Newspaper article International New York Times

A Smaller Space That's a Closer Fit ; 2 New Western Dealers Say 'Shoebox' Galleries Work Better in Hong Kong

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Smaller Space That's a Closer Fit ; 2 New Western Dealers Say 'Shoebox' Galleries Work Better in Hong Kong

Article excerpt

Axel Vervoordt of Antwerp and the Pace Gallery of New York are opening doors to new art spaces in Hong Kong. But unlike some of their predecessors, they are going small.

As the Hong Kong art market has blossomed in the past several years, a range of Western art galleries, including global players such as Gagosian, White Cube, Sundaram Tagore and Lehmann Maupin, have opened large outposts in the city, with varying degrees of success.

This month, to coincide with the Art Basel in Hong Kong art fair, two more prominent Western art dealers -- Axel Vervoordt of Antwerp and the Pace Gallery of New York -- will also open doors to new spaces in Hong Kong. But, taking note of some of the lessons learned by earlier Western pioneers, they are taking a slightly different approach: going small.

Both galleries will be opening in the Entertainment Building at 30 Queen's Road, part of the Central district arts scene, about one minute's walk from the Pedder Building which houses the Gagosian, Lehmann Maupin, Pearl Lam and Simon Lee galleries. Unlike their predecessors down the block, however, which each occupy about 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, or about 372 to 465 square meters, these spaces are only about 700 square feet each -- very small by art gallery standards.

"It's a shoebox size and that's why we want to have just one artist installation or show one artist's work every time," said Boris Vervoordt, director of Axel Vervoordt NV, which deals in art and antiques and also has an interior design business. "It's not the kind of space where you can do a retrospective show. It gives us a conversation starter."

Mr. Vervoordt, a son of Axel Vervoordt, the company's founder, said he thought of the space as an extension of the company's Belgium gallery, which sells works by international contemporary artists, and as a venue to "explore a dialogue between East and West." The Hong Kong gallery's inaugural exhibition, "Theory of Se," is a series of three commissioned works by the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, who has created tapestry-like sculptures from recycled liquor-bottle caps.

"We felt we needed a gateway to Asia for the European artists we are representing, and to have a presence in Asia for the Japanese artists that we represent," Boris Vervoordt said. The choice to open the gallery with an exhibition by a Ghanaian artist also reflects a desire to be truly global. "For us as a European gallery, to bring an artist from Africa to Asia is great," he said. "I'm proud of that."

For Pace Gallery, the new space "is more like an office and a large private viewing room, though it's certainly open to the public," said Arne Glimcher, the chairman. "We'll have exhibitions about four or five times a year, but an exhibition can be three works or four works, or if it's watercolors or works on paper or small sculptures, it can be 10 works."

Pace, a Manhattan-based gallery with spaces in London and Menlo Park, Calif., opened a 22,000-square-foot Beijing gallery in a former munitions factory in 2008. The Hong Kong space, Mr. Glimcher said, will be linked to the Beijing space, allowing the gallery to sell Chinese contemporary art to clients throughout Asia in a free port, which does not charge import or export tariffs.

"Beijing is always going to be our flagship in Asia, and I think this is an important extra," he said. …

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