Since 1970, Art Basel Hong Kong goal has been to connect the world’s premier galleries and their patrons, as well serving as a meeting point for the international artworld bringing to all visitors the art inspiration they are looking. Now, over forty years later, its three fairs – in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami Beach – rank as the premier shows of their kind, presenting 20th and 21st century art with a strong curatorial perspective.
The breakthrough Art Basel 2016 edition – which placed the Hong Kong show squarely in the center of Asia’s international art scene – offered a premier platform for showing contemporary art from across the globe. Underlining its commitment to the region, half of the participating galleries once again had exhibition spaces in Asia and Asia-Pacific. The show provided an in-depth overview of the region’s diversity through both historical material and cutting-edge works by established and emerging artists.
As the art world descended for five days of Art Basel Hong Kong and the dizzying collection of satellite shows that piggyback on the main event, the art market held its breath wondering if the region’s economic slowdown would translate into fewer sales compared to last year’s spree.
Serious art lovers, however, obviously found moments of inspiration – particularly at the top end of the spectrum, thanks to ambitious works by the likes of Michaël Borremans at David Zwirner (all five of his paintings sold on day one to Asian collectors) and Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary’s abstract Raintree etchings at Singapore’s Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI).
Some of the most innovative cultural offerings were to be found outside of the main fair. Must-sees include the surreal film installation Duilian at Spring Workshop by the artist Wu Tsang, based on her decade-long research into a Han Chinese revolutionary beheaded by the Qing government in 1907; and art hub Duddells’ collaboration with the Dallas Museum of Art, presenting emerging artist Margaret Lee’s works.
Internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima presented his new large-scale installation Time Waterfall during this year’s Art Basel in Hong Kong. The fine art work was shown across the entire façade of the city’s iconic 490-meter-high International Commerce Centre on the Kowloon harbour-front. The installation will be on display until the end of April.
Elsewhere, the middle market galleries, whose works were decidedly less glitzy than last year, found the going a little more challenging. Despite this, there were gems to be found, including South Korean artist Ham Kyungah’s statement-makingChandeliers for Five Cities, a collection of tapestries secretly created by North Korean textile workers in this modern art gallery.