Stirring the art world with a change of dates, Art Basel's second edition in Hong Kong takes place earlier than last year's premier event, from today through Sunday at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.
The shift is a prelude to another date change to March in 2015. This is because last year's late May date nearly bumped into the firmly established, home-based fair in Basel, Switzerland, which is traditionally staged in June.
The show dates for Art Basel in Hong Kong 2015 have been confirmed as follows: preview (by invitation) on Friday evening and all day Saturday, March 13 and 14; and public show dates from Sunday, March 15, to Tuesday, March 17.
Asia director Magnus Renfrew, who shepherded ARTHK into an art powerhouse over the five years before Art Basel bought 60 per cent last year, says: "At our regional fair, we always emulated the Art Basel model because we admired its high quality, control and impressive range of activities that Art Basel's leadership brings to the international art stage.
"Now Art Basel provides a solid footing for the Hong Kong exhibition, bringing in more people with strong backgrounds in art and education. We are moving the date because the May-June calendar is quite congested worldwide.
"The change of dates from May to March in 2015 will relieve the pressure on galleries that have a strong attraction to Asia and allow greater participation from local and international galleries," he says.
"At the same time, people from Asia are now more familiar with art fairs and auctions, and constitute a large-enough base to sustain Art Basel Hong Kong. We are seeing a change from speculation to genuine collecting."
Art Basel HK 2014, as in 2013, presents 245 of the leading galleries from Asia, Europe, the Americas and the rest of the world. These highly respected international and local galleries from 39 countries and territories showcase the works of more than 3,000 artists, who range from young, emerging artists to contemporary and modern masters.
Fifty per cent of the galleries have exhibition spaces in Asia as art buyers from the Asia-Pacific continue to exhibit a growing sophistication and a healthy appetite for modern and contemporary art. The seriousness with which Art Basel chooses the participating galleries and their proposed artists is demonstrated by the international scope, keen eye and experience of the people who select the finalists.
One of the members of the selection committee, Emi Eu of Singapore's Tyler Print Institute, participated in the judging for the past two ARTHK fairs and was part of the committee for the first Art Basel HK last year.
She says: "The main challenge for the selection committee is to thoroughly examine each proposal submitted from every gallery and curator.
"The applications we receive sometimes have 70-plus pages of materials and other supporting documents. Each proposing gallery not only sends in their ideas for their exhibition at Art Basel HK but also their year-round programming and activities.
"Typically, the committee meets and the judging process takes five full days, from 9am to 7pm, with a one-hour lunch and two 15-minute breaks. This is because we look at every proposal thoroughly. There is a second meeting to review and confirm the selections to make sure that the upcoming fair will be as good as others, if not better."
Divided into five main sections, the main sector, Galleries, presents 171 established galleries from across the world, helping Art Basel Hong Kong bring museum-quality art to our doorstep.
Insights is dedicated to curatorial projects by 47 galleries with spaces in Asia and the Asia-Pacific, and features solo shows, exceptional historical material or strong thematic group exhibitions. This section is dedicated to presenting precise contextual and thematic presentations by artists from Asia, reinforcing Art Basel's commitment to the region.
The Discoveries sector provides a platform for younger galleries bringing solo- and two-person exhibitions presented by 27 galleries, competing for a US$25,000 award for the best-in-show artist(s).
Encounters presents 17 artworks on an institutional scale, presenting large-scale sculptural and installation pieces, sited in prominent locations throughout the two exhibition halls, all by leading artists from around the world.
Hong Kong is honoured by the participation of local artist Morgan Wong in the Encounters section, while Gallery Exit (Hong Kong) presents Blue, 2013, a series of 13 sculptures created by Chinese artist Yang Xinguang. Local gallery Hanart TZ presents United Nations: Man & Space, 1999-2000, by Chinese artist Gu Wenda.
Art Basel Hong Kong includes, for the first time, a Film sector, curated by Li Zhenhua and hosted in collaboration with the Hong Kong Arts Centre.
The show is accompanied by strong public programming, including Art Basel's popular talks programmes, Conversations and Salon.
Just to make sure that all of Hong Kong and its visitors know there is art in town, the organisers have invited Carsten Nicolai to light up Hong Kong's skyline with a new audio-visual installation.
The German artist will blast pulses into the sky each night from today to Saturday. He will use "á [alpha] pulse", which generates a light pattern to pulsate in a synchronised frequency across the entire façade of Hong Kong's iconic 490-metre high International Commerce Centre (ICC) on the Kowloon harbourfront.
An accompanying mobile phone application will allow audiences to participate in the light installation.
As if the fair itself and the Nicolai's light show are not sufficiently stunning, visitors are also tempted to venture out to experience collaborations with local and international partners offering a diverse range of arts programming, with hundreds of cultural events hosted across the city throughout the week.
A full list is available at Art Basel Hong Kong.