Success of Art Basel proves Hong Kong can be a viable cultural hub

City is well-placed to attract ever more shows and visitors if it improves its branding and builds momentum

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2016, 11:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2016, 11:46pm

To describe Hong Kong as an arts capital may seem far-fetched. Yet the art world has turned its attention to the city lately, thanks to our packed calendar of exhibitions and shows. The phenomenal success of some of these events has no doubt brought us closer to that vision of being an arts hub.

The Art Basel Hong Kong stole the limelight with its sales and attendance figures. Despite the economic gloom, some galleries at the annual fair reported satisfactory sales. The community’s interest was also so overwhelming that tickets on the last two days were sold out, with disappointed late-comers left out in the cold.

The event was the fourth since 2013, after organisers took over the city’s annual arts fair to become the world’s third Art Basel. With 239 galleries from 35 places and a record attendance of some 70,000 visitors, it has a well-deserved reputation as one of the city’s signature arts events.

The verdict on Art Basel; sales defy doubters, crowds exceed expectations

While sales and attendance are one thing, art appreciation is another. Some visitors were apparently still on a learning curve when it came to the latter, as reflected in the reports of damaged artworks caused by a lack of visitor etiquette. The regular announcements by organisers reminding people to keep clear of displays does nothing to enhance our image and reputation.

It takes more than the success of a single arts show to put Hong Kong on the world map. At the fringe is a wealth of arts and cultural activities across the city. The Art Central, a similar showcase at the Central waterfront, was arguably as successful. Those with the appetite for more can turn to sales at auction houses and hotels. From graffiti-style murals in Sham Shui Po to exhibitions at the M+ Museum and high-end shopping malls, there is great variety to suit different tastes.

Hong Kong Art Basel: it was way too much fun for families on public days, gallerists complain

A week of art mania does not change the landscape. But the art sector’s readiness to capitalise on the opportunity has provided the synergy to aim higher and do more. With good branding and sustained momentum, Hong Kong is well-placed to become a leading arts hub.