Art dealers converge on city as international fair kicks off

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 May, 2009, 12:00am

Internationally renowned art galleries and auction houses hope to do some serious business in the next two weeks as collectors from around the region fly in for a series of art events.

Despite the economic downturn, galleries exhibiting at the second Hong Kong International Art Fair, starting today, hope to expand their client bases in Asia. Tokyo-based SCAI The Bathhouse, among a string of newcomers at the fair that also includes London's White Cube and Lisson galleries, hopes to form links with local and mainland collectors.

Fumiko Nagayoshi of SCAI The Bathhouse, which has brought 40 artworks with prices ranging from Euro2,000 (HK$21,000) to Euro110,000, said business might be slow but the gallery was confident it could develop a new client base on the mainland.

Some 110 galleries from more than 24 countries are showcasing artworks priced from HK$8,000 to HK$80 million at the fair.

London-based Ben Brown Fine Arts, which opens a branch in Hong Kong this autumn, is one gallery returning to the fair. Owner Ben Brown said the gallery had done well in last year at the fair, but he had lowered his expectations this year.

'The good thing is people are not buying art just to make money. The reason to buy art should be because you love it, not because it can make money,' he said.

Former Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova staged a sports-meets-arts event when she teamed up with artist Juro Kralik. They created art by hitting tennis balls dipped in paint onto canvas.

In the inaugural SCMP/Art Futures section, 11 galleries less than five years old will showcase works by 18 emerging artists. Educational talks focusing on art investment, museums and heritage will be held from today to Sunday, with general tickets priced at HK$200.

Apart from the art fair, a series of art auctions will make Hong Kong the centre of the region's art market for a couple of weeks. Seoul Auction House returns for its second sale at the Grand Hyatt tomorrow, offering 112 modern and contemporary art works from east and west with an estimated total value of HK$78 million, including Damien Hirst's Tranquility from his 'Butterfly' series.

Seoul Auction managing director Misung Shim said it had lowered its estimates by 30 per cent to 50 per cent in the hope of attracting more buyers.

Other art auctions this weekend include the Est-Ouest auction and Asian Auction Week. The Bonhams and Christie's spring sales will take place in the following weeks.