Now in its fifth edition, Art Basel Hong Kong has become a firm annual fixture on the city’s cultural – and art collector’s – map. With almost 80,000 visitors and surprisingly robust sales reported on opening night, this edition featured a stronger selection of works than previous years, and noticeably less bling on show by 242 galleries from 34 countries.
Not that there weren’t plenty of crowd-pleasing works. Shen Shaomin’s Summit (2009) presented by Osage Gallery featured an ‘imaginary meeting’ of Ho Chi Minh, II-sung, Mao Zedong, Vladimir Lenin in crystal coffins with Fidel Castro still alive in a hospital bed. Sundaram Tagore Gallery showed Singaporean Jane Lee’s Instagram-worthy oozing thick oil paintings while at Mind Set Art Centre’s booth, Taiwanese artist Shi Jin-hua drew 100km of pencil lines over a 10m long canvas; and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s traditional bamboo structure containing 3D-printed bonsai trees drew a crowd.
There was plenty of Asian work on show led by Galerie du Monde’s showing of the historically important Fifth Moon Group; KaiKai Kiki’s Mr’s new kawaii-meets-destruction installation; STPI’s paper rubbings by Do Ho Suh; and Tina Keng Gallery’s Chinese Emperor 7 by Wang Huaiqing.
Notable highlights included Mexico City institution Kurimanzutto’s architecture-inspired brass installation; Galerie Gmurzynska showing new work by Fernando Botero; and Lucio Fontana’s slashed colourful canvases at Ben Brown.
Beyond the monolithic Convention Centre, hundreds of exhibitions across town included a stellar ‘Abstractions of the World’ collaboration with the Biennale of Sydney at Duddell’s while at Pacific Place, German media artist Julius Popp introduced Bit.Fall featuring digital information captured from newsfeeds in real time transformed into water droplets that are glimpsed for a fraction of a second in a 9m-tall curtain of water.
Untitled, by George Tjungurrayi, 2014, on view as part of Duddell’s collaboration with the Biennale of Sydney
At M+ Pavilion, 'Ambiguously Yours: Gender in Hong Kong Popular Culture' (until 21 May) explores how local artists challenged traditional gender roles as the city’s culture blossomed during the 1980s and 1990s.
Wong Chuk Hang saw HK Walls annual street-art festival with public mural paintings and a face-off battle between artists, while Spring Workshop marked its final year with a mesmerising musical experience titled ‘An exposition, not an exhibition’ by American composer and artist Ari Benjamin Meyers.
For design lovers, ArtisTree in Taikoo Place is showing Zaha Hadid’s creative process through early drawings and sketches at an exhibition conceived by the late architect and artistic director of London’s Serpentine Gallery, Hans Ulrich Obrist (until 6 April).
Art Central’s airy white tents on the waterfront again proved popular with works by Indonesian artist Uji Handoko Eko Saputro who divided his painting into 2002 pieces to be sold to the public, Sin Sin gallery’s showing of Cuban artist Carlos García de la Nuez’s paintings; and Yuri Suzuki’s intriguing Sharevari interactive sound installation for Swarovski.
Happily, some of very best works were staged in the public domain: at the Peninsula Hotel, Royal Academy conceptual artist Sir Michael Craig-Martin created an intense yellow 4m high steel light bulb sculpture suspended above the hotel’s iconic entrance water feature, while local artist Kingsley Ng transformed two city trams into free moving artworks with his Twenty-Five Minutes Older.