Art fair proves a hit with buyers and sellers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2008, 12:00am

The success of the inaugural Art HK 08 international art fair may pave the way for a bigger event next year, its organiser said yesterday.

But Magnus Renfrew warned that any expansion needed to be handled carefully to avoid creating an unhealthy bubble in what was still a developing market.

Some 102 galleries exhibited 850 artists from more than 20 countries during the five-day fair, which ended on Sunday. It attracted 19,185 visitors and a number of galleries reported strong sales.

Grotto Fine Art from Hong Kong, The Drawing Room from the Philippines and Gandhara Art from Pakistan reportedly sold out.

Among the significant sales was Seoul-based Gana Art Gallery's Untitled by Chinese painter Yue Minjun, which sold for US$1.5 million. Hong Kong's Art Beatus sold Yan Peiming's Portrait du Timonier No 7 for US$380,000. London-based Albion sold Xu Bing's Square Word Calligraphy for US$350,000.

Hong Kong-based 10 Chancery Lane Gallery also set a record with Cai Guoqiang's Gunpowderbook, which was snapped up for US$260,000 only 15 minutes after the fair opened.

Mr Renfrew said a mixture of works were bought by Hong Kong and mainland collectors, including works by Chinese artists and western art. 'Some said photography isn't doing very well among Asian buyers but they did very well at the fair.'

Mr Renfrew said he was also pleased with the high turnout of students and families.

'There are student groups and parents coming here with their children. It shows the fair is something culturally important for Hong Kong and there's a demand for major exhibitions of contemporary art.'

He did not rule out the possibility of an expanded fair but said 'we have to be very careful' to avoid unhealthy growth that could damage the developing market.

'This is a very young market and we have to make sure that it does not expand too rapidly,' he said.

Ben Brown of London-based Ben Brown Fine Arts said he was pleased with sales and would be back at the fair next year.

'The fair has been very well organised and there was a very strong showing of collectors and potential collectors from Hong Kong,' he said.

'The interest in art is fantastic and strong. The art scene in Hong Kong has been completely transformed in the last five to 10 years.'

Mr Brown said that there was clearly a developing art market in the city. 'Hong Kong will become a great artistic destination.'

Strokes of genius

Eight of the most significant sales at ART HK 08 (in US$)

380,000 Portrait du Timonier No 7 Yan Peimin

1.5m Untitled Yue Minjun

350,000 Square Word Calligraphy Xu Bing

320,000 3 April 2007 Ugo Rondinone

260,000 The Little Girl He Duoling

150,000 At Your Own Risk chair Ron Arad

108,000 Single Avise Francois Xavier Lalanne

80,000 Duel Hisashi Tenmyonya