3 Long Days at the Harbour
It hasn’t even been a week since the 4th edition of Art Basel Hong Kong ended and the dates for 2019 are already live on on the website. Recollecting my experience there are many highlights coming to mind. The significance of this edition has been heralded by a series of major art dealers opening their first Hong Kong spaces leading up to the Fair. H Queens new skyscraper located right in the centre of Hong Kong with their 5 metre ceilings offered the perfect conditions for this as well. Prior to the official opening in late 2017, H Queens hosted a public art programme “Time + Scale" on its ground premises and a digital art project “Voyages” showcasing video installations on the high street by artist collective teamLab (<3), Inci Eviner, Zhao Zhao and Sputniko!. These efforts have been all a part of the centre’s mission to position itself as transforming the cultural dynamic right in the heart of Central. Players such as David Zwirner, Galerie Ora-Ora, Hauser & Wirth, Pace Gallery, Pearl Lam Galleries, Tang Contemporary Art, Whitestone Gallery and SA+, the private sale gallery of Seoul Auction were already fully packed when I had the chance to come by and explore. On the ground floor I also noticed a “Coming soon” sign of La Petite Maison, warming the crowds for its first location in Asia.
Elevator at H Queens. Yoshitomo Nara @Pace Gallery. Mark Bradford @Hauser&Wirth. Entrance to SA+, Yayoi Kusama @SA+.
Making a 10minute walk from H Queens also led me to the Pedder Building, a historic construction much less flashy from the sidewalk. Exactly this space was the predecessor welcoming first western big names to central including Gagosian and Lehmann Maupin. Yet the FT describes "Its other tenants — including a toy shop, musty cigar seller and range of small fashion outlets — make for a quirky experience, but not necessarily one suited to an aspirational art crowd.”. Perhaps if they also had a major PR agency on a payroll the sentiments would’ve differed. Personally, I enjoyed both and Lehmann Maupin’s solo show of OSGEMEOS stood out as much as the sold out show at Hauser & Wirth.
Staircase at the Pedder Building. OSGEMEOS works @LehmannMaupin.
At the fair I pushed through the jet lag to make sure and attend as many talks as possible. Organizers made a fantastic job pulling together speakers on a range of topics. Kick-starting on Wednesday was cultural economist Dr Clare McAndrew with an overview of key findings in the latest UBS x Art Basel report. I have long been fond of her reports previously published under the aegis of TEFAF. Not an easy task putting the opaque art market within a framework. Among my other favourite conversations was the Museum Talk moderated by Andras Szanto with notable arts professionals as Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern, Wallis Annenberg Director, LACMA among others (Watch here). The Artist talk “Bodies in Practice: On Figures and Figuration” has also stirred some discussion after the arrival of Antony Gormley (Watch here).
Artist Talk | Bodies in Practice: On Figures and Figuration. Donna Huanca, Artist, Berlin Antony Gormley, Artist. Melati Suryodarmo, Artist, and Artistic Director, Jakarta Biennale 2017. Xavier Cha, Artist. Moderated by Qinyi Lim, Curator, National Gallery Singapore.
Overall it feels that Hong Kong, despite the complementary jet lags, offers a breath of fresh air (in a very metaphorical way, of course). It's an entrance to the Asian market and as more galleries open their spaces in the city the confidence only grows for more players to join in. Very curious to see the market performance next year and the effects of the 2019 opening of the M+ Museum.