MIXING IT UP: Art Basel’s expansion into Asia

MIXING IT UP: Art Basel’s expansion into Asia

Neon installation by French artist Laurent Grass

Sandwiched between a cluster of international art fairs, A rt Basel Hong Kong made its debut this year to considerable fanfare. The much anticipated show joined the international art circuit but vowed to be different from its sisters in the West. With over 60,000 attendees, 245 galleries from 35 countries, and a decidedly different perspective, the rechristened art fair made good on its promise.

In 2011 MCH Group, the owners of Art Basel, bought a majority stake in /ART HK/ a local yet increasingly successful art fair. Two years later they opened with a rebranded show and an expectation to showcase high quality works from both the East and the West. To that end, Art Basel Hong Kong retained Magnus Renfrew, the former fair’s director to create an international, cross-cultural exchange between 3,000 artists — of which more than half were from Asia or the Asia-Pacific region

As the region’s financial epicenter, Hong Kong has experienced an arts renaissance over the last few years. With Basel’s expansion to the East, Hong Kong’s role has strengthened. With its protections of free speech, free market, and no tax on imports/exports of art, the city is now a bonafide stop for the art cognoscenti. Directors, curators and trustees, as well as patrons from the Tate in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris and major U.S. museums were all in attendance this year. Prominent art-world figures like the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and his partner Dasha Zhukova, the American dealer Larry Gagosian, and artists Fernando Botero and Takashi Murakami were also present.

Neon installation by French

By South Korean artist Kyoung Tack Hong

With Hong Kong as the perfect backdrop, art lovers were treated to Basel’s usual, careful curation of the fair’s four thematically organized exhibits. The fairs main section, Galleries presented 171 Modern and contemporary art galleries, both from Asia and the West. Insights showcased contextual and thematic projects specifically commissioned for the show by galleries and artists from Asia or the Asia-Pacific region. The Discoveries section focused on emerging artists showcasing work from earlier in their careers. However, for many the highlight of the fair was Encounters curated by Yuko Hasegawa the chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. She made her presence felt this year with the large-scale sculpture and installation works on display throughout the two exhibition halls.

This has been quite a year and quite an achievement for MCH Group, with its trinity of art fairs spread over three continents. The second coming of Art Basel Hong Kong, already scheduled for May 15-18, may bring an even stronger combination of works from Asia and around the globe. Only time will tell. Repeating this year’s cultural and commercial success should not be difficult— just as long as they bring the roster of talent they did this year.

Sonia Melamed is the Chair of the Communications Committee, Arts & Culture Council. If you are interested in submitting an article, please send it to Sonia at soniam@nsigroup.org.

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