In Hong Kong, the air is thick and warm from the South China Sea, and there is no shortage of artists with ingenuity and collectors with checkbooks roaming this art hub that is punctuated with glimmering skyscrapers and majestic mountain peaks.
March 29 kicks off the seventh annual Art Basel Hong Kong. Art Basel, the international art fair launched in Basel, Switzerland in 1970, has since expanded to Miami and Hong Kong, uniting some of the world’s most notable works from emerging artists and art world heavyweights. The alchemy that occurs when gallerists, artists, collectors, and art enthusiasts gather in one place can be transcendent.
“Art fairs succeed best when they unite communities and use art as a lingua franca to bridge cultures,” said Eleusis Art Advisory founder Liddy Berman, who has represented her clients at Art Basel Hong Kong since the first edition. “At the beginning of my career, a major art collector told me that truly brilliant work from emerging artists ‘stands up to the work of the masters.’ Art Basel Hong Kong creates this opportunity for its audience, as you can walk down the halls and connect the threads of art history.”
A splashy VIP opening kicked off on Wednesday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Hong Kong Island, with brisk sales across the fair’s 242 galleries. David Zwirner Gallery sold out its booth the first day, and big ticket items by Andy Warhol, Lee Ufan, and Mark Bradford quickly found new homes.
Not all of the excitement was focused on multimillion dollar works. Emerging art stars also felt the limelight, with collectors vying for a rapidly dwindling number of available works from Markus Amm, Laure Prouvost, and Tala Madani.
“Hong Kong Basel has the most interesting collection of discoveries I have seen for a long time at an art fair,” said Ralph Nauta of the art collective, Studio Drift, represented by Pace Gallery. “The mixture of different cultures in art can be felt all around.” Blooming around the fair this week are Hong Kong gallery receptions, panel discussions, museum shows, and even local hotel art exhibits. Lavish parties led up to the fair, with hot galleries White Cube, David Zwirner, and Gagosian throwing some of the week’s most talked about fetes.
“I’ve been doing Art Basel since the beginning,” says Pearl Lam, an iconic Hong Kong gallerist, who started her career with pop-up galleries in the early ‘90s. Pearl Lam, one of Hong Kong’s first female gallerists to show contemporary art, now has four galleries throughout Asia, believes it’s important she keep an international roster of artists.
“Because we’re known for abstraction, we have Chinese abstract artists at our booth. We have [Robert] Motherwell. What is important to mention is we have Brazilian artists and a Chinese artist Pang Tao, who’s 86 years old. She’s still practicing,” Lam said at Pearl Lam Galleries, which lies at the heart of Hong Kong’s swanky shopping district Central.
Brooklyn-based artist Leonardo Drew, whose work is represented by three galleries at Art Basel Hong Kong, including Pearl Lam Galleries, said, “being that China is one of the cradles of civilization, you can’t help, as an artist, to delve in and find new layers of yourself and new possibilities.”
Art Basel Hong Kong is open to the public March 29 through March 31.