Hong Kong International Art Fair best known as Art HK, since its creation in 2008, and after its merger with Art Basel, has been established as one of the most renowned art exhibition centres in the world. Gathering over 242 international galleries, numerous artists and even more pieces of modern and contemporary art for an impressive event that takes place every year.
This year, Art Basel takes place from the 19th to 21st of March 2020 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and will showcase art from the Asian and the world’s leading Modern and contemporary art galleries, displaying paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs, film, video and digital artworks from the 20th and 21st centuries.
If you are estranged from Chinese culture, this is an event that should not be missed, since it portrays an image of how modern art is conceived in China, as well as a glance at future trends in artistic currents and where we should turn our attention to in the years to come. This is not said lightly, as Hong Kong’s art scene has exponentially grown to one on the largest art markets in the world, just behind London and New York.
Art HK was brought to life during the time of global economic crisis, when few of the most important galleries wanted to invest in expanding their coverage to the East and start a very expensive venture overseas. It was a way to spark the interest of foreign investors in newly developing Chinese art, and as the first exhibition in 2008 was a success, Art Basel decided to buy out Art HK, taking it to exponential growth and attracting even the most veteran art galleries such as White Cube, Gagosian and Lehmann Maupin.
This art explosion in Hong Kong brought out the artistic side of China, turning the streets into a white canvas for all cultural expressions. And as an aspiring centre of art and culture such as New York and London, every time you can find that there are more and more projects to take art in China to the next level.
There is an obvious appeal to Art Basel, as it is taking coverage of a large piece of the world which is still uncharted territory for the art market. And it also has a different culture and history from what is often seen in most modern and contemporary art museums all over the world. The pieces resulting from that have been highly valued in auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s, setting new global records.
It is also well known that Hong Kong is another one of the economic capitals in the world, an important city for business transactions, companies and investments. This has only bolstered its art venture, turning heads with major projects such as the H Queen’s tower, an architectural icon in midtown Hong Kong, designed to be the headquarter of art and lifestyle:
“The development houses non-traditional spaces for exhibition with the interest of promoting the arts as well as expanding the audience for art.”
This brand-new building was inaugurated on 2018 with unique skyscraping galleries from international names and an entire ground floor of pure exhibition space. The H Queen’s focuses also on luxury retail and it is a perfect representation of Hong Kong’s intentions of turning into the metropolis of modern art and luxury.
In spite of every effort mentioned above, all the major investments are placed in private projects, leaving the air filled with the idea that art is nothing more than business, when it is a common and global expression of humanity which should always bring people together.
“Hong Kong is a big art market, but there’s a huge gap between the art market and practices in the community,” said Vivienne Chow, an art critic and founder of the Hong Kong-based Cultural Journalism Campus (NYT)
There is a general lack of other relevant museums available for the public and The Hong Kong museum of art, the city’s only public art museum, is undergoing renovations throughout the upcoming years, and part of the changes include bringing more locally sourced pieces of art, instead of what it had been showing:
Maria Mok, the Hong Kong Museum of Art’s curator of modern art, said that there has been a curatorial shift from showing “big brand names, blockbusters, mostly from the West,” to including more local talent and “down-to-earth programming.” (NYT)
However, this is all set to change in 2020-2021 with the opening of M+ Museum of Visual Culture, an impressive world-class facility designed by the multi-national group of architects Herzog and De Meuron. This site is planned to connect with the Airport Express via an underground tunnel “in an effort to challenge artists and curators with an unprecedented exhibition space” (Archdaily). M+ will certainly be the centrepiece of the West Kowloon Cultural District and a radical place for the creation and exchange of the visual and preforming arts in Asia.
In the meantime, the M+ Pavilion is currently in operation, and it has incredible success, already having been recipient to more than 1500 pieces such as Cultural Revolution artefacts, photographs of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and more. This museum is supported by the district’s chairman to be run free and independently, as Hong Kong is the Chinese gateway to the global market and as such, considered a special region with a free economy, open trade and most importantly for art, the freedom to openly exhibit controversial or even political content.
For this year’s edition, showing Art Basel’s commitment to the region, half of the participating galleries once again have exhibition spaces in Asia and Asia-Pacific. The show provides an in-depth overview of the region’s diversity through both historical material and cutting-edge works by established and emerging artists.
Hong Kong is upgrading, and with it, people are changing too. Bringing art to people opens up a door to creativity and expression and allowing it to develop is the best way to promote the cultural growth of a city. Now the roads are crowded with street art, music is rising from the pavement and dancers are making their own way through the skyscrapers, a city just waiting to unfold and settle into pure art.