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Art Basel Hong Kong: a big surprise.

Courtesy of Art Basel HK, 2016.
Courtesy of Art Basel HK, 2016.
Art Basel in Hong Kong 2016 General Impression © Art Basel

March is traditionally rich on important and prestigious art fairs all over the world. Directors, curators, trustees and patrons from all over the world’s leading international museums and institutions are going to Maastricht for TEFAF in the beginning of the month, continue their journey to Dubai for Dubai Design Days and Art Dubai in the middle of the month, then further down to Art Basel show in Hong Kong, and just after the Easter celebrations, Art Paris VIP vernissage is opening on March, 30.

And today I would like to dwell upon one of the world’s premier art shows for Modern and contemporary works, sited in Hong Kong. Defined by its host city and region, it is a unique experience, which is reflected in its participating galleries, artworks presented, and the content of parallel programming produced in collaboration with local institutions for its edition. In addition to ambitious stands featuring leading galleries from around the globe, HK Art Basel show is a spotlight of the latest developments in the visual arts, offering visitors new ideas and new inspiration.

Courtesy of Art Basel HK, 2016.
Art Basel in Hong Kong 2016 General Impression © Art Basel

This year’s Art Basel show in Hong Kong, which closed today, Saturday, March 26, 2016, boasted strong performances by galleries from Asia and the West. Confirming Art Basel’s standing as the leading international art fair in Asia, having attracted over 70,000 visitors this year, galleries across all sectors reported strong sales throughout the week.

Showcasing its diversity and rapid development, Art Basel proved that there continues to be strong demand when high-quality work from premier galleries worldwide is presented to an audience of highly engaged collectors and museum directors. The continuing expansion and sophistication of the collector base from Asia’s many regions was widely noted by gallerists.

Courtesy of Art Basel HK, 2016.
Art Basel in Hong Kong 2016 General Impression © Art Basel

‘This was certainly our most successful Hong Kong fair ever, with a super positive response from collectors all over the region, including Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, and Taipei. We were fortunate to have Belgian artist Michaël Borremans join us in Hong Kong for the week, where he entrusted us with five new paintings for the fair, which were all sold within the first few hours,’ – says David Zwirner, Founder, David Zwirner, New York, London. And he is not alone in his positive review on the fair, despite gloomy weather and grim economic outlook.

‘This year has been another incredible edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong. The show impresses every year, but this year in particular, we’ve consistently sold work by both our Asian and Western artists,’- commented
Pearl Lam, Founder, Pearl Lam Galleries, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore. Many other professionals of the field share this optimism, summarising the results of a two days’ show.

D.A.Stauer_Art Basel HK 2016
Art Basel in Hong Kong 2015 © Art Basel

Galleries, the main sector of the show, featured 187 Modern and contemporary art galleries, presenting the highest quality of painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, photography, video and editioned works. Exhibitors returning after a brief hiatus included Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York) and Applicat-Prazan (Paris), while many Asian galleries moved from other sectors of the show into Galleries, where they were able to present a wider range of their gallery programs. These galleries were: Athr (Jeddah), Blindspot Gallery (Hong Kong), Chambers Fine Art (Beijing, New York), Galerie Ora-Ora (Hong Kong), Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde (Dubai), Nanzuka (Tokyo), Nature Morte (New Delhi), Project Fulfill Art Space (Taipei), Taro Nasu (Tokyo), TKG+ (Taipei, Beijing), Yavuz Gallery (Singapore) and Yumiko Chiba Associates (Tokyo). Francesca Minini (Milan) and Galeria Plan B (Cluj, Berlin) also exhibited for the first time in the Galleries sector. Strong presentations of solo booths and significant historical materials from Asia were highlighted throughout the show, including Ryuzaburo Umehara (b. 1888, Japan) at galerie nichido (Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Karuizawa, Kasama, Paris); Jiro Takamatsu (b. 1936, Japan) at Yumiko Chiba Associates (Tokyo); David Diao (b. 1943, Mainland China) at Eslite Gallery (Taipei), Ni Haifeng (b. 1964, Mainland China) at In Situ – fabienne leclerc (Paris). Other solo booths of note by international names included Frank Stella (b.1936, United States) at Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York); Glenn Ligon (b. 1960, United States) at Thomas Dane Gallery (New York); and William Kentridge (b. 1955, South Africa) at Goodman Gallery (Johannesburg, Cape Town).

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016.
Art Basel in Basel 2015 General Impression © Art Basel

The Insights sector – dedicated to curatorial projects by galleries with spaces in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region – featured 28 solo shows, exceptional historical material and strong thematic group exhibitions. This year’s edition was a particularly strong presentation of Modern work, with around half of the galleries presenting material from this period. Insights also provided a particularly diverse and in-depth overview of art from across the region with featured artists from Australia, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Japan, Mainland China, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Turkey. Highlights included Michael Cook (b. 1968, Australia) at This Is No Fantasy + dianne tanzer gallery (Melbourne), Guan Xiao (b. 1983, Mainland China) and Yu Honglei (b. 1984, Mainland China) at Antenna Space (Shanghai), Stella Zhang (b. 1965, Mainland China) at Galerie du Monde (Hong Kong), Li Huasheng (b. 1944, Mainland China) at Ink Studio (Beijing), Kimiyo Mishima (b. 1932, Japan) at MEM (Tokyo), Tadasu Takamine (b. 1968, Japan) at Arataniurano (Tokyo) and Tayeba Begum Lipi (b. 1969, Bangladesh) at Pi Artworks (Istanbul, London).

The Discoveries sector presented its strongest showcase of emerging artists to date, with solo- and two-person exhibitions presented by 24 galleries. For this year’s edition, five of the galleries were completely new to the show. Highlights included Wu Tsang (b. 1982, United States) at Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi (Berlin), Jess Johnson (b. 1979, New Zealand) at Darren Knight Gallery (Sydney), Wan Lee (b. 1979, South Korea) at 313 Art Project (Seoul), Alvin Zafra (b. 1978, Philippines) at Artinformal (Mandaluyong City) and Waqas Khan (b. 1982, Pakistan) at first time exhibitor Sabrina Amrani (Madrid).

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016.
Tobias Rehberger, 1661-1910 from Nagasaki, Meiji, Setti, 2015 at Art Basel Miami Beach 2015; photograph by Marco Andres – courtesy of Fondation Beyeler

Samson Young, the winner of the first BMW Art Journey, presented a new work titled ‘So You Are Old by the Time You Reach the Island’ at this year’s Art Basel show in Hong Kong. The work took the form of a multi-media walk that led participants on a journey through the streets of the Admiralty and Wan Chai districts in Hong Kong. Art Basel and BMW also announced the second shortlist selected from the Discoveries sector by an international jury during the show. The shortlist consists of Abigail Reynolds (b. 1970, United Kingdom) with Rokeby (London), Newsha Tavakoljan (b. 1981, Iran) with Thomas Erben Gallery (New York) and Alvin Zafra (b. 1978, Philippines) with Artinformal (Mandaluyong City). All three artists have been invited to submit their proposals describing their ideal journey.

Alexie Glass-Kantor, Executive Director of Artspace in Sydney, returned for a second time to curate Encounters. The selected artists and works demonstrated unprecedented ambition, with six of the art works premiering at the fair, while four were site-specific for Art Basel’s show in Hong Kong. This year’s curation included work by Brook Andrew (b. 1970, Australia), Charles Avery (b. 1973, United Kingdom), Hans Berg (b. 1978, Sweden) and Nathalie Djurberg (b.1978, Sweden), Roberto Chabet (1937-2013, Philippines), Chen Zhen (1955-2000, Mainland China), Isa Genzken (b. 1948, Germany), Kyungah Ham (b. 1966, South Korea), Arik Levy (b.1963, Israel), Peter Liversidge (b. 1973, United Kingdom), Richard Maloy (b. 1977, New Zealand), Tintin Wulia (b. 1972, Indonesia), Tromarama (Indonesia), Keiji Uematsu (b. 1947, Japan), Lawrence Weiner (b. 1942, United States), Pae White (b.1963, United States) and Zhang Ding (b.1980, Mainland China).

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016.
Pascale Marthine Tayou, Plastic Tree, 2014 installation view Galleria Continua at Unlimited, Art Basel in Basel 2015

The third edition of the Film sector expanded to show over 70 films. Beijing and Zurich- based multi-media artist and producer Li Zhenhua returned once again to curate the sector, which centered around six diverse themes. For the first time the program included five feature-length films, which were screened at the HKCEC. Highlights of this year’s program included the Asian premier of ‘The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg’ by Michael Schindhelm, ‘Zeng Fanzhi: YOU Art Project’ by Shi Li-Sanderson and Philipp Stölzl, Takashi Murakami’s ‘Jellyfish Eyes’, ‘Poet on a Business Trip’ by Ju Anqi and finally a series of ten animated films by William Kentridge. The Art Basel film program was attended by over 1,500 visitors and shown at the agnès b. CINEMA at the Hong Kong Arts Centre and at the HKCEC and remained free to the public.

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016.
Isaac Julien, Stones Against Diamonds (Ice Cave), 2015, Installation view Galeria Nara Roesler Art Basel in Hong Kong 2016

Conversations and Salon, Art Basel’s talks program, attracted over 2,000 visitors over four days and presented renowned cultural figures from Asia and across the international art world. This year’s Premier Artist Talk featured Chinese American artist David Diao in conversation with Pauline J. Yao, Curator, M+, Hong Kong. Anne Pasternak, Defne Ayas, N’Goné Fall, and Thomas J. Berghuis joined a discussion titled ‘Building Platforms’, moderated by András Szántó, exploring the various ways in which independent institutions might flourish as contemporary platforms. The final Conversation, ‘Collecting as a Radical Practice’, featured Aaron Cezar, Hideaki Fukutake, Phillip Keir, Sara Puig, and Roobina Karode. The Conversation was moderated by Alan Lau. The afternoon Salon program, which consists of more informal and often shorter presentations, featured talks and panel discussions with artists, curators, museum directors, academics and critics.

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016.
Encounters, Art Basel in Hong Kong 2013

Internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima (b. 1957, Japan) collaborated with Art Basel and Hong Kong’s iconic 490 meter high International Commerce Centre (ICC) on the Kowloon harbor front to present ‘Time Waterfall’, a largescale public light installation that comprised the natural numbers one to nine, which cascaded down the building’s facade, never reaching zero. The project will continue with two screenings each night until April 2016.

Courtesy of Art Basel HK, 2016.
© Art Basel

During the Hong Kong show this year, Art Basel announced its new Art Basel Cities initiative, which will expand its engagement in the art world from staging art fairs to working with cities to develop cultural events with international resonance. Art Basel Cities will offer the art world new opportunities to discover and engage with cultural scenes across the world. As part of this initiative, Art Basel will work with selected partner cities to develop vibrant and content-driven programs specific to the city, connecting them to the global art world through Art Basel’s network. Art Basel also announced a newly formed advisory board, consisting of prominent art world figures with expertise across various disciplines, including: David Adjaye, Füsun Eczacıbaşı, Richard Florida, Jacques Herzog, Sam Keller, William Lim, Simon Mordant AM, Lars Nittve, Anne Pasternak, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Dennis Scholl, Uli Sigg and Michael Tay.

So, Art Basel remained the best place to help artists gain exposure in Asia. And despite the cautious talks about the possibility of the coming Easter public holidays being able to affect visitors number as locals, who would merely go away for the holidays, it turned out as the art fair made Hong Kong an Easter holiday destination for people living in other Asian countries.


Diana Avgusta Stauer




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