Hong Kong art fair pioneers reunite for new Taiwan fair, seeing demand there for ‘high-calibre’ event

Team behind ART HK, which morphed into Art Basel Hong Kong, to launch art fair in Taipei in January, and say they are out to expand the market for contemporary art there, not take business away from existing Taipei fairs

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 1:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 1:30pm

The team that launched ART HK have reunited seven years after their profitable exit from the original Hong Kong art fair to launch a new fair in an unlikely market: Taiwan.

Magnus Renfrew, who will be fair director of Taipei Dangdai (which means contemporary in Mandarin), said on Tuesday that Taipei was chosen because it is has one of the longest-established art gallery scenes in Asia.

Popular Art Central fair adapts to appeal to high-end buyers

“The city boasts world-class museums, a vibrant artist community, an internationally recognised biennial, and one of the most sophisticated collector bases in Asia,” he said.

The fair has yet to finalise the exhibitors for the inaugural show in January 2019. The main sponsor is UBS, the Swiss bank that also supports Art Basel and, in Taiwan, Art Formosa, an existing art fair.

Renfrew is joined in the venture by the three other co-founders of ART HK, which was bought in 2011 by MCH, the Swiss company that runs Art Basel fairs.

Tim Etchells, Sandy Angus and Will Ramsay have been running other fairs in the interim: they founded Art Central in 2015 as a satellite fair to what became Art Basel Hong Kong, which is run by Charles Ross, the former managing director of ART HK; Angus owns photo fairs under his World Photography Organisation umbrella, and with Etchells, founded the India Art Fair, sold to MCH in 2016. There have also been other fairs that ran for just a few editions in London, Melbourne and Istanbul.

Meanwhile, Renfrew worked for about a year as the Asia deputy chairman of Bonhams, the auction house, wrote a book on the Hong Kong art market, and launched ARTHQ, a management consultancy and headhunter for the art world.

Going to Taiwan may seem counter-intuitive, when for years the art market has been more concerned with chasing after growth in China because of the amount of wealth being created there. Apart from the fact that Taiwan is a mature market with gross domestic product forecast to grow at less than 3 per cent this year, it already has its own art fairs; Art Taipei, organised by the Taiwan Art Gallery Association, will mark its 25th anniversary this year.

Taipei counters Beijing’s bid to lure Taiwanese talent, capital to Chinese mainland

Still, Renfrew said feedback from art galleries suggested there was demand for a high-calibre fair there that is selective. He also said the intention behind Taipei Dangdai was to help expand the art market in

Taiwan rather than take business from existing art fairs.

Dangdai will have a separate section, called Salon, offering works that cost less than US$8,000 to appeal to new collectors.

The fair’s peer-review selection committee is made up of Patricia Crockett of Sprüth Magers gallery, Waling Boers (Boers-Li Gallery), Isa Lorenzo (Silverlens Galleries), Edouard Malingue (Edouard Malingue Gallery), and Elisa Uematsu (Taka Ishii Gallery).

Dangdai is also advised by top collectors such as Taiwan’s Rudy Tseng, who sits on the Tate’s Asia-Pacific acquisition committee, and a number of names from, among other places, Hong Kong – Evan Chow, Alan Lo and Patrick Sun, whose Sunpride Foundation organised a groundbreaking LGBTQ-themed art exhibition at Taipei’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2017.

It will be held during the Taipei Biennial, which runs from November 17, 2018 to March 10, 2019.