Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Hong Kong Finds Footing in Art World ; Basel Fair Draws Galleries from Afar as City Asserts Importance on Asia Scene

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Hong Kong Finds Footing in Art World ; Basel Fair Draws Galleries from Afar as City Asserts Importance on Asia Scene

Article excerpt

With its inaugural fair in Asia, the Art Basel Group has not strayed from its original goal of staging an event with an Asian focus.

As Art Basel inaugurates its first fair in the Far East on Thursday, it will not only be staking its claim to a growing market for contemporary and modern art, but also bolstering Hong Kong's position as the dominant art hub of Asia.

With the show, which features 245 galleries at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center through Sunday, the Art Basel Group has not strayed from its predecessor's goal of staging an Asia- focused event. "I know there was an initial fear that Basel would just make a copy of what they do in Switzerland and Miami," said Magnus Renfrew, Art Basel's director for Asia and the founder of Art HK, the precursor to Art Basel in Hong Kong. "But we've maintained our original mission. A majority of galleries are still from the Asia-Pacific region."

Many galleries in the region had indeed expressed fears that they would be pushed out of the event in favor of bigger, global names in the art world. While the presence of international galleries has certainly increased, the fair has put a spotlight on regional galleries in its Insights section, which features projects developed specifically for the Hong Kong show.

Art Basel is also continuing its tradition of presenting large- scale works from leading international artists in the Encounters section. This year's selections, curated by Yoku Hasegawa of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, will feature 17 artists, including the Shanghai-based MadeIn Company, the Indian artist Jitish Kallat and the New Zealand-based artist Seung Yul Oh.

There was little a decade ago to presage that Hong Kong would draw so many galleries, artists and collectors. When Art HK, the precursor to Art Basel Hong Kong founded by Mr. Renfrew, had its premiere in 2008, much of the art world viewed the city as little more than a gateway to the more artistically flourishing centers of Beijing and Shanghai. Demand for Chinese art was soaring at the time, and although Sotheby's and Christie's had already established presences in Hong Kong -- international auction houses were not permitted to operate independently on the mainland -- many of the city's arts representatives were turned toward the blossoming arts centers of mainland China.

The Hong Kong gallery offerings were little better. Save for a few veterans like Hanart TZ Gallery, which opened in 1983, and Osage Gallery, established in 2004, contemporary art galleries in the city were dealing largely with commercial art and offering few platforms on which artists could thrive.

But Hong Kong has experienced an arts renaissance in the past few years, and the city now has 80 contemporary art galleries, according to Art Asia Pacific Magazine, with reputable dealers including Ben Brown Fine Arts, Gagosian, White Cube and Lehmann Maupin opening outposts in the city. For the economist Clare McAndrew, the author of a market report for the European Fine Art Fair this year in Maastricht, the Netherlands, Hong Kong's free market and its lack of taxes on imports or exports of art have contributed to drawing these foreign galleries.

The local government, meanwhile, has announced plans to invest 21.6 billion Hong Kong dollars, or about $2.8 billion, in a new arts hub, the West Kowloon Cultural District, where the M+ contemporary art museum is scheduled to open in 2017.

Some of these developments have been in play for years, but many arts specialists credit the success of the Art HK fair, and its takeover in 2011 by the international giant Art Basel, with strengthening Hong Kong's position as the artistic hub of Asia. "The acquisition of Art HK by Art Basel has unquestionably cemented the city's position as a mandatory destination for collectors, curators and critics in the global art circuit," said Nick Simunovic, director of the Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.