As the art world descended on Hong Kong for five days of Art Basel and the dizzying collection of satellite shows that piggyback on the main event, the art market held its breath wondering if the region’s economic slowdown would translate into fewer sales compared to last year’s spree.
Serious art lovers, however, obviously found moments of inspiration – particularly at the top end of the spectrum, thanks to ambitious works by the likes of Michaël Borremans at David Zwirner (all five of his paintings sold on day one to Asian collectors) and Iranian artist Shirazeh Houshiary’s abstract Raintree etchings at Singapore Tyler Print Institute.
Elsewhere, the middle market galleries, whose works were decidedly less glitzy than last year, found the going a little more challenging. Despite this, there were gems to be found, including South Korean artist Ham Kyungah’s statement-making Chandeliers for Five Cities, a collection of tapestries secretly created by North Korean textile workers.
Gallerist Pearl Lam put on a good show, with an extravagant collection of mixed media including Self-Portrait with Red by Antony Micallef; as did Pace Beijing with a mesmerising digital video work by teamLab, and KaiKai Kiki’s works by Aya Takano and Mr.
As in previous years, however, some of the most innovative cultural offerings were to be found outside of the main fair. Must-sees include the surreal film installation Duilian at Spring Workshop by the artist Wu Tsang, based on her decade-long research into a Han Chinese revolutionary beheaded by the Qing government in 1907; and art hub Duddells' collaboration with the Dallas Museum of Art, presenting emerging artist Margaret Lee’s works.
Meanwhile, Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima’s monumental Time Waterfall façade light installation did battle with the heavy rain clouds that shrouded the International Commerce Centre at Kowloon Station, while on the same side of the harbour, British artist Conrad Shawcross’ mathematics-inspired robotic light sculpture entranced guests at The Peninsula hotel. Across town, Los Angeles artist Larry Bell transformed Pacific Place mall with three enormous reflective glass cubes.
Art Central's Stiff & Trevillion-designed waterfront tent was also well worth a detour, with Elaine Yan Ling Ng’s beguiling Sundew installation for Swarovski; Hong Kong gallery Sin Sin’s extraordinary Growth drawing of roots by Indonesian artist Dwi Setianto; and Sundaram Tagore Gallery’s collection of tactile works by Jane Lee. We were also particularly taken with New Zealand gallery PAULNACHE’s architectural installation Wall Hang; and The Cat Street Gallery’s playful lacquer carvings by Shanghainese artist Jacky Tsai.
With so much happening across the city, it came as no surprise that Art Basel has announced its intention to expand its focus from art fairs to help a selection of global locations (yet to be announced) to develop their cultural landscapes.