Back for the 2nd year in its current guise, Art Basel Hong Kong is a more polished and honed machine than ever with Magnus Renfrew still at the helm and learning from last year’s iffy reception. While some have avoided the fair this year, from a personal standpoint I can say it was the most enjoyable I have encountered and while classification remains somewhat of a mystery, the standard of the galleries appears higher with the exhibitors themselves more conscious and attuned to the Asian and local expat collector base.
Promulgated on staging the world’s premier Modern and Contemporary art show, Art Basel has firmly planted Hong Kong on the global map of art. There are countless offshoot events that attempt to net the elite during the newly branded “Hong Kong art week” – Asia Contemporary Art Show, Hong Kong Contemporary Art Fair, Hong Kong Walls, Chai Wan Mei to name but a few.. Many are declaring that Hong Kong has come of age and while that’s still up for debate, there can be no doubt that the recent opening of Pace Gallery to our humid, dare I say it sweaty climes, is yet another stamp of authenticity to our bubbly city.
The art world remains opaque as ever and while the March Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong cheered record visitors, exhibitors, myself included, queried Camilla Hewitson’s “best ever” claims as sales seemed significantly more muted this year at the lower end of the wealth spectrum with sales over HK$ 15,000 negotiated to the nth degree. Thomas Piketty’s recent dismal science publication of “Capital in the Twenty-first century” has clearly hit a chord on society’s “haves and have-nots” and judging from our own interviews and fellow reports we can confirm his thesis that the haves are still very much buying; if not more so.
Numerous galleries sat pretty by the end of the fair with either partial or total sell-out. Ultra-realist David Haines at Amsterdam’s Upstream Gallery was sold out before the general public sluice gates were even opened on Thursday, while Alan Lau from Para/Site and Tate Asia Pacific’s acquisition committee helped the likes of Edouard Malingue to pop champagne corks as early as Thursday morning with both galleries choosing rather boldly solo presentations, the latter concentrating on Yuan Yuan and his riddled with rubble depictions of buildings – cue HK property local estate agents anybody? – but on a more serious level, light and colour use by the up and coming Chinese artist were nothing short of show stopping.
All of high society seemed present with collectors Adrian Cheng, Marcel Crespo, Rudy Tseng, Qiao Zhibing, Budi Tek and Thomas Shao mixing with artists such as Hernan Bas, Mariko Mori, Takashi Murakami, Oscar Murillo, Wim Delvoye, Zhang Enli, Zheng Fanzhi, Zhang Xiaogang, and Liu Kuo Sung. Museums were similarly represented in significant fashion with Hong Kong’s very own M+ as well as the Smithsonian, the Guggenheim, the Tate Modern, the Louvre and even the Royal Academy stalking the aisles.
Naim June Paik – TV Bed installation
Art Basel has definitely worked hard to push film with a three day program curated by Li Zhenhua at the Arts Centre, making use of the Agnès B cinema. While Li contends it’s still very difficult to change attitudes in China from solid objects to motion, and Simon Lee gallery similarly stated that the number of real collectors could be counted on two hands, it seems M+ and Leo Xu Projects from Beijing are betting the house on black – the latter seems to be having some success, selling 4 out of their 6 works by Cheng Ran during the VIP session to mainland and Hong Kong based collectors.
David Hockney – The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011
Over at Annely Juda gallery of London, another interesting advent to art was selling surprisingly well – iPad drawings by the famed British artist David Hockney. Printed in editions of 25 and sold for a substantial £ 28,000 a piece, there were red dots popping up everywhere. Originally exhibited last October in San Francisco under the name “A Bigger Exhibition”, Hockney first sent the drawings to friends before deciding to focus in more detail on the work and print for his swelling fan base. Bright, fun and quintessentially English, I must admit I was strangely drawn to the visible finger prints which I often search for in sculpture. I was also surprised at how well they were selling – with Chinese famously anti-print it’d be interesting to see the Western-Eastern divide on the buyers.
And now without further ado, my own personal selection of what stood out at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014:
Roy Lichtenstein – #03 BMW 320i
Keiichi Tanaami – The Uncrossable Unswept Bridge
Tomás Saraceno – Adamas
Thomas Ruff – ch.phg.01 (photgram)
Wilhelm Sasnal – Gwalt (from Picasso)
Mariana Palma – Untitled
Luis Lorenzana – Marvelous Brothers 1, 2 and 3
Jean-Michel Basquiat – Reok
Yun Gee – Princess Achille Murat
Giorgio de Chiroco – Piazza d’Italia con Arianna
Matthias Weischer – Artist
Yuan Yuan – Welfare Hotel
Izumi Kato – Untitled
Wang Luyan – W Birdcage Onoff D12-01
Natalie Frank – Figure with Headdress / Portrait (with figure behind)
Derrick Adams – Walkthrough
Hai Shih-Pin – Symbolic Steed of Memory
Jonathan Meese – Various
Untitled at Galerie Perrotin
Damien Hirst – Beijing
Commissioned by Laurent Grasso – Studies into the Past
… and my personal favourite
Neo Rauch – Brandung
And that’s about all we have time for.. Next year will remain as interesting as ever after Renfrew announced Art Basel Hong Kong 2015 is shifting dates forward from 13th to 17th March after feedback from wealthy collectors qualified it was uncomfortably close to the namesake exhibition in June. It remains to be seen what will happen to the art calendar of Hong Kong, which previously began in March leading up to the Art HK/Basel crescendo in May. Time will tell.
We hope you enjoyed our post as ever. Creatively,
The Art Amateur
Art Basel Hong Kong 2014
The Exhibition and Convention Centre,
VIP/Vernissage on 14th, General Public 15th – 18th May 2014