Art Central 2016 in Hong Kong: the art fair as a centre of change – round-up

Art Radar rounds up the second edition of Art Central, Hong Kong’s newest art fair.

Established in 2015, Art Central entered an art scene already dominated by global players. This year’s figures however show that the newcomer, rather than vying for a niche, has added to Hong Kong’s emerging art clout by offering something refreshingly down to earth.

Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

With visitor numbers at 32,000 and 4500 on the opening night, the figures
were decisively encouraging for Art Central in its second year. Rather than being a satellite fair riding on the back of auction house traffic and behemoths like Art Basel Hong Kong, it succeeds by neither focussing solely on blue chips nor emerging galleries. The new art fair is an event that connects the corners of the art world, from international museum pieces to local gallery exhibits.
Tim Etchells, Co-Founder of Art Central, said in a press release:

The inaugural Art Central was a huge success in 2015, and we approached the second edition committed to once again over-delivering on expectations. Art Central 2016 saw us raise the bar on the quality of galleries and the depth of public programming, while also further defining the personality of the fair. Art Central’s identity is unlike any other fair in Hong Kong or Asia – it’s dynamic, edgy and challenging. It’s this difference that collectors, buyers, the art-loving public and our galleries have so enthusiastically embraced. With many galleries reportedly having sold works to buyers they have met for the first time at Art Central, the fair is creating new opportunities, connections and experiences at many levels.

Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

Art Central built an organic experience that includes performances, panel discussions, and installations and the venue’s 10,000 square feet temporary structure on the Central Harbourfront, combined with nearby restaurants, bars and a ‘street food’ section added a sense of intimacy as well as something of the raw bustle of Hong Kong to artistic appreciation. Rather than offering a ‘privileged’ look into somewhere private and exclusive, the fair was open-hearted, edgy and aesthetically challenging – a mingling point for practitioners and art in need of discovery, to be judged on creative merit more than brand value. Many of the pieces on show had collector value regionally but are not known internationally.

Dwi Setianto, 'Growth', 2016 at Sin Sin Fine Art, Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

Dwi Setianto, ‘Growth’, 2016 at Sin Sin Fine Art, Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

The fair was also more than just a viewing point for art. It was a spectacle with events that take visitors beyond static showcases. Three curated projects at the 2016 fair included MEDIA X MUMM in partnership with G.H Mumm Champagne, Talks X Asia Society with major players in the Asian art scene, as well as ROUNDTABLE X 4A (curated by 4A Centre for Contemporary Art, Sydney) which included a discussion about art writing in Asia with Editor of Leap Robin Peckham, Managing Editor of Art Radar C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia and Bhavna Kakar, Editor/Publisher Take on Art Magazine.

Yuji Moriguchi, 'The monster and twenty one girls', 2015, at Gallery Tsubaki, Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

Yuji Moriguchi, ‘The monster and twenty one girls’, 2015, at Gallery Tsubaki, Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

Among highlights was SCREEN X EXPERIMENTA (curated by Gina Wong Director of Experimenta), which presented a selection of experimental and underground films for the inaugural film section of the art fair. The performance The Flying Buck by Abdullah M.I. Syed within ROUNDTABLE X 4A reflected on the notion of art fairs in Hong Kong by addressing institutionalism, capitalism and consumer culture.

The melting pot of local and regional, with familiar international names give Art Central its distinctive flavour, enabling vistors to sample regional galleries including Korea’s GALLERY HYUNDAI (Seoul), which showcased monochromatic paintings and the works of Park Seo Bo and Lee Ufan, and Malaysia’s Richard Koh Fine Art (Kuala Lumpur) which presented Haffendi Anuar, Saiful Razman, Wong Perng Fey and Yeoh Choo Kuan. Japan’s Tekuyazam’s Fine Art and the local Sin Sin Fine Art presented Indonesian artists S. Teddy Darmawan and Bob Yudhita Agung.

Fair-goers admire work at Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

Fair-goers admire work at Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

These were featured alongside UK galleries like Michael Goedhuis, which showcased Liu Kuo-sung and Qin Feng, and Germany’s Schuebbe Inc (Düsseldorf), with an international group show of 1950s German artist collective SPUR (Helmut Sturm, HP Zimmer, Lothar Fischer and Heimrad Prem) along with emerging artists.

In a press release, Richard Koh of Richard Koh Fine Art said:

This was our gallery’s second year at Art Central and we were happy to see that the fair was even bigger and better than in its first year and we have made great sales and built a lot of new contacts. Many guests have commented that the atmosphere was vibrant and exciting; they felt the art work was edgy yet approachable, with opportunities to discover new exciting artists and unexpected pieces.

Dwi Setiant, 'Growth', 2016, Mixed Media, 12 x 3.5 m, at Sin Sin Fine Art, Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

Dwi Setiant, ‘Growth’, 2016, Mixed Media, 12 x 3.5 m, at Sin Sin Fine Art, Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

The result is an event that doesn’t compromise quality as it builds bridges, and it has endorsed Hong Kong as a gateway to art in Asia. Sydney Townsend from Gazelli Art House, London, which presented James Ostrer at Art Central said:

As a London-based gallery, Art Central has helped open up doors for us in Asia. Bringing our artist James Ostrer’s works to Hong Kong has been an opportunity to show his works to a new audience, and we have had a really exciting response with a lot of institutional interest and new project opportunities.

Thomas Canto, 'Suspended Landscape', 2016, at Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

Thomas Canto, ‘Suspended Landscape’, 2016, at Art Central 2016. Image courtesy Art Central.

75 percent of the galleries at the art fair were from Asia or have a base in the region, a conscious decision by the fair organisers to contribute to Hong Kong becoming the global centre for contemporary Asian art. Maree Di Pasquale, Fair Director of Art Central said, in a statement sent to Art Radar:

Art Central 2016 presented some of the world’s most celebrated museum quality works alongside works by exciting emerging artists. Over 500 artists were on show, and a number of these artists are well known and highly collected in their home cities, however not in a global context. It’s this element of discovery that runs within the DNA of Art Central and makes the fair so engaging for visitors. Art Central is an Art Week favorite not just for the art, but also for the dining and social elements that add to the energy and vibe of the fair. From First Night to the Mumm Harbour Party – two of the hottest Art Week parties – to the Absolut Art Bar, the street food area and main fair restaurant Belon, Art Central was the place to be during Hong Kong Art Week.

Remo Notarianni

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Related Topics: art fairs, round-ups, events in Hong Kong, Asian art

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