Art Central Hong Kong Offers Funk, Kitsch, and Good Deals for Collectors

Visitors have to wade through a lot of kitschy art but there is quality here too.

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Jurgen Klauke at Galerie Anita Beckers.
Shi Zhongyi at Red Gate Gallery.
Giovanni Ozzola at Gazelli Art House.
Giovanni Ozzola at Gazelli Art House.
Li Xiaofeng at Red Gate Gallery.
Bath Street Gallery.
Vivian Poon at Mur Nomade.
Li Quan at Hive Center for Contemporary Art.
Hackel Bury Gallery.
Desire Obstain Cherish at Blue Rider.
Zhang Kai at Triumph Art Space.
Mark Braunias at Bath Street Gallery.
Mark Braunias at Bath Street Gallery.
Lee Ufan at Gallery Hyundai.
Chiho Akama at Dillon Gallery.
Vincent Fournier.
Ando x Ando at Amahasalto.
Chung Sang-Hwa at Gallery Hyundai.
Yayoi Kusama at Kumquat Gallery.

The debut of satellite fair Art Central Hong Kong is a must-see for any art itinerary here this week. Most of the well-heeled visitors and locals will be making a pit-stop during Art Basel in Hong Kong.

It’s difficult for satellite fairs to co-exist with Art Basel in a geographically small metropolis like Hong Kong. Though cleverly propped next to the city’s ferry pier, Art Central has found a way to leverage relative proximity to the main game but at the same time build its own identity and visitor base.

Art Central has positioned, no branded itself (cleverly again) as a younger, funkier art fair for more emerging artists. There is a lot of that sort of artwork here by young artists you probably have never heard of, at fairly good prices, too, but the show also includes art by artists that are neither young nor emerging: there is art for sale here by Yayoi Kusama for instance. Hong Kong’s Kumquat Gallery had two walls entirely dedicated to the Japanese artist.

Beijing’s Hive Center for Contemporary Art stood out with several elegantly restrained and minimalistic canvases by 70-year-old Chinese artist Li Quan — the artist uses tea and coffee to stain his canvasses.

Meanwhile Frankfurt-based Galerie Anita Beckers had three editions of Jürgen Klauke‘s in-your-face sexually ambiguous images from his 1970s “Transformer” series. These artworks, though historical, still feel current and relevant today. Klauke’s work is sort of a precursor to Cindy Sherman’s perfected staged and dramatic photographs.

Baku and London-based gallery Gazelli Art House brought three massive photographs by Italian artist Giovanni Ozzola. The images all depict a sublime seascape, reminiscent of a Hiroshi Sugimoto photograph, but with urban and industrial obstructions such as garage doors, or a graffitied wall. This is paradise or sublimity interrupted.

Beijing gallery Triumph Art Space, showcased two paintings by Zhang Kai. The mix of cute, cuddly subjects matter and western painting techniques and styles is interesting as essentially a Chinese artist depicts animals, mainly cats or bunnies, in old master-like settings with muted colors—image what the Last Supper would look like if Jesus and his disciples were coiffed, slim, and civilized rabbits. Price? The gallery staff member at the booth told artnet News “these are not for sale”.

The last booth before the VIP lounge belonged to Gallery Hyundai, a well known and respected gallery in Asia. It seemed a little out of place here, and it was, with many serious, heavy-hitting works by big name and big price Korean artists Chung Sang-Hwa, Lee Ufan, and Kim Whanki. No surprise that this booth gets the prize from me for the the most sophisticated and well-put-together at the fair. When asked why he chose to exhibit at Art Central rather than Art Basel, Do Hyung-Teh, the gallery owner, told artnet news it was all down to “politics,” but he ended by saying Art Central was “well organized and [he was] very happy to be here.”

Over 65 percent of the galleries were from Asia, which is a positive sign for the fair and its future. Not surprisingly flashy, kitsch stuff popular with Asian clients was also in abundance here, not all of it bad. On the better side of that kind of thing was Li Xiaofeng’s porcelain blazer, shirt, and tie sculpture at Red Gate Gallery.

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