Art Basel

Art Basel wraps up in Hong Kong after show of world's finest

Competition between Western artists and Asian works 'very positive', Art Basel organisers say

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 May, 2013, 8:59am

A week of art madness ended yesterday with the closure of exhibition Art Basel's Hong Kong debut, which turned into a showdown between 245 galleries from around the world.

Galleries from Western nations - making up half of the total number exhibiting - pulled out the big guns, bringing over major works by big-name artists, and they reported strong sales last Wednesday on "VIP day".

Galleries from the Asia-Pacific region, including Hong Kong, said business was slow the first couple of days and they had to work extra hard to draw attention from collectors. Some said sales began to pick up towards the end of the fair and that deals were still being negotiated 30 minutes before the fair closed.

Gallery Hauser & Wirth sold SP234 by Sterling Ruby to an art foundation on the mainland for more than US$250,000. Pearl Lam from Hong Kong sold Four Noblemen by Zhu Jinshi for US$195,000. London's Victoria Miro, co-presenting with Asia's Ota Fine Arts, sold the 1988 Yayoi Kusama work Flame of Life - Dedicated to Tu-Fu (Du-Fu) for US$2 million to an Asian collector.

Taiwanese dealer Tina Keng sold eight works from the series Eight Tall Sunflowers by Xu Jiang for US$2.6 million and Wang Huaiqing's abstract work Chinese Emperor for US$2.6 million.

Keng said the competition was particularly keen.

"All the big [Western] artists are here. So you must bring the Asian equivalent," Keng said.

One Asian dealer said their gallery was like a monster in their home country, "but here compared to these big Western galleries, I'm like an ant".

Art Basel Asia director Magnus Renfrew said many collectors had gone home to do some research into artists whose work they had seen at the fair before returning on the final day to buy.

"The competition has been very positive and it helps drive up the standard of the presentation across the board," Renfrew said. "Western galleries feel the pressure as much as the Asian ones."

Originally known as Art HK, the fair has run since 2008 under this name and became the largest in Asia. In 2011, Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach organisers MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) acquired a 60 per cent stake in Art HK organisers Asian Art Fairs, leading to the event's transformation into Art Basel this year.

Despite the change, there was no drop in participation by local artists, with some 26 Hong Kong galleries exhibiting to the fair's 60,000 visitors.

Hong Kong artist Stanley Wong, who was showing at local gallery Blindspot, said the fair this year had become more sophisticated with improvement in the standard and calibre of work on show. "But at the same time, I don't see anything very edgy and powerful," he said.