Tour Top 10 Booths at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2015—Zwirner, Sprüth Magers, Michael Werner, Acquavella and More
What are collectors buying in Hong Kong?
1. Sean Kelly
Sean Kelly’s expertly curated booth eclectically houses works by Mariko Mori, Sun Xun, and James White. It is a must-see at the fair. White’s paintings are amazing, ambiguous, yes, but enthralling. Painted photo realistically, they show banal domestic settings, a table with a few glasses, a vanity sink, or a paper bag in a hallway; and they draw you in and hold your interest. But, according to gallery director Janine Cirincione, the popular works at the booth were by Chinese artist Sun Xun (see Sun Xun Finds it Impossible to be a Foreigner in New York). The artist’s large book artwork, complete with calligraphy and drawings on paper, had actually been sold the day before.
2. Karma International
This Zurich-based gallery presented one of the most interesting and also more affordable booths at the fair with some stunning pieces by Pamela Rozenkranz, specifically two abstract pink and yellow canvases priced at $50,000 a pop. I also liked Carissa Rodriguez’s pared-down Ellsworth Kelley-shaped works made of salt priced at $8,000. Other good pieces in the booth included Melanie Metranga’s spherical lantern (the artist will have a solo show at Palais de Tokyo this year) and four colorful canvases by Norwegian artist Ida Ekblad.
3. David Zwirner
Neo Rauch’s technicolor paintings made a real splash—his largest solo show to date debuted at Zwirner this past November (see Neo Rauch’s Paintings at David Zwirner Take a Page From the Brother’s Grimm). His canvases, that can set collectors back $1 million, are fantastical and pulled in visitors aplenty from the aisles of this busy fair. Always in good taste, Zwirner’s booth also had a couple fine Wolfgang Tillmans photographs; one featuring artist Isa Genzken smoking a cigarette in a well-decorated room, titled Isa Mona Lisa.
4. Sprüth Magers
A massive part of an excavator machine—a sculptural work by French mixed-media artist Cyprien Gaillard—catches your eye when you enter Sprüth Magers’s booth. (The object feels thematically fitting since Hong Kong is one of the most urbanized and built-up metropolises in the world). The machine part points to the ruin of nature in favor of urban landscapes, obviously, as a kind of symbol for destruction rather than progression. Other works at the booth include American artist Sterling Ruby’s large black canvas splashed with white and a neon pink with a green stripe; photographs of water towers by Bernd + Hilla Becher; a typical black, white, and red graphic work by Barbara Kruger; and a knitted piece by German artist Rosemarie Trockel.
5. Mendes Wood DM
The Sao Paulo gallery brought works by french artist Neil Beloufa and Brazilian painter Paulo Monteiro. Fair-goers walking down the aisle towards Mendes Wood’s booth were immediately confronted by one of Beloufa’s large electrical and plaster pieces from his Vintage Series, a work that physically references a painting but acts like a real-life working outlet—two electrical plugs can actually be used to charge your phone.
6. Michael Werner
Three Sigmar Polke works at Michael Werner’s booth are stunning. They include a striped painting that is, I believe, on a bed sheet, splashed with white paint and then left on the studio floor to gather other colorful paint spots. The artist, who recently had a retrospective at MoMA, now rivals Anselm Kiefer in market value (see Art Market Analysis: Anselm Kiefer vs. Sigmar Polke). Other good works at the booth include a work on paper by another market favorite, Scottish painter Peter Doig; a large yellow, black, and green canvas by German painter Georg Baselitz; and several figurative works by another German artist, Markus Lüpertz.
7. Acquavella Galleries
This heavy-hitting New York gallery brought big bold-faced names to this year’s fair. Two noteworthy modern works are a beautiful blue, black, red and white Willem de Kooning painting and a brooding blue, black, and purple portrait of a woman by Pablo Picasso. Also on hand is a canvas by superstar Chinese contemporary artist Zeng Fanzhi, portraying two dandy male figures, one sitting and one standing, painted in the artist’s typically expressive and gestural style. Buying at this booth will probably set customers back several million.
8. Stuart Shave/ Modern Art
London-based Stuart Shave/Modern Art’s booth is devoted to the work of Irish sculptor Eva Rothschild. Her minimalistic objects include hanging and floor-based pieces, some made from lacquered steel, others made from cement or aluminum. This booth is worth a look and some serious consideration.
9. Galleria Continua
The Italian gallery is presenting excellent works by British sculptor Antony Gormley, porcelain horses by Ai Weiwei, an alluring photograph by Sun Yuan & Peng Yu, and my personal favorite, a cabinet full of defunct technology titled Les Textes de la lumiere by the late Chinese art star Chen Zhen whose works grapple with cultural identity.
10. Eleven Rivington
Fun aerobic wallpaper (also seen at NADA in Miami) lining the booth’s walls pulls you in. Showcasing only one artist, New York-based Mika Tajima, Eleven Rivington took a risk but happily, it paid off. The artist’s brocaded paintings and gradient-colored artworks look terrific. Her beautifully done, sort of kitsch, brocade works were created by recording sounds at textile mills and then translating them into designs for canvases.
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