Art Basel Hong Kong 2014 now a key fixture on the global art calendar – Fair round up

Art Basel Hong Kong closed its second edition with strong sales, cementing its status in the region.

Art Basel Hong Kong 2014 closed on 18 May 2014, with a successful sales record and satisfied galleries from across the globe. The influx of collectors saw an increase in buyers from the Asian region, while the fair presented a range of western and eastern art, with a major focus on Asia.

Installation view of Gu Wenda's 'United Nations: Man and Space' at Art Basel Hong Kong. View of day 2 on 15 May  2014 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong, China. Photo: Jessica Hromas. Image courtesy Art Basel.

Installation view of Gu Wenda’s ‘United Nations: Man and Space’ at Art Basel Hong Kong. View of day 2 on 15 May 2014 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Jessica Hromas. Image courtesy Art Basel.

With more than USD1 billion worth of art on sale, the second edition of Art Basel Hong Kong has proved to be a mature international art fair. Closing on 18 May 2014, the fair has registered an increase of over 5,000 visitors from last year’s edition across its five days, with a total footfall of over 65,000.

The number of participating galleries was 245, twenty less than its first edition last year, but with an increase in the number of countries and territories in which galleries have a presence: 39 to last year’s 32. Director Asia, Magnus Renfrew, told Apollo Magazine that 87 percent of last year’s participating galleries reapplied this year.

Returning galleries in 2014 included big names such as White Cube, Pearl Lam Galleries, Gagosian, Hanart TZ Gallery, James Cohan Gallery and David Zwirner, to name a few. There was also a significant number of new galleries joining the 2014 edition, such as Kolkata’s Experimenter, Hanoi’s Cuc Gallery, Saudi Arabia’s Athr Gallery and Australia’s Anna Schwartz Gallery, among others.

View of Galerie Du Monde's booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014. Image courtesy Galerie du Monde.

View of Galerie Du Monde’s booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014. Image courtesy Galerie du Monde.

Art Basel Hong Kong’s coming of age

Overall, the second iteration of Art Basel Hong Kong shone with a confidence and a presence that cements its status as a mature and established international art fair and an unmissable event in the global art calendar.

In an article on Artlyst, Neil Wenman, Senior Director of Hauser & Wirth (Zurich, London, New York), was reported as saying:

Art Basel in Hong Kong has consolidated its position as the leading fair in Asia and a key fixture in the international art calendar, strengthening our relationships with collectors from Mainland China and wider Asia. We placed major works in expanding collections and ambitious private museums.

Asked how the fair had progressed in recent years, Art Basel’s Director Asia, Magnus Renfrew, was reported as saying on Art Market Blog that he was struck by the high calibre of works brought by the Western galleries this year.

Marc Spiegler, Director of Art Basel, told Blouin Artinfo:

What strikes me, in comparison with when we came to see the show five years ago, is the speed with which the Asian galleries have raised their presentation, in terms of contextualising the artwork of the artists.

Garreth Harris from The Art Newspaper tweeted on the preview day (14 May 2014) about many striking works at Art Basel Hong Kong:

Gareth Harris ABHK tweet

A VIP affair – and what they snapped up

This year, Art Basel Hong Kong had UBS as its Lead Partner for the first time. UBS occupied a VIP upper floor, separate from the VIP floor, with a few pieces from its own impressive collection which included artists such as Zhang Enli, Shi Guowei, Thomas Struth, Yang Fudong and Isaac Julien, to name a few.

VIP visitors to this year’s edition included many international artists, like Takashi Murakami, Gu Wenda, Carsten Nicolai, Lee Kit, Zeng Fanzhi and Ahmed Mater. International curators and directors from all over the globe also made the trip, such as Jessica Morgan from the Tate; Gregor Muir, the Executive Director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London; Tim Marlow, Director of the Royal Academy in London; Christopher Y. Lew, Assistant curator at MoMA PS1; and Hou Hanru, Artistic Director at MAXXI Museum, Rome.

Carsten Nicolia during the opening of 'α (alpha) pulse' at Art Basel Hong Kong. Art Basel during day 2 on May 15, 2014 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Jessica Hromas. Image courtesy Art Basel.

Carsten Nicolai during the opening of ‘α (alpha) pulse’ at Art Basel Hong Kong. Art Basel during day 2 on 15 May 2014 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong, China. Photo by Jessica Hromas. Image courtesy Art Basel.

Important and notable collectors such as the Ullens, Dominique and Sylvain Levy of DSL Collection, Uli Sigg, Yang Bin and Princess Alia al Senussi, among many others, also attended the fair. Moreover, there was an increase in regional collectors visiting the fair and acquiring artworks from both international and Asian artists. In an article on Artnet News, names such as Hong Kong–based developer Adrian Cheng, Marcel Crespo from Manila and Rudy Tseng from Taiwan also appear.

Collectors from Mainland China included Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei, who opened the second branch of the Long Museum in Shanghai on 28 March 2014; karaoke king Qiao Zhibing; Chinese-Indonesian billionaire Budi Tek, who opened his Yuz Museum in Shanghai on 17 May 2014, and media mogul Thomas Shao. Talking to Artnet News, Hong Kong collector Alan Lau said:

There is a lot less second-guessing from gallerists on what will sell. The only way to win is to bring your best work and take [Asian collectors] seriously. That’s what they’ve done this year.

Lau, who sits on the boards of Tate’s Asia-Pacific acquisition committee and Hong Kong’s nonprofit space Para/Site, was among the collectors who snapped up several works early. Adrian Cheng, part of a wave of internationally minded Chinese “super-collectors”, commented to The New York Times that “Older Asian collectors are more conservative – they want the blue chip”, and that

there’s now a second generation of collectors who studied in the West and they’re talking the same language as the rest of the art world. There are young collectors’ clubs springing up all over China.

Art Market Monitor reported that Adrian Cheng bought twelve works on the first day of the fair and was still hunting for more while Alan Lau bought fifteen on the same day. M+ museum was also among the most active acquirers on the first days of the fair, snapping up works for their growing collection by artists such as Hassan Sharif, Kishio Shuga, Au Hoi Lam and Bryon Kim.

Yuan Yuan, 'Must Be Ok With Humidity', 2013, oil on linen, 150 x 190 cm, at Edouard Malingue Gallery booth, Art Basel Hong Kong 2014. Image courtesy the gallery and Art Basel.

Yuan Yuan, ‘Must Be Ok With Humidity’, 2013, oil on linen, 150 x 190 cm, at Edouard Malingue Gallery booth, Art Basel Hong Kong 2014. Image courtesy the gallery and Art Basel.

Strong and impressive sales 

Galleries registered strong sales, from the private preview and vernissage to the very last day with some selling out their entire booths. The high costs of attending the fair proved to not be a problem for the majority of galleries, who started making a profit from as early as the second day of the fair. Sueo Mitsuma from Mizuma Art Gallery was quoted in The Japan Times at the end of the first day as saying

All sales from now on represent profit.

Edouard Malingue, which was presenting a solo show of Yuan Yuan at its booth, sold out the entire collection by the morning of the first day after the preview (15 May 2014), with the largest piece going for HKD600,000 (USD77,402). The gallery told Bloomberg that they had their best year ever at Art Basel Hong Kong.

White Cube, which opened in Hong Kong only two years ago, sold several millions of dollars worth of art, including a scalpel blade painting depicting an aerial view of Beijing by Damien Hirst to a Chinese collector for GBP800,000 (USD1.3 million), along with works by Theaster Gates, Christian Marclay and Tracey Emin to regional collectors. Speaking to Bloomberg, Clare Coombes, Associate Director at White Cube, said

There is a broad interest and awareness of artists who have been until now not well-known in the region. Our sales really exceeded our target.

Soka Art Taipei sold Hong Ling’s Red, an oil on canvas with a price tag of USD700,000, on the first day. Blouin Artinfo reported that Eslite sold 45 Degrees, Zhan Wang’s monumental sculpture, for USD600,000 while Paul Kasmin Gallery sold a large acrylic by best-selling Indonesian contemporary artist I Nyoman Masriadi for USD350,000 and Sean Kelly Gallery (New York) sold Mariko Mori’s fibreglass sculpture Renew III for EUR130,000 to a private foundation in Korea.

Taka Ishii Gallery from Tokyo reported the sale of several editions of erotic prints produced by Nobuyoshi Araki from between 1995­ and 2008. Each edition of Kinbaku (shot in 1991, printed in 2012), featuring a bound nude woman, sold for HKD86,300 (USD11,131). Talking to Artnet News, dealer Takayuki Ishii said of the collectors

It was unusual, as they never responded to Araki [previously] because his work has a lot of sexuality.

He also commented, as quoted in the end-of-fair release, that this was the first time he saw so many young Beijing collectors at the fair.

Speaking to Art Radar, Gajah Gallery (Singapore) revealed that it sold between ten to twenty pieces, all in the range of six figures (in USD). Meanwhile, Galerie Du Monde (Hong Kong) on the last day of the fair reported almost selling out all of its pieces, within a price range of HKD800,000 to HKD2.5 million.

As of 17 May 2014, Mohor Mukerjee, Head of Communications of first-time participant Experimenter, Kolkata, told Art Radar:

[Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s] work, Modulor, […] was bought by M+ in Hong Kong for USD22,000. The third work in the booth, Ripped […] was bought by another institution (Art Asia) USD8,000 and the Impunities (2010) series […], the impressions of scars transferred onto a series of 28 glass panels that contemplate the darkness […] was sold for USD35,500 to the Burger Collection. The Sepulchre (2013-2014), depicting a gravestone in Berlin, is for USD40,000 and not yet sold.

Western artists, regional collectors

Bloomberg reported that Lehmann Maupin Gallery sold a canvas measuring 5.6 by 2.13 metres by New York-based artist Hernan Bas to a property developer in Beijing for USD350,000, proving that interest in western artists from regional collectors was high. Art Market Monitor also reinforced this view by mentioning David Zwirner’s sale of three oil-on-canvas works by 28-year-old Oscar Murillo by mid-afternoon of the preview, at prices ranging from USD75,000 to USD180,000 to collectors from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Among the sales recorded in Art Basel’s press release was Grayson Perry’s Map of Truth and Beliefs – a tapestry work that sold for USD95,000 by Victoria Miro (London) to a major Taiwanese corporation on the first day of the fair. The gallery also sold another Perry tapestry to the Hangzhou Academy of Art: the first time that the institution has acquired a work by a living Western artist.

Art journalist Alexandra S. Seno tweeted on the last day of the fair about an impressive sale of a Gerard Richter to a Southeast Asian collector alexandra tweet

“Art of our time”: A growing interest in film and video art

This year saw the first presentation of the Film Sector at Art Basel Hong Kong. Curated by Li Zhenhua, it highlighted the crossover between cinema and video art in the region. The section featured work by emerging and established artists from the East and West, including Sookoon Ang, Takashi Ishida, John Latham, Dinh Q. Lê, Roman Signer, Nina Yuen and Hong Kong artists, Kwan Sheung Chi and Christopher Doyle, among others.

Talking to The Art Newspaper, Marc Spiegler, the director of Art Basel, said that “there were more applications here than in the other cities [Basel and Miami].” The curator said that it is still difficult to change the mind of collectors in China as they are still focused on painting and sculpture. Shanghai’s Leo Xu Projects sold four of the six editions of a video by Cheng Ran, Simply Wild (2014) at USD9,500 each in the first three hours of the fair’s VIP opening to mainland and Hong Kong collectors and institutions. The gallerist told The Art Newspaper

at least a third of my clients have bought videos […].The new generation of collectors sees video as the art of our time.

The article also mentions that curators from Hong Kong’s M+ museum were spotted at Leo Xu’s booth and that the museum is also focusing on collecting the moving image, with plans to have more than one cinema, a video lounge and time-based pieces across its galleries. A special curator of the moving image will be announced next month.

Experimenter Gallery's booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014. Image courtesy Experimenter.

Experimenter Gallery’s booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014. Image courtesy Experimenter.

First time participants: “We will come again”

Experimenter from Kolkata, India, participated in Art Basel Hong Kong for the first time in the Discoveries section, with a solo presentation by Nadia Kaabi-Linke, winner of the Discoveries Prize 2014 of USD25,000.

In the Art Basel Hong Kong end of fair press release (PDF download), Prateek Raja, Director of Experimenter, was quoted as saying:

We have had a very good week at Art Basel in Hong Kong. We have made significant sales, a majority of which have been to Asian museums, very significant European private collectors and some public foundations. This was our first participation and the response at the fair really exceeded our expectations. We have met new collectors and have begun some exciting conversations with them.

Talking to Art Radar, Christine Cheng from Ming Art Gallery (Taipei) said they sold about 80 percent of the work by the last day from their solo exhibition by Taiwanese artist Chiu Ya-Tsai with  prices ranging from USD100,000 to USD150,000. She added

Lots of people probably know him [Chiu Ya-Tsai] in Hong Kong because he was in many auction sales and represented in many gallery exhibitions in Hong Kong. So we attract a variety of people from Asia and the West, such as the States and Europe. […] So it’s quite exciting. We brought 15 works, we have already sold 80 percent, so we are all enjoying being here at Art Basel.

Mila Askarova, CEO of Garazelli Art House in London, told Art Radar that their first experience of Art Basel Hong Kong was “excellent” and “better than expected.” The gallery sold four charcoal on wood works out of six in their solo exhibition of Saad Qureshi, a 27-year-old artist of Pakistani origin born in the UK. She added that

[There was a] great mixture of people; European buyers and local long-term buyers showing curiosity. We will come again.

In the end of fair release, Adnan Z. Manjal, the business developer of Athr Gallery (Jeddah) commented

The show has been great for us in terms of sales to Middle Eastern collectors and to European residents of Hong Kong, interest from the media, and introducing the gallery and our artists to the Far East, where there is less exposure for Arab art.

The Drawing Room Gallery booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014, with works by Vermont Coronel Jr. and Troy Ignacio. Image courtesy Art Basel.

The Drawing Room Gallery booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014, with works by Vermont Coronel Jr. and Troy Ignacio. Image courtesy Art Basel.

“The full spectrum of the art world”, with a strong focus on Asia

Art Basel Hong Kong retains a strong Asia focus, which according to Asia Director Magnus Renfrew is very important for a fair that happens in the Asia region. Speaking to The Times of India, Renfrew said:

When we were initially in talks with Art Basel about the acquisition of Art HK, that was actually the shortest conversation we had – about the positioning of the fair. I thought I would have to push harder but when I spoke about the need for a 50 percent representation from Asia and the Asia Pacific region, they said, “Yes, of course”. That was one of the fears a lot of people had — that it was going to become a copy-paste version of Art Basel in Basel or Miami. But it has managed to retain its Asian flavour and focus.

Many gallerists also shared their favourable opinions with Art Radar about the fair’s Asian focus. An increased number of important collectors from Asia made an appearance at this year’s edition and many galleries also noticed how many big buyers were from Asia.

Jasdeep Sandhu, Director of Gajah Gallery in Singapore, said:

I think Art Basel HK should have a bit of Asian focus, even in the Art Basel in Basel and Miami, if they want to give Asia a fair chance. That’s the way to go for that.

Fred W. Scholle, Managing Director of Galerie Du Monde (Hong Kong) told Art Radar:

I think it’s important that it has an Asian focus. I think the proportion they have is quite good. Because we are in Asia, and I think just as Art Basel represents Europe and America and Art Basel Miami is more Latin America, Art Basel Hong Kong should have at least a 50/50 representation of Asian artists.

Shaza Sofi, Gallery Associate of Wei Ling Gallery (Kuala Lumpur) commented:

It’s always good to get Asian art out. I don’t think it has to have an international focus, I think having an Asian focus is important.

In the Art Basel Hong Kong end-of-fair release, Nick Simunovic, Director of Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong, was quoted as saying:

We are thrilled with the results of the second edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong. There were many more collectors from the region in attendance this year, reflecting nearly every country across Asia, and the quality of the fair-going experience continues to improve.

In the same release, Lu Jing Jing, Manager of Beijing Commune, said that she always views Art Basel in Hong Kong as “the art show for the whole of Asia. If you’d like to go to a single Asian art show, this is the one to visit”; while Urs Meile, Founder of Galerie Urs Meile (Lucerne and Beijing) commented:

I have been delighted to see many collectors from China, especially the younger generation. The show itself looks again substantially better this year, showing works from across Asia.

Magnus Renfrew told Apollo Magazine that when ArtHK was acquired by Art Basel, there was a lot of concern about the fair becoming a mere copy of Art Basel, with more Western art, galleries and collectors. But with the first edition, everyone was reassured by the fifty percent presence of galleries from Asia-Pacific. He commented:

For the long term we really want to keep a very strong identity that’s rooted in Asia, and is respectful of the place where the fair happens.

He went on to say:

But there’s definitely a unique flavour to the fair because we have this very diverse aesthetic. It’s the first world-class truly global art fair in the sense that if you want to see an artist from Indonesia, you can; if you want to see a hip artist from the Lower East Side, you can; if you want to see Picasso or Matisse, you can; if you want to see historic Chinese material, you can. It’s really showing the full spectrum of the art world.

Miyanaga Aiko, 'Letter', 2013, naphthalene, resin, mixed media, at Encounters, Art Basel Hong Kong 2014. Photo by KIOKU Keizo ©MIYANAGA Aiko. Image courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery and Art Basel.

Miyanaga Aiko, ‘Letter’, 2013, naphthalene, resin, mixed media, at Encounters, Art Basel Hong Kong 2014. Photo by KIOKU Keizo ©MIYANAGA Aiko. Image courtesy Mizuma Art Gallery and Art Basel.

A March move for next year’s fair

Art Basel has announced that next year’s Hong Kong edition will be moved to March to avoid a clash with the June edition in Basel and the New York spring art auctions week.

Asia Director Magnus Renfrew told Apollo Magazine that the move is “of fundamental importance to our ability to be able to attract a global audience” since it steps out of the congested May and June calendar. He went on to comment

It means we will be able to attract more collectors, curators and museum directors. We’ve had very positive feedback from galleries who have previously said that they couldn’t participate because of the proximity to Basel and New York auction week. We’re going to receive a big upswing in applications as well as attendance.

In the end-of-fair release, Urs Meile, Founder of Galerie Urs Meile said

I am looking forward to next year. The date change to March is a very important move for the show, and for the potential of the Asian art market itself. I am looking forward to seeing more European and American collectors here.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


Related Topics: art fairs, market watch, business of art, collectors, events in Hong Kong

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