Organizers Looking To Make Annual HK Festival Asia’s Answer To Art Basel, Frieze As Local Collector Base Grows
Hong Kong’s large-scale HK 09 International Art Fair, which we profiled last week, is off to a successful start. As James Pomfret writes, the “burgeoning international art fair…aimed at tapping Asia’s growing pool of contemporary art collectors has shown positive signs of shrugging off the global economic downturn.”
New collectors from the mainland, as well as Western and other East Asian collectors, are taking to the festival’s auctions, held by Western and Asian auction houses, to snatch up works during one of the best buyers’ markets in recent history. As Pomfret goes on to indicate, the organizers of HK 09 are looking to establish the festival as Asia’s answer to the Western art fairs like Art Basel in Switzerland and Frieze in London:
Hong Kong has been trying to position itself as Asia’s cultural capital, and is now the world’s third most important auction hub for Asian artwork, behind New York and London.
Spread throughout a cavernous hall in Hong Kong’s convention center overlooking the city’s sweeping harbor, a slew of big-hitting art dealers have been lured out this year including New York’s Gagosian Gallery and London’s White Cube.
Sprinkled among the 110 galleries from 24 countries are an array of works including “walking” minimalist LED nude sculptures by Julian Opie; raw, whorled, wood carvings by David Nash; lurid Chinese contemporary oil paintings by the likes of Yang Shaobin, haunting plastic dolls by Korea’s Jin Young Yu, and a silver sculpture by Damien Hirst with a price-tag of 1.5 million pounds.
Despite recent signs of weakness in the global art market amid the financial downturn, there were a number of notable sales at ART HK 09 including a large Gilbert & George “Gingko” picture bought by an Asian collector for 325,000 pounds.
“We wanted to bring top quality examples by our artists to introduce them in the best possible way to a new market,” said Graham Steele, with the White Cube gallery which sold the Gingko piece, along with several works by Damien Hirst.
Steele said he was pleased so far with the gallery’s first foray out to Hong Kong, but said the market for Western contemporary art in Asia and China still needed time to mature.
…This year’s fair is slightly larger than last year’s inaugural event which drew some 20 thousand visitors.
Magnus Renfrew, the fair’s organizer, said the number of visitors had exceeded his expectations so far, and included “high rollers, big spenders, culture vultures, VIP’s” and other leading figures in the international art world.
For those with more modest budgets, the fair offers works starting from $1,000. ART HK 09 runs in Hong Kong until Sunday.
Other upcoming Asian art fairs include ShContemporary in Shanghai to be held in September, and ArtSingapore in October.
With buyers from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Korea, and Japan rapidly growing in numbers, it looks like Hong Kong is really coming into its own as a contemporary art destination city and Asian art collectors are becoming some of the most influential and motivated buyers in the world. As Art Daily writes:
Hong Kong’s elite and key Asian collectors from across the region joined the thousands who visited the [HK 09] Fair on its first day. The mood was heightened as those gallerists seeking new territory in the evolving international art market reported robust sales.
The day saw a delighted Lisson Gallery (who are featuring a solo show by Julian Opie), selling seven works; several Gibert and George pieces and two by Damien Hirst being snapped up at White Cube, and SCAI The Bathhouse selling their key piece by artist Kohei Nawa to an Asian collector with a museum.
Other successes at the fair include sales by local Hong Kong hero Fang Shao Hua of Kwai Fung Hin Gallery, Gana Art of Seoul Korea who sold work by five of their artists with many more on reserve and Ben Brown Fine Art who sold work by Ron Arad and have reserves on other pieces. Ben Brown Fine Art’s eponymous gallery owner says of the Fair, “Great buzz, incredible attendance including many who bought from us last year. Long live Hong Kong.”
The HK 09 International Art Fair continues through May 17.