The Hong Kong Art Fair 2012 kicked off with a collectors and VIPs Day on the 16th May.
In the strongest indication of the region’s growing importance as a major consumer of high value art ( as well as high value everything else), all major international dealers were not only present but present in person too.
A walk through the first floor alone allowed the visitor to meet a number of big names in the art world, among them Zaha Hadid, who gave a press conference at the Gmurzynska gallery stand, Jay Jopling, Lady Helen Taylor representing her husband Tim, Stephen Friedman, Pearl Lam herself, and many others. The Gmurzynska stand was jointly manned, in fact, by Director Mathias Rastorfer and none other than Princess Michael of Kent who happily engaged with visitors and buyers.
The Marlborough Gallery exhibited large works by Manolo Valdes that dominated that part of the floor. Valdes was, in fact, one of the B Beyond favourite artists at the fair.
XL Gallery from Russia had an interesting installation of hot red computer mice streaming out of a grid.
The Sovereign Art Foundation had a much visited stand on the third floor where Max Zorn was working on his ingenious and real time changing art concept consisting of creating a city scene with the sole use of masking tape and lighting behind the canvas.
B Beyond visited both on the collectors’ day and the following day. We were struck by the large number of visitors, many of them serious buyers.
A last walk through with Howard Bilton drew our attention to a few more interesting works that we might not otherwise have seen due to the sheer size of the exhibition halls and our limited time in HK.
Says Howard Bilton:
‘This year was the first year of the Hong Kong Art Fair after the buy-in by Art Basel. Next year the Fair will be rebranded as Art Basel – not the expected Art Basel Hong Kong. The Fair was generally bigger, busier and more glamorous than before but there were a number of local and regional galleries who had been there for every year since the start who were not given a place. The emphasis was very much on quality but, as with last year, many thought the most interesting galleries were once again those in the Asia One section and it is hoped that in future years the regional gallery content is not diluted.
‘I sought advice when considering our part in Art Hong Kong 2012 from friends who live there, two of whom told me to design our exhibition with the feel of a London club. It was stressed that hard, white walls and concrete floors were not yet something the local audience would feel comfortable with and that to soften the way we looked would naturally create a more inviting experience. So our stand had coloured walls and a ceiling creating an intimacy that people seemed to like.
‘It is generally true that in a new market one wants to make it as easy as possible for people to approach the artists you exhibit without compromising the integrity of the work. In a fair the scale of Hong Kong this is really important. Relationships draw people to the gallery and their enthusiasm encourages friends to follow. In this way we had a very good fair, selling paintings by Sean Scully, Alex Katz and photographs by Lee Friedlander.
Clearly Hong Kong is becoming a destination for the international art world to consider.’