Art Basel sells out and Art Central jam-packed as record crowds flock to Hong Kong’s art fairs
A huge weekend for Hong Kong, with more than 70,000 attending the annual artistic extravaganzas
Tickets for Art Basel Hong Kong were sold out by the afternoon yesterday, as on the day before, a first in the art fair’s four-year history and a sign of the public’s ferocious appetite for cutting-edge visual art.
At around 3pm yesterday, walk-in visitors arriving at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai were taken aback when staff told them they would have to come back next year.
“I’ve come all the way from Los Angeles. I wish they’d make an exception for foreign visitors. I am really disappointed,” said a Chinese-American who identified herself only as Wendy.
She said she often visited art fairs in other countries and this was the first time she had been turned away.
“I will probably have to try Art Central instead,” she said, referring to the second-largest art fair in
Hong Kong that occupies a large, white marquee on the harbourfront.
But the queue there was also very long. Art Central logged 32,000 visitors this year – 2,000 more than its 2015 inaugural fair. The sunny weather helped draw a particularly large crowd.
Art Basel organisers said a record 70,000 visited, 10,000 more than last year. The two halls could not hold more people without risking damage to the works on display, they said.
Exhibitors were pleasantly surprised. They admitted feeling nervous at the start of the week because China’s slowing growth and the long Easter weekend were expected to put a damper on both sales and visitor numbers.
“We had the best opening day ever in Hong Kong and we are still selling,” said Julia Joern, a partner at David Zwirner gallery in New York. Not all exhibitors were as ebullient, saying sales turned out to be satisfactory despite the downturn making buyers less impulsive.
Walk-ins were unlikely to be major buyers since most collectors would have received VIP cards for previews on Tuesday and Wednesday before the public were allowed in from Thursday afternoon.
But most galleries said selling was only one of their objectives in Hong Kong, as the sheer number of visitors made it a good platform to make their artists more visible in the region.