The black rainstorm warning did not hamper art collectors’ enthusiasm as sales were made the minute Art Basel Hong Kong opened its doors for the first time on Wednesday.
Some galleries exhibiting at the first Hong Kong edition of the Swiss-owned modern and contemporary art fair reported encouraging sales results during the VIP preview, which took place immediately after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying cut the ribbon at around noon.
Art collectors were seen racing against each other to get hold of the works they had already planned to buy. Besides well-known collectors such as Hong Kong’s David Tang, who was said to be throwing a dinner party for English super model Kate Moss, and Uli Sigg from Switzerland, yesterday’s afternoon VIP session was also a celebrity sighting occasion.
Radio DJ Jan Lamb, actor Shawn Yue, showbiz bad boy Edison Chen and actress Rosamund Kwan were spotted wandering at the fair. It was said the VIP sessions appeared to be less crowded due to Art Basel’s tight control over the entries of those who really spend money on art.
There are 245 galleries exhibiting in four sections – main sector Galleries, Insights that shows curatorial projects, solo or two-person shows of emerging artists in Discoveries sector and large-scale sculptures and installations in Encounters. Galleries are divided into two floors of the Convention Centre. Some dealers were delighted by the early sales.
London gallerist Simon Lee, who opened an outpost in Hong Kong last year, said he sold works by Norwegian artist Matias Faldbakken, Jeff Elrod from the US and American conceptual artist Mel Bochner within the first two hours of the VIP preview. Clients came from Europe, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, he said.
“We have had a very good start. All the right people seem to here and it seems that Art Basel has been able to bring in a more international crowd to the fair. There are a lot of first time visitors,” said Lee, whose booth is located on the first floor.
Two other first-floor exhibitors Peres Projects from Berlin and White Space Beijing also reported good sales in the morning.
Peres Projects’ Javier Peres said that the gallery exhibited at the first ART HK in 2008 and only returned to the city for the first time this year. During the first hour he already sold works by Houston-based Mark Flood and installation artist Alex Israel from Los Angeles. He said the first ART HK was already a very good fair and he felt the organisation has stepped up, combining the best of Swiss and Hong Kong organisations.
White Space’s Tian Yuan said that the gallery previous exhibited at ART HK’s Art Futures section, which featured young artists. This time the gallery made it to the main galleries section with a range of mainland artists aged from 23 to 40. She was delighted sales were made in the morning.
“More galleries are bringing more important works, and people spend more time in each booth,” said Tian.
Last year some galleries located on the third floor complained about the poor sales due to the lack of traffic. This year some VIPs said that they have been directed to see the third floor first before they were led to the first floor. Leung also cut the ribbon on the third floor.
Alan Cristea Gallery located on the third floor had a good start. The gallery’s David Cleaton-Roberts said a set of five pencil drawings by Marie Harnett were sold in the first 10 minutes. An etching piece by modern master Joan Miro and inkjet edition self-portrait of English artist Julian Opie were also sold. It has cost the gallery more than HK$700,000 to set up the booth here at the fair.
Cleaton-Roberts said he also received a lot of enquiries about its key piece, an installation by the renowned Edmund de Waal created especially for the Hong Kong fair.
Half of the galleries featured in Art Basel Hong Kong came from Asia, and about 26 were from Hong Kong. Mimi Chun of Blindspot Gallery, which specialises in photography, said that the gallery’s presentation of new works by Stanley Wong, known by artist name anothermountainman, attracted a lot of enquiries.
“For my kind of works, people usually have to digest what they have seen before they return,” Chun said. “There’s no guarantee for sales at art fairs but it’s more important to do promotion, making new contacts and getting media exposure.”
Originally known as ART HK, the art fair made its debut in 2008 and became the largest in Asia. In 2011, Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach organisers MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd acquired 60 per cent stake of ART HK organisers Asian Art Fairs.
The fair will open to the public today until Sunday alongside a series of educational lectures and talks.