An intricately floral patterned cobalt glazed ceramic piece occupies almost the entirety of a wall at the booth of Berlin and Istanbul-based gallery Zilberman Gallery. Entitled Hatayi (2017) by Turkish artist Burçak Bingöl, its elaborate pattern and blue glaze evoked the longstanding trade ties between the East and the Far East. “This work is more relevant to a Chinese context,” says the artist. “It is an original 16th century piece from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and there’s a reference to the Iznik tiles here showing how Chinese visual vocabulary has been connected to Ottoman art for hundreds of years. It wasn’t just trade that was moving along the Silk Road but also the creative arts.” Bingöl’s works sold in a range of $5,000-90,000.
Such an historical understanding of the connection between the East and the Far East was a theme relayed by several galleries representing Middle Eastern artists at this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong. “This is the seventh time we are participating at the fair,” said the gallery’s founder Moiz Zilberman who also celebrated the gallery’s 10-year anniversary. “We were here when it was just Art Hong Kong. We made several sales and are negotiating with several institutions. It’s the most important fair for us because we can easily show our conceptual art and have it be understood,” says the gallerist who came straight from Art Dubai.
Burçak Bingöl, 'History and Geography Series - Caspian Sea / Shah Kulu', 2019. Courtesy of Zilberman Gallery
Sabrina Amrani, a gallery based in Madrid, showed work by Korean Jong Oh in the Discoveries section, a place to “discover” young and emerging artists. His delicate works, made in white cardboard and the light, nearly invisible metal chains, created geometric configurations hanging in mid-air. In contrast, the gallery presented a large-scale installation by Joel Andrianomearisoa in the Encounters section. Entitled The Cartographies of Desire, the space between us (2019), the artist will represent Madagascar at this year’s upcoming Venice Biennale in the country’s first-ever pavilion. “This year has been very positive for us,” says Amrani. “It’s a confirmation for us that we belong in Asia – that it’s another platform for us and our artists. We’ve sold several pieces to a major institution in Australia and several pieces to a Chinese collector.”
Based in London and Istanbul Pi Artworks is regular fixture at many an art fair. The gallery has been coming to Hong Kong for nine years now. “I like it here because I have the opportunity to connect to the entire region,” says founder Jade Turanli. “This fair I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with a gallery from Korea and from Beijing, China and also one from Auckland, New Zealand.” Presented in the center of the booth was a gleaming geometrical sculptural work by Turkish artist Mehmet Ali Uysal in the center (another work by the artist was recently unveiled in Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics) aligned by works in various media on the wall by Selma Parlour, Fatma Bucak, Susan Hefuna, Kemal Seyhan and Fahrettin Orenli.
Installation view, 'The Cartographies of Desire, the space between us', Joël Andrianomearisoa, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Sabrina Amrani. Photo credit: Kitmin Lee
Dubai’s only representative was The Third Line, an Art Basel Hong Kong regular for over three years (check). Artists Yousef Nabil, Farah Al Qasimi, Farhad Moshiri and Hassan Hajjaj offered a taste of edgy Middle Eastern beauty to the Asian art scene. The gallery sold photographic works by Emirati artist Farah Al Qasimi in the range of $4,000 to $5,000; a Hassan Hajjaj photograph for £8,000; and a multimedia work by Sophia Al Maria for £8,000. “It gets better each year,” said the gallery’s Sunny Rahbar. “The collectors we’ve sold to are mainly Australian and European but based in Hong Kong and that’s great because we know the works will stay here.”
The gallery also presented the first public launch of Negus, a sound installation by Yasiin Bey. The piece, which was produced by Lord Tusk, Steven Julien and ACyde and recorded in London in 2015, was presented at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre as an immerse listening experience. Guests turned off their phones and donned big earphones marked by red lights and ventured outside on the terrace overlooking the harbour. A collective experience that brought strangers together united by their love for art, Negus also marked the launch of EMIT, The Third Line’s initiative presenting experimental music, time-based media and immersive multimedia installations.
Farah Al Qasimi, 'It’s Not Easy Being Seen 2', 2016, Archival inkjet print. Courtesy of The Third Line
Tunis and London-based Selma Feriani showed for the first time in the Galleries section, presenting an eye-catching booth. “We selected five artists: Maha Malluh, Catalina Swinburn, Hadieh Shafie, Jellel Gasteli and Farid Belkahia and sold their work to collectors from the US, Australia, China, the UK and Japan,” said Feriani. “The common narrative between these selected artists articulates a sense of urgency and a mode of resistance through a fragmented identity to be reconstructed. Using found and used objects the artists attempt to repair what they have lost. This is our third year at Art Basel Hong Kong and we love the energy here and the curiosity of local collectors to discover new artists with a different approach and practice.” Catalina Swiburn’s woven paper sculptures sold to London and Asian collectors in the range of $25,000-35,000; Hadie Shafie’s stacked paper installations with various renditions of the Perisan word “Eshgh” meaning “love” sold for $21,000; Saudi artist Maha Malluh’s works made from everyday objects such as Bloom (2019), made from unique porcelain dishes, and Mansooj (2019) created with old cassette tapes, sold in the range of $38,000-$40,000.
Maha Malluh, 'Bloom', 2019, Dishes. Courtesy of Selma Feriani
On the other side, lots of newcomers to this year’s edition told of international names eager to enter the Asian market. “We have an almost all-star rookies line-up from the West, including Matthew Marks, Paula Cooper, Max Hetzler and Richard Nagy, the latter which brought a whole booth of Egon Schiele works,” said Fair Director Adeline Ooi. “Matthew Marks brought Ellsworth Kelly – we’ve not seen Kelly in Asia like this. Galleries brought their jewels in the crown here this year. The fact that they are bringing these works to Asia tells of their confidence in this market.” Here the Far East meets the rest of the world and the sparkle here, despite the rocky undertones of an unstable international socio-economic market, spelled much comforting promise.
Lead image: Chiharu Shiota, 'Where Are We Going?', 2017 – 2018. Courtesy of Templon Gallery