Waking up to black rain didn’t feel such an auspicious start for Art Basel’s debut in Hong Kong, but once everyone ventured out into the steamy aftermath of the storm, things were quickly back to normal and the Hong Kong buzz was back. There were high expectations for the fair after Art Basel took over Magnus Renfrew’s Hong Kong Art Fair. Would it keep it’s Asia focus or lose it and be subsumed into the Art Basel brand? Would it be overrun with eager western galleries looking for new collectors? Would the sought after mainland Chinese collectors come? Would the string of glamorous parties and celebrity attractions including Kate Moss, Roman Abramovich and Zasha Zhukova, solidify Hong Kong’s bid to become the Asia capital for contemporary art?
Well, it was an exhausting few days, trying to see not just the fair but some of the other great shows on in Hong Kong these days. And I thought yes, it’s exciting. However, I noticed one thing above everything else. The media was reporting far more on the parties, the celebrities and the prices works sold for, than the art (quelle surprise).
I didn’t get invited to many (any!) of the parties so I had plenty of time to look at the art! Here’s my pick of the fair
Hong Kong artists Firenze Lai (below) and Zheng Gougu (above) at Vitamin Creative Space
Zhai Liang at A Thousand Plateaus Art Space, Chengdu
Miriam Bohm at Wentrup, Berlin (below)
An astounding new video work by Chen Chieh-Jen at Boers-Li Gallery, Beijing (below)
Geng Jianyi at ShanghArt (below)
Katherine Huang at Neon Parc (below)
I sought out the Asian galleries, looking for new artists, but of course the art world is so internationalized now that I had to look hard to find them. I wondered that perhaps looking at art in a regional way is becoming redundant? Fundamentally, Art Basel is a trade fair, and as I toured ‘the mall’ I found myself wanting to see the art quietly, in its own space away from the fair, where your palate is refreshed, your eyes less jaded and you can truly engage with what the work has to say. So that’s what I did.