Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong Director Stephanie Kelly on the city’s art scene and the 2017 fair edition – interview

In its fifth edition, the Hong Kong Affordable Art Fair runs from 19 to 21 May.

Art Radar catches up with Fair Director Stephanie Kelly to hear her thoughts on the Hong Kong art scene and the highlights from this year’s Fair.

Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong Director Stephanie Kelly. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong Director Stephanie Kelly. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Stephanie Kelly has been a keen supporter of the arts in Hong Kong and as Director she has led the growth of the Affordable Art Fair in Hong Kong. In 2014 the Hong Kong Fair became the best-attended Affordable Art Fair globally, with HKD36 million in art sales and 29,000 visitors.

The Affordable Art Fairs, established in London in 1999, have the aim of demystifying the world of art, and Hong Kong pays particular attention to this educational role. Along with over 110 galleries, the Fair will host a travelling creative studio, a creative hub and a series of talks. The art at the Fair ranges from between HKD1,000 to HKD100,000.

Stephanie Kelly spoke to Art Radar about this year’s edition of the Fair and shared her thoughts on the Hong Kong art scene.

Installation of the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Installation of the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

There are over 110 galleries participating this year. Could you tell us a bit about how these galleries were selected and which spaces you are particularly excited to have at the fair?

Affordable Art Fair’s role in the wider art ecosystem is to develop the art market and help galleries grow by building their local business and going global by showing their artists internationally. Exciting new international galleries include OCAC (Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Centre) from Thailand, Adriana Budich Contemporary Art from Argentina and Spin Galleries from New York. Our new Business of Art sessions have also helped us support local galleries and we are proud to be welcoming Hong Kong-based La Vu Gallery, which specialises in Chinese artists, Platform D’Art with high impact sculptures and Rainze Gallery with watercolours.

Lu Yu 'The Third State of Balance', 2016, acylic on canvas, 50 x 60cm, HKD 10,000, La Vu Gallery. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Lu Yu ‘The Third State of Balance’, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 60 cm, HKD10,000, La Vu Gallery. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

What kind of audiences are you expected at the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong this year? Do you see a shifting landscape of collecting in the region?

Hong Kong is a developing art market with 54 percent of visitors owning artwork in comparison to 90 percent in London. The fair attracts a diverse audience from experienced collectors looking to find something new and unique to add to their growing collections as well as art lovers and first-time buyers who are defining their own taste and learning more about the art world. Affordable Art Fair is helping develop the next generation of collectors and 25 percent of our buyers are purchasing their first work.

Installation of the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Installation of the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

In the first five years of operation, have you seen any particular trends or changes in what kinds of work sell well at the Affordable Art Fair?


It is an interesting time for Hong Kong art with artists interpreting emotions and changes in the city many of us are not able to articulate. Our cutting-edge Young Talent Hong Kong is always thought-provoking and to celebrate our 5th anniversary, curators May Wong and Eric Leung have selected five fresh emerging artists to exhibit alongside five previous Young Talent alumni to see the different stages of their careers.

Dina Goldstein, 'Fresh Air Crop', 2016, from the series Modern Girls, pigment on archival smooth matte paper. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Dina Goldstein, ‘Fresh Air Crop’, 2016, from the series “Modern Girl”s, pigment on archival smooth matte paper. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

More generally, what are some of the changes you have seen in the Hong Kong art scene in the past five to ten years? 


The Hong Kong art scene has dramatically evolved over the last five to ten years with headline grabbing auction results, the explosion of art fairs and doubling of galleries. Galleries are now dotted across Hong Kong and can now be found in Tsuen Wan, Western & Central, Soho, Repulse Bay, Quarry Bay, Kwun Tong and Wong Chuk Hang. The Hong Kong Art Gallery Association has also significantly contributed to helping galleries establish their voices in an ever-changing art scene. 
Helping to create a healthy and balanced art ecosystem, we are seeing that the strength and influence of independent artists, artist groups and institutions are also growing. It is also important to recognise that the value of art in education and the importance of creativity is also gaining traction as we move into a new industrial age.

Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

With so many art fairs and art events in Hong Kong, how does the Affordable Art Fair find a unique space? In what ways do you see the art fair fitting in with the art ecosystem in Hong Kong?


Around the world, the role of the Affordable Art Fair is to develop the local art market. In Hong Kong in particular we attract and educate approximately 25,000 potential art buyers a year, we support over 110 galleries grow their business and help thousands of emerging and mid-career artists develop their practice and showcase their work at home and abroad. We showcase the depth of Hong Kong talent, including established artists as well as a number of locally grown artists, giving them the chance to present their work on a global platform.

Our Young Talent Hong Kong exhibition is one of the highlights of the fair and it has successfully been a springboard for a number of Hong Kong artists to launch their careers. For the first time this year, we are exhibiting five previous young talents alongside five new recent graduates, showing audiences what the fair can do for these young artists. As galleries have moved outside central Hong Kong, the Affordable Art Fair provides a great opportunity for them to connect with collectors as well as meet new art buyers. Most galleries are independently run by passionate directors and the Affordable Art Fair provides a platform for accessible galleries to showcase their work in Hong Kong and abroad.

Installation of the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Installation of the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Does the Hong Kong edition differ in any way from the other Affordable Art Fairs? Do you see any particular trends present in Hong Kong that are not so prevalent in the other Affordable Art Fairs?


We have found that in Hong Kong and Asia, audiences are keen to come to learn so our programmes are very much education driven. In Asia, 80 percent of our visitors are attending for this specific reason so we provide a programme that caters to this. For the younger generation, we have the Creative Hub, which features interactive education activities including the Children’s Art Studio, new print workshop and virtual reality museum tours. We are also looking forward to the TEDxWanChai salon, which will examine the topic of “Art.Who Cares?” taking place on Saturday 20 May. A variety of tours is also on offer to help visitors learn more about art. These will focus on a number of key themes including different art techniques, Hong Kong artists and galleries as well as Affordable Art Fair Director picks.

M+ Rover. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

M+ Rover. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Could you explain a bit about this year’s partnership with Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong, how this came about and why you decided to partner with them this year?


The fair globally has raised GBP800,000 for local charities focusing on art therapy around the world. This year we decided to work with Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong that promotes equal opportunity for people with disabilities to have access to and excel in the arts. One of our core values at the fair is all about accessibility and we want to provide a platform for these talented artists to present and sell their works.

Talks at the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Talks at the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong 2016. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Who are some of the emerging artists to watch out for at the Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong this year? 


Our FRESH selection showcases the best new emerging and mid-career artists debuting at the fair this year. It is a great exhibition for collectors to test their eye and see fresh new artists from Hong Kong and abroad. This year’s line-up includes diverse and fascinating artists such as pop surrealist Dina Goldstein (Canada), Gareth Hayward (United Kingdom) who creates works by photographing layers of feathers to form wings as well as Chinese artist led group Xiang Demei (China) led by Hei Yiyang, which collages using money and paper to re-examine the world.

Ryan Cheng, 'Cone15', stoneware, FRESH, Giant Year Gallery. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

Ryan Cheng, ‘Cone15’, stoneware, FRESH, Giant Year Gallery. Image courtesy Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong.

What are you most excited about for this year’s art fair? 


Our enhanced Creative Hub will be a highlight this year with the arrival of the M+ Rover. The customised trailer is a travelling pop-up creative studio that is touring secondary schools and community spaces in 2017 with local artist Rainbow Leung participating as the key learning instructor. The initiative creates a space and an experience that connects people in the community and inspires young audiences, echoing the core ethos of the fair and we are proud to partner with M+ Museum to bring this to our audience.

Claire Wilson

1660

Related topics: art fairs, the art market, art and education, market transparency, democratisation of art, Hong Kong artists, events in Hong Kong, interviews

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