Artistic Impressions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 April, 2012, 12:00am


To get a sense of how big the Hong Kong commercial art scene has become, look no further than May. US portraitist Annie Leibovitz will have a solo exhibition at Sundaram Tagore Gallery; German photographer Andreas Gursky is also expected for his show at the Gagosian Gallery; and legendary Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama - who is having a big retrospective at Tate Modern in Britain - might appear at the opening of Sotheby's new gallery space at Pacific Place.

Christie's, which will hold its spring auctions at the end of May, will showcase works by American Realist painter Andrew Wyeth. And Bonhams will put a single-owner collection, including 15 major works by Chu Teh-chun and Zao Wou-ki, on the block.

More overseas galleries are due to open here including Paris' Galerie Perrotin and London's Simon Lee Gallery. And of course, the Hong Kong International Art Fair is set to return on May 17-20. The public relations and marketing firms handling these events are already tearing their hair out even though we have just entered April.

It's incredible how fast the commercial art scene has evolved in the past couple of years. When I first started writing about the arts in the early 1990s, not much was happening on that front, bar a handful of galleries on Hollywood Road exhibiting mostly decorative art from the region. There were auctions - Sotheby's held its first sale here in 1973 and Christie's in 1986 - and sporadic art fairs, but the focus was mainly on antiquities and works of art (vases, jades and Buddha statues).

Today, with the arrival of international galleries as well as a more aggressive business development strategy from auction houses, this city gets the chance to look at art - from old masters to contemporary - that once you could see only in cities such as New York, Paris and London.

Sotheby's has just announced the opening of its new 15,000 sq ft space in Pacific Place that includes a gallery for selling exhibitions. The first will be 'Yayoi Kusama - Hong Kong Blooms in My Mind', which is being put together by the artist, her studio and long-standing Tokyo gallery Ota Fine Arts. About 30 works will be on display on May 19-31.

Whether the latest boom in the commercial art sector - all thanks to the new Chinese wealth - will rub off on the local arts scene is yet to be seen.