It seems that everyone wants to be in Hong Kong these days. During Art Basel in Hong Kong, three international galleries are set to inaugurate their new branches in the city all within the same H Queen’s buildings. Hauser & Wirth will inaugurate its first space in Asia on 26 March; David Zwirner opened late January with a show of new paintings by Michaël Borremans; and then Pace Gallery will open its second space in Hong Kong also on 26 March with works by Yoshitomo Nara. “Everyone thinks the largest amount of collectors come from Mainland China but it isn’t true—the biggest collector base is from Hong Kong,” says Adeline Ooi, now in her fourth year as director of the fair.
Clearly, there’s a buzz in Hong Kong at the moment as the city aspires to be a global cultural hub on par with London and New York. While there’s a host of international galleries in the vibrant city, it’s clear that the local scene is taking longer to evolve: there aren’t any major modern or contemporary art museums open yet to the public. M+, the 40,000-square-metre museum set to launch in 2019 in the long-delayed West Kowloon Cultural District, might change this.
Adeline Ooi, Director Asia, Art Basel © Art Basel
This year’s Art Basel Hong Kong features a strong presentation by galleries from Asia that have graduated to the main sector of the show, reflecting the further strengthening and broadening of the art scenes across Asia. If Hong Kong can serve as the meeting place for the Asian art scene at large, this in itself might spur greater local development at home. “It feels this year that the mission [of the fair] is to highlight how more Asian art is coming together,” adds Ooi.
Prominent returning galleries will be joined by 28 first-time exhibitors, including 14 with spaces in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, such as Asia Art Centre in Taipei and Beijing; Capsule Shanghai, Don Gallery and MadeIn Gallery from Shanghai; Dastan’s Basement from Tehran; Gallery Baton from Seoul; Gallery Espace from New Delhi; Gow Langsford Gallery from Auckland; Johyun Gallery in Busan and Seoul; Maho Kubota Gallery from Tokyo; Mori Yu Gallery in Kyoto and Tokyo; Öktem&Aykut from Istanbul; and Wooson from Daegu.
This year, more than half of Kabinett, a sector for specially curated presentations now in its second year, presents works by Asian-Pacific artists, notes Ooi. “It is interesting for the market given how relatively new they are.” This edition also sees unusually strong participation from India in all sectors of the fair—further underlining the reach across the Asia-Pacific region. Indian galleries participating include Chemould Prescott Road, Experimenter, Nature Morte and Vadehra Art Gallery in Galleries; Gallery Espace and Sakshi Gallery in Insights; Jhaveri Contemporary; GALLERYSKE; and Tarq in the Discoveries section.
Chant Avedissian. P1-Ottoman textile leaves, ancient Egyptian stars, 3 circles
“Collectors from India and the Middle East are increasing in their participation—it’s one positive response after the next,” says Ooi. “Collectors from Indian love coming to Hong Kong. We have more in common than you think. It’s about crossing language boundaries and cultural boundaries to be able to share art and aesthetics.” As for Middle Eastern participation, the presence of Dastan’s Basement signals the first time that an Iranian gallery will participate in an Art Basel show. The gallery will show works by young Iranian artist Sam Samiee, based between Tehran and Amsterdam.
Dusseldorf’s Kadel Willborn, participating for the second time at the fair, also in the Discoveries section, will present work by Emirati artist Ayan Farah. “The beautiful thing about Ayan Farah’s work is that the visual level and the conceptual background of her work are equally strong and beautiful at the same time,” says the gallery’s Moritz Willborn. “The works have a strong reference to Modern abstract painting even though she never uses a brush.
The combination of soil and clay from all around the world and the act of traveling there herself to get the materials is for us something very fascinating and contemporary, and in a way, a synonym of a globalised world.” Farah’s installation will comprise textile and ceramic works made from earth and water that she collected in African border territories, including regions between Somaliland, Ghana, Morocco and the Western Sahara.
Chant Avedissian. B11 - Ancient Egyptian pattern, dark grey triangles on white
Madrid-based Sabrina Amrani, participating in both Galleries and Kabinett, will feature the abstract and geometric works of Egyptian-Armenian artist Chant Avedissian. In his work he reexamines the use of motifs and icons in addition to patterns and designs to reflect the essence of Egypt’s culture and identity. “We believe he has been under represented and we want to take this opportunity to showcase his work in an important fair like Art Basel,” says the gallery’s Jal Hamad. Amrani presented the artist’s works at Abu Dhabi Art and in a solo exhibition at its Madrid space. “Avedissian was always inspired by the East. He has now refined his work and gone back to its essence—to his work with signs that inspired him in the past.”
From Dubai, The Third Line returns for its second year in the Galleries sector, showing work by Iranian Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Brtish Rana Begum and Qatari-American Sophia Al Maria. New York’s Aicon Gallery, specialising in work from South Asia, will present in the Insights sector a booth of calligraphy-based works by Algerian Rachid Koraïchi as well as new works by Pakistani Adeela Suleman. “We are literally stretching the map of Asia over to the West,” notes Ooi enthusiastically. “The fair has previously been perceived as very Asian-centric. India is key for me, as is the Middle East. The histories of India and Middle East are intertwined with greater Asia—it’s one big family!”
Art Basel Hong Kong runs 29-31 March. Artbasel.com