Spotlight on Asian art as Hong Kong fair opens

The glittering Hong Kong International Art Fair opened Thursday, featuring works by artists from Picasso to Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei and cementing the city's status as a global art hub.

More than 260 galleries from 38 countries, representing an even split from the West and the East, have booked space at the four-day event known as Art HK, now in its fifth edition.

"The transformation here culturally has been pretty significant," art collector and fair board member Richard Chang told reporters ahead of the opening, referring to Hong Kong's emergence as a centre of the Asian art world.

"It's testament to what is happening in this region and it's very exciting."

A record 63,511 visitors attended Art HK last year, and organisers expect a bigger crowd in 2012. The prestigious Frieze New York fair earlier this month attracted a reported 45,000 visitors.

A Wednesday night preview drew thousands of VIPs who had first pick of works including Ai's "Cong", a chilling installation about child deaths in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, a Sherrie Levine cast bronze called "Dada", and a fresh-off-the-easel 2012 portrait in oil of Lady Gaga by Yan Pei-Ming.

Director Magnus Renfrew said there had been a marked increase in interest from Western dealers.

"The art market tends to follow the money and the greatest source of wealth at the moment is in Asia," he said.

Traditionally known as a centre of banking and finance, Hong Kong has become a hub of all things luxury -- from fine wine to fashion and, increasingly, art -- thanks to the explosion of personal wealth among mainland Chinese.

Western gallery owners are rushing to open franchises in the former British colony, despite some of the most expensive rents in the world.

Gagosian, White Cube, Acquavella, Simon Lee and Pearl Lam are just some of the recent arrivals. The government is also weighing in, with a massive art and culture district being developed on the harbour in Kowloon.

"If you look at the calibre of some of the exhibitions this year, it's a top-tier fair now," London-based Australian gallery owner Simon Lee told AFP.

He said his "boutique-type offering" was more about making contacts and introducing his gallery to the Asian market than selling art to collectors.

"I can't hope to just come over here, plonk a few things on a booth and think it's all going to happen. It's sort of condescending to think it will all happen without doing the ground work," he said.

Asian private museum owners, such as Indonesian tobacco baron Oei Hong Djin whose OHD Museum is a de facto national gallery, were also well represented as they hunted additions for their collections.

"We do not have a national museum and the government is not taking steps in the direction, so we as private collectors have to take over that role," he said, referring to his homeland of 240 million people.

Asia's art boom has caught the eye of the world's biggest art fair franchise, Art Basel, which bought a controlling stake in Art HK a year ago. The Hong Kong fair's 2013 edition will be held under the Art Basel banner.

Meanwhile a new art fair devoted to "affordable" contemporary art will be held in Hong Kong next year, confirming the city's new status as a hot ticket on the art scene.

The fair is being put together by Affordable Art China, a company which has organised a similar event in Beijing since 2006 and is opening a new franchise in Shanghai later this year.

Chief executive Tom Pattinson said the new fair offered a chance for smaller galleries and emerging artists to showcase their work in the booming art market of Hong Kong, now third only to New York and London in terms of art auctions.

"The success of the events in mainland China has demonstrated the demand for accessible contemporary fine art in the region and Hong Kong is now a major focus for us as we launch our first event in this territory," he said.

He said the value of the "affordable art" market -- pieces priced at less than $5,000 -- in China was estimated at $1.1 billion a year, and was doubling annually.

Renfrew said the new fair was not a threat to Art HK, which is held at the city's vast harbourside convention centre, as the two events catered to "very different audiences".

"There are now more billionaires in Asia than there are in Europe, so it's a very exciting time for the art market here," he said.

"It takes time to build an audience in Asia but the galleries are increasingly seeing that they have to diversify their audience and put in that investment and time."

Art fairs and auctions around the world have seen giddy bidding despite, or perhaps because of, the turmoil in the eurozone and on the world's stock markets, as investors look for other places to park their money.

At Sotheby's impressionist and modern sale in New York earlier this month, the only privately owned version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" went for $119.9 million, the most ever paid for any art work at public auction.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Indonesian executions: key questions and answers
    Indonesian executions: key questions and answers

    Indonesia is set soon to execute eight foreigners convicted of drug offences, despite international outrage and desperate appeals for mercy from relatives. Authorities on Saturday gave formal notice to the eight -- from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines -- that they would face a firing squad imminently. If the executions go ahead, the seven men and one woman will be led to a clearing on a prison island to be shot by police marksmen -- after authorities have placed a black mark on …

  • Indonesia defiant as UN leads condemnation of looming executions
    Indonesia defiant as UN leads condemnation of looming executions

    Indonesia on Sunday signalled it was determined to push ahead with the execution of eight foreign drug convicts, despite a growing wave of global condemnation led by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon. Authorities on Saturday gave formal notice to the eight -- from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines -- that they would be executed by firing squad imminently, along with an Indonesian prisoner. The group have been moved to the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan, where …

  • Philippines calls on ASEAN to urge China to halt land reclamation
    Philippines calls on ASEAN to urge China to halt land reclamation

    The Philippines called on its Southeast Asian neighbours to unite in urging China to halt reclamation of land in the South China Sea, but the call failed to raise widespread support ahead of a regional summit. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Its claims overlap with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory …

  • Philippines urges ASEAN to stop China in South China Sea
    Philippines urges ASEAN to stop China in South China Sea

    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The Philippines on Sunday urged its fellow Southeast Asian countries to take immediate steps to halt land reclamation by China in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, warning that failure to do so will see Beijing take "de facto control" of the area. …

  • Philippines urges Southeast Asia to rally to halt China reclamation in disputed waters
    Philippines urges Southeast Asia to rally to halt China reclamation in disputed waters

    The Philippines on Sunday called on neighbouring Southeast Asian nations to push for an immediate halt to China's reclamation in the disputed South China Sea ahead of a regional summit. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested …

  • President to appeal for Filipina's life at Malaysia summit
    President to appeal for Filipina's life at Malaysia summit

    The Philippine president said Sunday he would appeal for mercy for a Filipina who is due to be executed in Indonesia in two days' time. President Benigno Aquino said he would take the opportunity to seek clemency for Mary Jane Veloso, who is due to be put to death on Tuesday, while in Malaysia for a regional summit Monday. "Once I am there, I will try to speak to President Joko Widodo of Indonesia to appeal once more for her case," Aquino said. She was arrested in 2009 with 2.6 kilograms …

  • U.N. chief appeals to Indonesia not to carry out executions
    U.N. chief appeals to Indonesia not to carry out executions

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Indonesia on Saturday not to execute 10 prisoners, including two Australians, for drug-related crimes. Indonesia has so far informed seven of the 10 death row inmates, including the Australians and one Nigerian, that they will be executed in a matter of days, possibly as soon as Tuesday. Nationals from Brazil, Ghana and the Philippines are also on Indonesia's death row. A temporary reprieve was granted to a French citizen who will not …

  • Beijing 'poised to take de facto control' of S. China Sea'
    Beijing 'poised to take de facto control' of S. China Sea'

    Beijing is poised to take "de facto control" of the South China Sea, the Philippines warned Sunday, but its call for a robust Southeast Asian response at a regional summit was shot down. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the strategic body of water, but Beijing claims nearly all of it, and its increasingly strident territorial assertions have caused concern in the region and beyond. "(China) is poised to consolidate de facto control of the South China Sea," …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options