Marking the second major international art fair of this month, the global arts community has headed east, touching down in the towering metropolis of Hong Kong for the sixth edition of the Art Basel Hong Kong art fair. Marking the continued shift of focus on the highest end of the global market towards China and its neighbors, the fair has slowly but surely developed into an economic powerhouse for the market, and one where some of the largest deals seem to happen in an open selling environment. As blue-chip dealers and gallerists increasingly focus on the city and surrounding regions for well-heeled buyers, the fair has taken up a place as a major meeting place for the international art cognoscenti and a group of collectors with an increasingly honed taste for Western art.
The crowd echoed this sentiment, with a range of curators, collectors and directors seen wandering the aisles of the fair, from Michael Govan to Paul McCarthy, Uli Sigg to Maria Balshaw, each stopping to chat and mingle with the galleries on show and browse their works.
It was only a few hours into the fair that the major news of the week was made, with Paul Allen’s striking de Kooning masterpiece meeting its stated price of $35 million and selling to a private collector, notching one of the highest single sales prices for the fair in its short history. Sold at Lévy Gorvy, the work was a major statement by the gallery, showing how its recent strategies towards cultivating connections between their own roster of artists and hallmark Chinese artists has paid off.
Other galleries were also looking to make a statement, like High Art, where a range of works by Max Hooper Schneider did a striking job of commanding attention, and sold for around €30,000. David Kordansky also performed well, selling works by Rashid Johnson, Calvin Marcus, Betty Woodman and more in the opening hours of the fair, and showing just how eager collectors were for strong work.
Other galleries were content to make a statement by scale and curatorial vision. At Project Native Informant, for instance, artist Sophia Al-Maria had erected a massive, performative sculpture, featuring a lone performer sitting before a series of mirrors and one immense video screen, creating an unnerving comment on the state of digital imagery, and the increasingly fragmented states of awareness these images so often seem bound up in. Elsewhere, Taipei gallery Mind Set Art Center was presenting a striking sculpture by artist Shinji Ohmaki, a slender, floating object that left viewers marveling at its almost weightless presentation. In another corner Sabrina Amrani Gallery had explored a more direct exploration of the art booth itself, covering its walls in graphics and drawings by Chant Avedissian, an exploration of gesture and image-making that spilled the artist’s clearly boundless visual energy across the walls of the space.
Matching a sense of adventure with its impressively staffed aisles, this year in particular felt like a major statement for the fair, one in which the continually-growing status of the Asian art market seems to have realized itself on its grandest scale. With sales figures like those achieved this week, it should be no wonder to see increased focus on the region in the coming years.
The fair closes March 31st.
— D. Creahan
Art Basel Hong Kong [Fair Site]
$35 M. de Kooning Leads Day of Robust Sales at Action-Packed Art Basel Hong Kong Opening [Art News]
At Art Basel Hong Kong, Local Galleries Seek a Bigger Piece of the Action [NYT]