Preview: Can Emerging Art Upstage the Blue-Chip at Art Basel Hong Kong?

Here's what to see at Art Basel in Hong Kong.

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016. Photo: courtesy of Art Basel.

Now in its fifth iteration, Art Basel in Hong Kong has established itself as a truly important art marketplace. Billing itself as both “a portal to the region’s artists” and a platform for international galleries to bring “their highest quality works to Asia,” the fair reflects what is now an established fact: Asia, and especially China, is a crucial market for the international art trade.

With 242 participants, this year’s fair is bigger than ever before. International galleries from 34 countries have signed up to gain access to the coveted Asian collector base.

New this year is the “Kabinett” section familiar to visitors of Art Basel in Miami Beach, where galleries have the opportunity to develop mini-exhibitions within their booths, be they solo or group shows, or something more art-historically focused. The main “Galleries” section returns, as does “Encounters,” which presents large-scale works, and “Discoveries,” which is reserved for emerging artists and galleries.

So whether you’re going to Art Basel in Hong Kong looking for that perfect acquisition, or just going to explore the booths, it promises to offer something compelling. We asked our experts to select some of the highlights to look out for at this year’s edition, where recent works by rising stars from the US and elsewhere are set to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with historical show-stoppers.

Kathleen Ryan Untitled (2016). Courtesy of François Ghebaly Gallery.

In an email to artnet News, Art Basel’s Asia director Adeline Ooi singled out the “Discoveries” section as particularly alluring this year. Some of the pieces included there have been created specifically for the fair.

“The sector encompasses a diverse geographic spread of galleries and artists, providing audiences with a cross section of artistic expressions, experiments with media, and prevalent themes among emerging artists from around the world,” Ooi wrote. “One example of this is Ghebaly Gallery from Los Angeles, who will present the first solo exhibition in Asia of LA-based artist Kathleen Ryan.”

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016. Courtesy of Art Basel.

Ooi noted that there’s been a notable uptick in applications to the sector. Some 12 of the 25 exhibitors showing at “Discoveries” are completely new to the Hong Kong show, she said. “Some new participants that I’m particularly excited about include Jhaveri Contemporary from India, who will show new drawings by Bangladeshi-British artist Rana Begum, and A+ Contemporary from Shanghai, which brings a new installation from Chinese artist Hu Weiyi’s ‘The Pulp Landscape’ series.”

From the main “Galleries” sector, the former curator highlighted two graduates of the “Discovery” sector: “This year, there are two galleries who will make this move, Experimenter and Mujin-to Production.”

Rirkrit Tiravanija, Untitled (No Water No Fire) (2017). Jens Ziehe, courtesy of the artist and Neugerriemschneider, Berlin.

Berlin’s Neugerriemschneider has a monumental 10-meter (34-foot) sculpture by Rirkrit Tiravanija that they will exhibit in the “Encounters” section for large-scale, institution-sized works. Another highlight of “Encounters” will be Katharina Grosse’s large-scale aluminum sculptures, brought by Gagosian. This will be the artist’s first-ever presentation of her aluminum sculptures outside of a site-specific installation. The next time you see them, it will probably be in a museum (or a biennial).

Josef Albers, Study for Homage to the Square: Evensong (1959). Courtesy David Zwirner.

Elsewhere Simon Lee, who has a space in Hong Kong, will show a gorgeous composition of checks and circles by Christopher Wool that’s likely to attract significant interest from collectors.

Meanwhile David Zwirner is taking a fantastic Josef Albers painting and a top-quality 1982 Sigmar Polke work sourced directly from the artist’s estate. Both pieces are highly desirable—worthy of the main fair in Basel—and signal a serious effort to bring premier-grade art-historical Western works to the East.

Jaume Plensa, Endless VII (2015). Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris.

Finally, with the fair’s local market in mind, Galerie Lelong is presenting a large steel figure by Jaume Plensa. The artist’s style, at least one art adviser assured us, has a sure-fire resonance with Asian buyers.

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