Art Basel

Hong Kong's journey from cultural desert to Asian arts hub

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 8:28am

Hong Kong used to be ridiculed as a desert when it came to arts and culture. But the recent boom in art exhibitions and auctions has helped put the city on the world map. The opening of Art Basel in Hong Kong this week is set to further reinforce our reputation as an international arts hub.

The event needs no introduction in the art world. First held annually in Basel and Miami, the premier show of modern and contemporary art landed in Hong Kong last year after taking over Art HK, the city's annual art fair. It became a phenomenal success immediately and a signature event in Asia. This year, 245 galleries from 39 countries will be participating, presenting sculptures, paintings, photographs, videos and installations by more than 2,000 artists. It is as much a showcase of talent as a platform for arts appreciation and trading. The action is not just confined to the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. Various auctions and activities are taking place in town to keep art lovers busy.

That Hong Kong is one of the three places to stage this major show speaks volumes of our significance in the art world. Our East-meets-West heritage provides the backdrop for exploring new artwork produced in the Asia Pacific region. Being the gateway to the world's second largest economy also means enormous opportunities for art traders. The city continues to set record-breaking deals involving cash-rich mainland investors snapping up all things rare and special. China's rising international stature also helps raise the profile of its artists. More galleries and auction houses have already moved in to capitalise on our advantage. With the West Kowloon Cultural District facilities due to be operational in a few years' time, the art scene will continue to thrive.

From a cultural desert to Asia's arts hub, Hong Kong has come a long way. Art enriches city life and provides new opportunity for growth. With the right strategy and support, we can make a bigger impact on the global art landscape.