A spring of Art in Hong Kong
ART & DESIGN
Spring heralds the season of art in Hong Kong. Like flower buds, art shows proliferate all over the island, culminating in Art Basel Hong Kong ( www. artbasel. com) and Art Central ( artcentralhongkong.com). Entering their fifth and third editions respectively, both are a statement of how important the Hong Kong art market is. And how far it’s come.
Of the two, Art Basel Hong Kong has more clout. This is where all the big names, from The Gagosian to South Africa’s Goodman Gallery are, illustrating its global reach. Room is also given to rising stars in the intimate Kabinet spaces. While Art Basel is housed in the cavernous Hong Kong Convention Centre, Art Central sets up shop in two giant tents in a field. Billed as more accessible, it focuses on newer talent across Greater China and Asia. “The main difference between the two is age – Art Central skews towards younger artists – and price – usually ‘ friendlier’ to firsttime buyers,” says Angela Li, of Contemporary by Angela Li, whose pieces, including LV Shanchuan’s dramatic textural paint depictions of Seoul and Li Hongbo’s Slinkylike Fortune paper vases, which start at US$5,000 (RM22,000).
The galleries come from all over world because of the importance of Hong Kong as Asia’s central node of art. “This is where the big galleries and auction houses are. The money might come from elsewhere, but this is where they meet,” says Wonjoon Lee of Gallery Hyundai. Isabel Croxatto, who brought artists Miss Van, Cecilia Avendano and the delicate fractal
Room is also given to rising stars in the intimate Kabinet spaces.
One of the 17 large-scale installations forming the fair’s Encounters series, a maze of bamboo scaffolding turns into a meditation of birth, life and death through five 3D- printed bonsai trees scattered throughout the path that bud, grow then finally shed their polyester leaves. The sheets are made out of handmade paper beaten into shape with 20 spices and herbs. Each sheet indicates the weight of the spices used and their origin, as a musing on how vast and global this unappreciated trade is.
Over at the tents of Art Central, trade was equally active. The ‘easier’ prices contribute to that, starting at US$1,500. With the artists generally on the ascent, that frees them up more. “I’m happy just being here. It’s lovely,” says British artist Sinta Tantra, whose vibrant, geometric paintings were at the Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery. “But yes, I have sold a few pieces,” she adds with a wink.
Money, however, is not always the motive. Thomas Brambilla from Bergamo, Italy brought a single piece to Art Basel Hong Kong – a recreation of a church cloister by Edoardo Piermatti. An oasis of calm reverence, the three-metre tall structure is certainly not commercial. And that’s the point.
“I don’t expect to sell this,” says Brambilla. “It is my first time in Asia. For me, this experience is not about money. It is about educating and inspiring. So instead of a painting I could sell, I brought a little piece of Italy here with me.” ≠
installation – part of the Projects collection curated by Jims Lam Chi Hang – sees suspended pebbles arranged in spirals descending mechanically on a massive drum below in sequence, creating an aural and visual effective that is supremely arresting. Confronting gender, religious and political stereotypes, artist Anida Yoeu Ali roams around the fair floor in her vibrant red chador, a traditional Muslim headcloth, carrying signs shouting out Ban Me!, Nasty Woman, I Am A Muslim and Je Suis Hong Kong, an in-your-face force of public demonstration.