Art Radar rounds up the key takeaways from Art Basel Hong Kong 2017.
The fifth edition of the Swiss mega fair in Hong Kong attracted serious collectors and art aficionados in the Asia-Pacific region as attendance soared to nearly 80,000.
The fifth edition of Art Basel Hong Kong closed on Saturday 25 March 2017. This year, the attendance figure rose to nearly 80,000 and strong sales were recorded across all levels of the market. With the introduction of evening ticket sales and improved crowd control measures at ABHK 2017, the Swiss fair continued its partnership with UBS to feature 242 galleries from 34 countries, bringing contemporary and Modern art from around the world to Hong Kong. In light of their partnership, Art Basel and UBS recently jointly-published a report, The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, written by cultural economist Dr Clare McAndrew. Notable highlights of this fair’s edition include the collaboration with Google Arts & Culture on virtual reality projects, as well as the introduction of the new curatorial sector, Kabinett.
First-time exhibitors at ABHK 2017
Alongside many long-term exhibitors, 29 galleries took part for the first time, including ten new galleries from Asia: A+ Contemporary, Bank, C-Space and Hive Center for Contemporary Art (Mainland China); imura art gallery and The Third Gallery Aya (Japan); Jhaveri Contemporary (India); Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery (Hong Kong), Mind Set Art Center (Taiwan) and The Third Line (Dubai).
As for Europe, there were ten new galleries, including Alfonso Artiaco and Thomas Brambilla (Italy); Galerie Buchholz, Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Kadel Willborn and König Galerie (Germany); High Art and mor charpentier (France), Project Native Informant and Waddington Custot (United Kingdom).
The last nine new galleries were from the Americas and include Aicon Gallery, Clearing, Luxembourg & Dayan, Sundaram Tagore Gallery and Various Small Fires (United States); Bergamin & Gomide, Athena Contemporânea, Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel (Brazil) and kurimanzutto (Mexico).
International galleries to expand to Hong Kong
The mega fair brought about various satellite fairs, such as Art Central and Asia Contemporary Art Show. International art galleries also expressed their increasing interest in opening a gallery outpost in Hong Kong.
David Zwirner Gallery sold two USD1.5 million paintings by Belgian artist Luc Tuymans within the first hour of the fair, as reported by Artsy. Other works sold include an acrylic painting from Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Nets” series for USD450,000 and a bronze Sherrie Levine sculpture for USD120,000. Commenting on this year’s show, founder David Zwirner said:
This has been another important year at Art Basel in Hong Kong. We had significant sales with a strong response from Asian collectors, including those from Korea, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Japan. The fair and Hong Kong’s art scene are certainly gaining momentum, and we look forward to the opening of our Hong Kong gallery in early 2018 in the H Queen’s building.
Burgeoning art markets in the Asia-Pacific region
Thaddaeus Ropac, speaking to the Financial Times, mentioned that collectors from Malaysia and Taiwan who were planning private museums were interested in acquiring new pieces. The gallery sold a Georg Baselitz painting for EUR360,000, a sculpture by Tony Cragg for EUR650,000, a Gilbert and George work for GBP125,000 and a David Salle painting for USD300,000. In a press release, Marc Glimcher, president of Pace gallery reported the strong presence of enthusiastic new collectors from all over Southeast Asia. Their booth nearly sold out by the end of the second day. As for White Cube gallery, artworks that were sold include a large-scale Theaster Gates work for USD700,000. Pearl Lam, Founder of Pearl Lam Galleries whose gallery spaces are located in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, also praised the fair’s success in connecting collectors, curators and museum directors from around the world.
Curated sectors and themed conversations
In this edition, Art Basel Hong Kong was divided into various sectors: Galleries, Insights, Discoveries, Encounters and the newly-added curatorial sector Kabinett. In the Galleries sector, 190 exhibitors including blue-chip powerhouse galleries like Gagosian, Acquavella, Blum & Poe, Hauser & Wirth, Sean Kelly, Sprüth Magers and Victoria Miro presented a variety of modern and contemporary works.
Osage Gallery, first established in Hong Kong in 2004, brought together three Chinese artists in their group presentation in the Insights sector gallery booth. The artists were Jiang Zhi, Shen Shaomin and Zhao Zhao. Tremble (2009), a work by Jiang Zhi, attracted large groups of visitors who were curious about the seven-channel video installation depicting seven life-size nude figures struggling to stand properly atop vibrating plates. Speaking to Art Radar, a gallery representative from Osage Gallery remarked:
We are very pleased with the organisation of the shows. The sectors are well-curated and our booth has been able to engage many visitors.
Meanwhile, a representative from local gallery a.m. space in the Discoveries sector told Art Radar that
It is a great opportunity for the public to see the exhibitions, especially when emerging artists are represented in these individual small exhibitions. More tours are coming in during the crowded weekend, indicating the general public’s interest.
Curated by Alexie Glass-Kantor, Director of Artspace, Sydney, the Encounters sector showcased large scale works. For instance, Chinese artist Shen Shaomin’s political installation Summit (2009-10) of deceased politicians in coffins, Taiwanese artist Joyce Ho’s performance piece On the second day, Saturday, your three minutes (2017) exploring the everyday, and German artist Katharina Grosse’s spray-painted aluminium sculptures were featured in this sector.
Conversation and Salon sessions were well-attended. Programmed by Stephanie Bailey, art writer and editor, speakers from around the world engage in discussions about the art world. The talks include a conversation between Hong Kong artist Kingsley Ng and curator Valerie C. Doran on Ng’s project Twenty-Five Minutes Older. The project was first presented as part of the exhibition celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Arts Development Council in Hong Kong. The piece transformed two public trams in Hong Kong into moving camera obscuras, highlighting the ephemeral in the city. Public engagement was emphasised, as free-of-charge tickets were offered to the public to travel in the city while viewing work from within.
In addition to the talks, the fair’s film screenings, curated by Beijing and Zurich-based multimedia artist and film producer, Li Zhenhua, include a special screening of Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo Qiang (2016) directed by Kevin McDonald. The documentary revealed how Cai created his large scale work using his preferred medium of fireworks and explosives. A short firm named Data, Algorithm and Beyond explored how our perception of the world would be altered when art and virtual reality intertwine with each other.
Trend towards virtual reality in the arts
A major highlight in this edition of Art Basel Hong Kong 2017 was the application of virtual reality technology to create art. Virtual reality artwork by renowned international artists boychild, Cao Fei, Robin Rhode, Sun Xun and Yang Yongliang were presented in the show. They were created with Tilt Brush by Google, which served as a 3D drawing and painting application tool in the collaboration between Art Basel and Google Arts & Culture. That virtual reality was utilised as a means for production of art – rather than merely for the immersive experience of an existing artwork – and marked a shift in the creative process of art.
- Preview: 10 highlights from Art Central Hong Kong 2017 – March 2017 – attracting over 240 galleries from 34 countries, Art Basel Hong Kong brings together key galleries from the Asia-Pacific region
- On the value of art: Chinese artist Shen Shaomin at Klein Sun Gallery, New York – in pictures – March 2017 – conceptual artist Shen Shaomin explores notions of value in the art world in his latest solo exhibition at Klein Sun Gallery in New York
- The Global Gallery: Thaddaeus Ropac at Talking Galleries 2017 – video summary – March 2017 – influential gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac opened the 2017 Talking Galleries Barcelona Symposium with a call for a return to the gallery space
- India Art Fair 2017: a gathering place for South Asian art – round-up – February 2017 – Art Radar takes a look at some of the highlights of this year’s Fair
- Regional collecting and learning from antiquities: Hong Kong collector Hallam Chow – interview – January 2017 – Hong Kong collector Hallam Chow talks to Art Radar about regional collecting scene and what a contemporary art collector can learn from antiques
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