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Art: Hong Kong Phenomenon

  • Marsden Ford

Art Basel has moved closer toward art-world domination by expanding into Hong Kong. The inaugural Art Basel in Hong Kong runs from May 23 through 26 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. This latest extension of the contemporary-art fair, which originated in Switzerland in 1970 and has become a see-and-be-seen spectacle in Miami Beach, seemed destined: In 2011, China was the world’s hottest art market, having surpassed the United States to become the leader in fine-art auction sales according to the tracking service Artprice. While sales in 2012 were notably cooler, China remains a force.

"It’s important to have a presence in Asia," says Justine Durrett, a director of sales at the New York gallery David Zwirner, which expects to offer works by Yayoi Kusama, Adel Abdessemed, and Michaël Borremans at Art Basel in Hong Kong. "We are tailoring our exhibition to collectors we know and whose interests we are better able to assess. We have always done well with figurative painting anchoring our booths, and that is one of the things that we will continue."

David Zwirner began showing in Hong Kong two years ago at Art HK, the popular fair that Art Basel’s owner, MCH Group, acquired in 2011 and now is replacing with the Art Basel–branded show. According to Art Basel’s management, the Hong Kong fair will emphasize works by artists from the Asia-Pacific region, just as Art HK did; Art Basel hired Art HK’s director, Magnus Renfrew, to run its Asian operations. The fair will feature 245 international galleries and works by more than 3,000 artists, making it only slightly smaller than the Miami event, which is the largest contemporary-art fair in the United States. Pieces will range from early-20th-century modernism to contemporary works straight from studios in Asia and the West.

As is customary for Art Basel events, the fair will be divided into four sections. The main one, Galleries, will include 171 dealers showing paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, installations, and video works that span the past 100 years and emphasize modern and Asian art. Exhibitors in the Galleries section will include Gagosian and White Cube—two Western titans that have opened outposts in Hong Kong—as well as Ameringer McEnery Yohe, Dominique Levy, and Pace of New York; Hauser and Wirth of Zurich; Galerie Eigen and Art of Berlin; and Galerie Daniel Templon of Paris. Other sections will offer projects conceived specifically for the fair, solo and two-person exhibitions by emerging artists, and large-scale sculptural and installation pieces curated by Yuko Hasegawa of the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.

In keeping with Hong Kong—and Art Basel—tradition, eating, drinking, and hospitality will be fully integrated into the experience. The Mandarin Oriental, in conjunction with the Hong Kong–based Imperial Tours, is offering an Art Basel package that includes entrance to the fair, an invitation to the opening gala on May 22, and access to the Art Collectors Lounge. The hotel’s restaurants will be creating some interactive artwork of their own, serving art-inspired meals May 6 through 26.

Art Basel in Hong Kong, www.artbasel.com; Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, www.mandarinoriental.com

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