Avalanche of Sales During Opening Night at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2015
The magnetism of Chinese contemporary art permeates this fair.
If the Asian art world has been affected by Hong Kong’s recent political troubles, it wasn’t showing one bit at the latest edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, which launched on the evening of March 13 for a VIP preview with glamorous and well-heeled fairgoers flooding the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Popular booths were so crowded, it didn’t make for an optimal browsing environment—the Gagosian booth was stuffed so full, you could barely glimpse the large Zeng Fanzhi that took up most of one wall. But the energy at the fair was high, and potential collectors were throwing questions at gallerists fast and thick, many of them asked in Putonghua Chinese.
Organizers said the good turnout was within their calculations. The fair has been moved up from its original May dates to March, a shift that Art Basel director Marc Spiegler said Art Basel has been fighting for since taking over the Hong Kong Art Fair (see Art Basel Completes Hong Kong Art Fair Buy-Out).
“We believe this fair can only reach its full potential by taking place at a date that is optimal for the entire art world,” said Spiegler. He attributes 20 new gallery additions from the United States and Europe to the fair’s new March dates (see Five Theories on Why Art Basel in Hong Kong Is Moving to March Next Year). Although Art Basel in Hong Kong now clashes with at least a dozen other fairs in March, including Art Dubai, Spiegler said it would have been much worse in May when many unmissable art events will take place, such as the Venice Biennale.
In total, Art Basel in Hong Kong 2015 is presenting 233 international galleries and continues to emphasize the regional offerings with 50 percent of the galleries selected from Asia, whether in Japan, Korea, China, or Southeast Asia (see Art Basel in Hong Kong Has 231 Galleries on Deck for 2015.)
New Hong Kong director Adeline Ooi, who only took up her post in January, underscored the importance of local and regional talent at Art Basel in Hong Kong (see Art Basel Taps Art Adviser Adeline Ooi for Asia Director Post). The rich regional representation is what makes the fair stand out from its two sister fairs in Miami and Basel. Even a cursory look at the fair showed that mainland Chinese, Southeast Asian, and Hong Kong talent have been given as much of spotlight as their Western counterparts. When asked whether she felt Hong Kong artists were of comparable caliber to Western artists, Ooi replied: “The fact that these artists are represented by very reputable galleries says enough about them.”
ENCOUNTERS SECTION SHINES WITH LARGE-SCALE INSTALLATIONS
Curated by Alexie Glass-Kantor, 20 installations by Asian artists include Xu Longsen’s “Beholding the Mountain with Awe No. 1” (2008–2009), a gigantic Chinese ink painting presented by Hanart TZ Gallery. This is contrasted by two Wang Keping sculptures placed in front of the painting: Les Spectateurs (Man and Woman) (1999) presented by 10 Chancery Lane Gallery. Shown together, the pieces make a powerful statement about the spectrum and magnetism of Chinese contemporary art.
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