hong Kong galleries and artists. The team behind Art Central were the force behind ART HK, which then went on to become Art Basel; we are dedicated to getting Hong Kong the recognition it deserves on the global art stage. 65 percent of Art Central’s galleries are from Asia-Pacific.

Showcasing the next generation of talent alongside some of the most established galleries from around the world, Art Central has something to offer both the new buyer and seasoned collector. Featuring just over 75 galleries from 21 countries with over 60 percent of exhibitors from greater Asia, Art Central will present contemporary work from both established artists and a range of newer talent. The fair has a dedicated emerging section entitled ‘Rise’, which will showcase both solo and dual artist presentations from spaces launched in the last five years.

A series of talks hosted by Art Central’s Education Partner, the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, will provide a critical context for the work on display at Art Central. These conversations are open to the public and will cover topics relevant to the art world in Asia, including a special panel discussion on contemporary ink art moderated by curator and renowned ink specialist Tiffany Beres.

The temporary structure that houses Art Central will be a highlight in itself. A brand new experience for Hong Kong, this 10,000 square metre tent – designed by award winning architecture practice Stiff & Trevillion – will be placed on the new Central Harbourfront, right in the heart of central Hong Kong.

We are also delighted to have secured one of Hong Kong’s newest restaurants, The Continental, to create a special pop-up at Art Central. Executive Chef Rowley Leigh will fly to Hong Kong to oversee the kitchen personally. We also have a dedicated street food zone – with popular Hong Kong eateries like Classified, Beef & Liberty and Brickhouse. Unquestionably, Art Central will be the very best place to eat at during Hong Kong art week!

Are you wary of the competition presented by the mammoth brand of Art Basel?

Art Central provides another point of interest for the international art world who descend on Hong Kong during our annual Art Week, bringing yet more high quality artwork from both emerging and established artists into the mix and deepening visitors’ understanding of the current contemporary art scene in Asia and beyond. Art Basel has cemented Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s art hub, and the city is now ready for a world-class satellite fair.

Art Central adds value to the rich offerings for visitors during Hong Kong Art week, with exhibitors presenting work at a range of price points to appeal both to the seasoned collector and the emergent market alike, creating a welcoming environment for art buyers.

Ran Hwang, 'Healing Blossom', 2012, paper buttons, pins, beads on wood panel, 826 x 170 cm. Image courtesy Opera Gallery.

Ran Hwang, ‘Healing Blossom’, 2012, paper buttons, pins, beads on wood panel, 826 x 170 cm. Image courtesy Opera Gallery.

As for other fairs that are becoming important in the region, such as Art Stage Singapore – do you feel you are putting yourself in competition with that? How will you distinguish yourself from Art Stage, which happens only a couple of months before Art Central?

With just over 75 galleries, Art Central provides an intimate and friendly atmosphere that the larger fairs sometimes find hard to achieve. It is this accessibility that is a key differentiator for Art Central and one that can be seen through the broad price range of the work on offer. Our visitors can expect to find work from our more emerging galleries from USD1,000, together with some of the more established names in contemporary art.

From the outset, we have focused on delivering a selective yet diverse fair that highlights the art of the region within a broader international context. With 20 percent of our exhibitors from right here in Hong Kong, we are able to bring the best of our local and regional art scenes to the international art world. Showcasing the next generation of talent alongside some of the most established contemporary galleries from around the world, Art Central is a new and dynamic experience for both regional and international collectors, buyers and the Hong Kong public.

Finally, as Art Central is happening at the same time as Art Basel, what benefits do you see coming from the bigger art fair?

Art Basel in Hong Kong generates tremendous global interest with collectors, gallerists, curators and critics all flying in for the City’s annual art week. Art Central provides yet another reason for them to come to Hong Kong that week.

Eve Share Banghart and Maree Di Pasquale, Fair Co-directors, Art Central. Image courtesy Art Central.

Eve Share Banghart and Maree Di Pasquale, Fair Co-directors, Art Central. Image courtesy Art Central.

Eve Share Banghart and Maree Di Pasquale, Fair Co-directors, Art Central

Could you tell us what the process of selection of the galleries for Art Central involved? How did you invite and choose them? Is there any common ground for choosing them?

Eve Share Banghart (ESB): Art Central applications were open to galleries or dealers with true artist representation that hold regular exhibitions in their galleries, within external project spaces, or in the virtual space. The participating galleries have been chosen by the fair’s Selection Committee, which consists of Ethan Cohen of Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, New York; Conny Dietzschold of Conny Dietzschold Gallery, Sydney and Cologne; Angela Li of Contemporary by Angela Li, Hong Kong; and Christa Schübbe of Schübbe Inc., Düssledorf, and have more than 100 years’ experience between them. They have done an excellent job of vetting applications to Art Central in order to present a strong inaugural exhibitor list that takes into consideration each gallery’s specific proposal, as well as their exhibition history and the projects they undertake on behalf of their artists outside the gallery space.

What makes Art Central unique in its own genre, without emulating Art Basel?

Maree Di Pasquale (MDP): The venue of Art Central is one-of-a-kind and totally differs from any fair experience Hong Kong has seen before. A huge, three tent structure designed by Mike Stiff of award-winning architecture practice Stiff & Trevillion will be put up on the new Central Harbourfront. The tent is going to be a must-see artwork in itself.

Art Central will take art-lovers on a journey of discovery. Art Central welcomes an international section of over 75 galleries from 21 countries, more than thirty of which have never before been seen in Hong Kong. It is this notion of the new – the creation of a site of discovery for our collectors, buyers and art enthusiasts – that Art Central champions in its inaugural year.

Integral to the fair is our focus on presenting artists who are well-known and highly collected within their own cities, yet relatively unknown in a global context. Showcasing the next generation of talent alongside some of the most established contemporary galleries from across the globe, the fair prides itself on providing an international platform to artists working across a broad range of mediums, and at all levels of the market.

Gill Rocca, 'Golden Hour III', 2014, oil on canvas, 61 x 61cm. Image courtesy AJC Gallery Ltd.

Gill Rocca, ‘Golden Hour III’, 2014, oil on canvas, 61 x 61cm. Image courtesy AJC Gallery Ltd.

What does the fair offer in terms of viewing experience and other programmes?

ESB: The Asia Society Hong Kong Center will enrich the Art Central experience with a series of talks and panel discussions staged daily giving Art Central an educational edge. The cultural programme will provide a means for visitors to directly engage with some of the leading artistic trends and curatorial practices of contemporary art in Asia and beyond. It is worth noting that Tiffany Beres (moderator of the aforementioned talk) will also be leading VIP tours of the ink art on show at Art Central. Ms. Beres is an independent art curator, whose research focuses on modern and contemporary Chinese ink art.

Education is an integral part of Art Central and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) will be conducting free educational tours providing insight into contemporary art and collecting.

MDP: The educational programme extends right down to children, with Art Central’s Children’s Education Partner, Art Loop, leading a series of Kids Tours. The Kids Tours will be available to children within two age groups; 5-8 years old and 9-13 years old.

An interactive graffiti wall installation by the Sovereign Art Foundation will engage kids and adults alike with the opportunity to get artistic. Visitors are encouraged to stop by to literally ‘make their mark’ on the fair.

Li Hao, 'Guaxiang No.18 (卦象No.18)', 2014, mixed media on Xuan paper, 170 x 45 x 6 cm. Image courtesy Art Central.

Li Hao, ‘Guaxiang No.18 (卦象No.18)’, 2014, mixed media on Xuan paper, 170 x 45 x 6 cm. Image courtesy Art Central.

Could you give us some highlights from the fair, in terms of galleries and artists presented? What should visitors be looking forward to at Art Central this year? 

ESB: Art Central has two specialised sections. Central for more established spaces, and Rise featuring curated solo or dual exhibitions by galleries established in the last five years. Rise booths will predominantly highlight exciting younger artists and artists from emerging markets. Around 85 percent of the galleries will present their work in Central, and around 15 percent within Rise. Our exhibitors represent a total of 21 countries.

The art of ink painting is growing in importance in the contemporary art market. Some excellent examples of these artistic developments may be found at Art Central in the debut of renowned ink painter Lan Zhenghui’s site-specific installation (Ethan Cohen Fine Arts), emerging conceptual ink painter Li Hao’s large-scale paintings (Galerie Du Monde), Macanese multimedia artist Cindy Ng’s site-specific performance ‘Ink in Motion’, performed in conjunction with ‘Playing Landscape’, a performing arts theatre company from Macau (Opera Gallery), and Daniel Eskenazi’s photographs of Scholar’s Rocks, which honour Chinese tradition by expanding upon it (Rasti Chinese Art).

MDP: Galleries showing ink art at the fair will have special signage to indicate that this work may be found in the booth, making it easy for visitors to navigate their own individual tour of ink at Art Central. Finally, Artsy.net, our Official Online Partner, will include highlights of the fair’s ink art on our dedicated Art Central micro-site. This will allow Art Central visitors (as well as art enthusiasts from around the globe) to familiarise themselves with the work on show from as early as 10 March.

In addition to the contemporary ink work, we are also looking forward to the solo show of sculptures by American artist Rona Pondick – whose work has been exhibited and collected by important institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art – at Istanbul-based Krampf Gallery’s Art Central booth.

Marc Straus from New York will show work by critically acclaimed Indonesian artist Entang Wiharso, who represented his native Indonesia at the most recent Venice Biennale. Wiharso’s grand metal sculptures, cast wall reliefs and oil paintings are imbued with Indonesian pop iconography, contemporary political history and references to reliefs found on Hindu temples.

In our Rise sector, young Hong Kong gallery Mur Nomade will show a new series of work by emerging Hong Kong artist Vivian Poon, in which she uses colour to question the limitation of what we can know.

Finally, a site-specific multimedia installation by The Old Boy’s Club at Galerie Anita Beckers, in which all elements of artistic techniques form themselves to a symbiosis, should not be missed.

 C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

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Related Topics: art fairs, events in Hong Kong, market watch, interviews

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