Art Basel 2016

Art Basel a chance for world’s art institutions to meet patrons and seek support

Managers of non-profits such as London’s ICA and Royal Academy visit Hong Kong to solicit input and funds from big collectors who are in the city to attend the major art fair and related events

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 March, 2016, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 March, 2016, 9:14pm

The week of Art Basel Hong Kong isn’t just about showing art. It is also an opportunity for the world’s non-profit art institutions to woo potential donors attending the fair.

Gregor Muir, who has managed to turn around London’s financially challenged Institute of Contemporary Arts since taking over as executive director in 2011, was doing a lot of wining and dining last week ahead of a major renovation planned for its Grade-1 listed premises, Nash House. The ICA had been lucky to receive funding from Britain’s Heritage Lottery Fund to proceed with plans to transform its ground floor exhibition space, Muir said, but he had decided as soon as he became director in 2011 that it was important to reach out to international supporters.

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“I started coming here four years ago and I am pleased that we have enjoyed a lot of support from Asia for our programmes,” he said on March 23 at one of many patron lunches at the Grand Hyatt. Guests at the lunch included major collectors from Hong Kong, Australia and Japan.

Charles Saumarez Smith, chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts, was also in Hong Kong ahead of major building work at the London institution. A bridge will link the two buildings that it owns, a large lecture theatre will be added and there will be an extra run of gallery spaces when a £49.8 million (HK$545 milllion) expansion is completed in 2018 to mark its 250th anniversary.

Speaking at The Peninsula hotel, which is showing the academy’s exhibition of Conrad Shawcross’ ADA Project, Smith said Mervyn Davies, who used to run Standard Chartered’s Asian operation out of Hong Kong, and David Tang were both trustees and both had helped the RA establish good links beyond companies with British roots. It’s more than just about raising cash, he said. It is also about helping to make sure RA projects are relevant to an international audience. “It is important to diversify, to make sure one’s not entirely European,” he said.