Two of Hong Kong’s principal art fairs closed with record sales and elevated international attendance.

Providing balance between commercial fair and educational platform, Art Basel and Art Central Hong Kong transformed the city into a global meeting ground during Hong Kong Art Week 2018.

Art Basel in Hong Kong 2018. © Art Basel

Art Basel in Hong Kong 2018. © Art Basel.

Spaces of cultural exchange: Art Basel Hong Kong 2018

The 6th edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, which closed on Saturday 31 March, brought together a uniquely global mix of 248 galleries spanning six continents. Between established and budding artists and an array of curious international collectors, the fair stood out amongst other events during Hong Kong Art Week as a sociable, convivial meeting ground. This backdrop set the tone for new discoveries, in-depth conversations between global patrons and a wide-spread enthusiasm amongst guest galleries over their involvement in an interconnected art scene.

The show’s success, both fiscally and didactically, is a true testament to the efforts that exhibitors and artists put into their presentations. A shared dedication towards strengthening an “ever-more diversified” art world propelled the 2018 edition to renewed international acclaim, the fair’s 80,000 visitors nodding to this achievement.

Art Basel in Hong Kong 2018. © Art Basel

Art Basel in Hong Kong 2018. © Art Basel.

Galleries

Art Basel in Hong Kong returned with their ambitious Galleries segment, which was met with strong collector turnout and competitive sales across all media and market sectors. This year’s event hosted 195 premier galleries from 32 countries and territories, with 28 galleries participating in the show for the first time. Miguel Abreu Gallery was one of these first-timers, mirroring Art Basel’s efforts to shed more light on institutions beyond China and the younger generation of art professionals. Miguel Abreu, Founder and Owner of the New York gallery, stated in the closing press release:

This was our first Art Basel fair in Hong Kong. There are only a few art fairs where we meet new collectors and Art Basel in Hong Kong is one of them. We have had serious interest and buying not only from our established US collectors but most significantly from new collectors from Mainland China and Hong Kong, as well as strong institutional interest and buying. It is a rare opportunity to present the work of our artists to a completely new audience.

Art Basel Hong Kong Conversation, 'Nobody Ever Asked Me' by Bai Ling and Sophia Al-Maria in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist. © Art Basel

Art Basel Hong Kong Conversation, ‘Nobody Ever Asked Me’ by Bai Ling and Sophia Al-Maria in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist. © Art Basel.

Discoveries

One of the most fascinating aspects of Art Basel’s celebrated fair is its eager spotlight on young artists and their promotion. Art Basel returned with their Discoveries section, which focused on solo shows by young, emerging artists, featured 25 different galleries this past week. Three artists in the segment, Zac Langdon-Pole, Ali Kazim and Gala Porras-Kim, were shortlisted during the fair’s proceedings for the next edition of the BMW Art Journey, the winner to be announced later this Summer.

Ali Kazim presented by Jhaveri Contemporary. © Art Basel

Ali Kazim presented by Jhaveri Contemporary. © Art Basel.

On the continued success of the fair and expanding partnership between Art Basel and UBS, Kathryn Shih, President of UBS Asia Pacific said:

This year has been another step change in terms of the incredible quality of gallery presentations. We have had even more clients attending from around the world, proving that Art Basel in Hong Kong has become a key event in the global art calendar. The ever-growing number of premier galleries underlines Hong Kong’s offer as a leading arts hub, and as China shifts to a more consumption-led economy we are likely to see a further increase in the demand for art in the coming years.

Art Basel in Hong Kong 2018. © Art Basel

Art Basel in Hong Kong 2018. © Art Basel.

Thinking ‘beyond’: Art Central Hong Kong 2018

Art Central Hong Kong fair presented itself last week as a place of discovery. After closing on 1 April 2018, the event’s overarching themes of promotion, cross-cultural dialogue and technological progression exhibited work by established names and emerging artists. Staged within its usual 10,000-square-metre structure on the Harbourfront, the strong gallery line-up at this year’s fair was complimented by a dynamic week-long programme that included interactive installations, experimental film and performance, and an engaging series of workshops and lectures organised in conjuction with Asia Society. Billed as one of the most anticipated events on the city’s cultural calendar, the fourth edition saw a record breaking attendance of over 39,000 artists, curators, collectors, gallerists and art-lovers alike. In previous years and since its inception, the fair has played a central role in Hong Kong Art Week, prompting participation and enthusiasm from local and international audiences.

View of the Art Central Hong Kong 2018 space. Photo: Jacquie Manning. Image courtesy Art Central Hong Kong.

View of the Art Central Hong Kong 2018 space. Photo: Jacquie Manning. Image courtesy Art Central Hong Kong.

PROJECTS

Art Central’s esteemed PROJECTS segment was curated this year by Ying Kwok, an independent curator prized for her inventive curatorial approach centered around collaboration. Ying most recently curated the Hong Kong Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017, an exhibition by Hong Kong artist Samson Young now on show in a renewed edition at M+ Pavilion in Hong Kong.

This year, PROJECTS featured two important facets of contemporary art practice today: progressive media such as technology, augmented reality and kinetic art, alongside insightful historical and cultural narratives. Six cutting-edge installations were selected for public view, featuring work by Yang Jung Uk (South Korea), Entang Wiharso (Indonesia) and Penelope Davis (Australia) among others. Davis’ sculptural installation, Sea Change, attracted some of the utmost attention, evoking the “precarious beauty of the ocean environment and human impact upon it.” Davis attended the fair alongside Australia’s MARS Gallery, which commented on her work:

Using jellyfish as a motif to examine consumption, environmental degradation and issues surrounding global warming, the work’s delicate beauty and unsettling hybridity invites viewers into an enveloping, contemplative space to reflect on their own relationship with the ocean environment, the natural world and the issues emerging from future climate change.

Similar themes bled through the entire fair, with particular emphasis on hybridity and contemplation. Art Central’s Galleries segment illustrated this commitment.

Penelope Davis, 'Sea-Change', 2017, silicone, nylon thread, plastic, dimensions variable. Image courtesy Art Central Hong Kong.

Penelope Davis, ‘Sea-Change’, 2017, silicone, nylon thread, plastic, dimensions variable. Photo: Jacquie Manning. Image courtesy Art Central Hong Kong.

Galleries

The 2018 edition saw an impressive 102 participating galleries spanning Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, many of which attended the fair for the first time. Sukontip Fon Prahanpan, Founding Director, La Lanta Fine Art (Bangkok) stated in the fair’s closing press release:

For our first time at Art Central, we presented a solo booth of Thai artist, Pannaphan Yodmanee. We are thrilled with the result, [as] the Fair has provided a platform for us to introduce her works to international and local collectors. The majority of the artworks shown have sold, and we are pleased to have placed them in a major Singaporean collection as well as with important private collections across the region.

Seoul’s Galerie Hyundai returned to the fair after prior successes with an array of local and international artists in tow. At once quite innovating and blending into the thematic trajectory of the fair, Galerie Hyundai’s represented artists played with immersive spaces, social landscapes and kinetic creations that break boundaries surrounding artistic media and voyeuristic interpretations.

Choe U-Ram, ‘Una Lumino Callidus Septem’, 2015, metallic material, machinery, electronic device (CPU board, motor, LED), polycarbonate, 127 x 255 x 35 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Hyundai, Seoul.

Choe U-Ram, ‘Una Lumino Callidus Septem’, 2015, metallic material, machinery, electronicdevice (CPU board, motor, LED), polycarbonate, 127 x 255 x 35 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Gallery Hyundai, Seoul.

Parallel Programmes

The parallel programming at Art Central included educational ink art workshops held by United Overseas Bank (UOB), while large-scale installations and a series of performances enriched the fair experience. Because the fair so thoroughly aimed towards inclusion and participation, the programming further included insights into contemporary fashion, music and topically themed debates. Discussions embraced activism, mythologies, queerness, conflict and spiritual identity, and through their accessible platforms, invited audience members to question various iterations through which such themes appear in Hong Kong’s contemporary art landscape.

Performance view at Art Central Hong Kong 2018 featuring Caroline Garcia's 'The Vitrine of Dancing Cultures'. Image courtesy Art Central Hong Kong.

Performance view at Art Central Hong Kong 2018 featuring Caroline Garcia’s
‘The Vitrine of Dancing Cultures’. Image courtesy Art Central Hong Kong.

Figures and Facts

Hong Kong’s rapidly expanding commercial art scene was made evident in Art Central’s week-long sales. Gilles Dyan, Founder and Chairman of Opera Gallery (Hong Kong, London, New York, Paris), commented on this phenomenon:

Every year we do extremely well in Art Central Hong Kong. This year, we sold a selection of Manolo Valdés paintings and a sculpture, with prices ranging between USD 350,000 – 1,000,000. We also had great interest on the Korean artists, and sold artworks with prices ranging between USD 50,000 – 80,000.

Exhibition view of the Art Central Hong Kong 2018 fair. Image courtesy Art Central Hong Kong.

Exhibition view of the Art Central Hong Kong 2018 fair. Image courtesy Art Central Hong Kong.

Beyond sales, beyond scheduled programmes, beyond participation, it is evident that both Art Central and Art Basel Hong Kong elected not to shy away from controversy – be it in the form of controversial art work, political attitudes or surrounding dialogues. The goal, which was achieved with wild success, was to produce an event that invited critical thinking and celebrated vigilance in the defense of art practices.

Megan Miller

2136

Related topics: Fairs, round-up, art and the community, business of art, collectors, events in Hong Kong

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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