Art Basel Hong Kong: A Preview

BY Anna Brady / Mar 19 2017 / 21:14 PM

Now in its fifth year, the bold youngest child of the Art Basel franchise opens this week with an ever broader mix of art from across the world, including a strong showing of Middle Eastern and African works

Art Basel Hong Kong: A Preview
Hong Kong
Art Basel Hong Kong: A Preview
Etel Adnan. Inkpots with Signs, 2015. Ink and watercolor on paper. © Etel Adnan Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris. Exhibited in Kabinett.

Art Basel Hong Kong (23-25 March) is proof, if it were needed, of an increasingly globalised art market. At five years old this is, perhaps, the youngest but perhaps most varied of all three of the Art Basel fairs in terms of the geographical origin of the works on show. “Regional art”, traditional art world parlance for non-western art, made in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East (ironically, vast swathes of the world), has in the past been largely confined to special curated sections of fairs, often introduced for the purpose of showing a broader range. But as these smaller markets grow, this ‘regional art’ is being subsumed into to the mainstream and into the main sections of fairs, something particularly evident at a fair like Art Basel Hong Kong (ABHK) which, in part because of its location, is a melting pot of cultures.

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016

Running from 23-25 March, it’s a short fair, echoing a trend for shorter events as attention spans grow shorter and the calendar more cramped (The Armory, TEFAF Maastricht and Art Dubai have already been shoehorned into March). But the dates are deceptive; before the official public opening day on Wednesday, there are two days of VIP previews before that and many of the big collectors and art world big wigs will have flown home before the official opening day on Thursday.

Although so young, ABHK has mushroomed and is now the centre of a hectic week of satellite fairs, exhibitions, film screenings and other events across this already frenetic, condensed city. There are 242 participating galleries from 34 countries, half of which have premises in Asia and the Asia Pacific region, and among them 29 new exhibitors such as Waddington Custot from London, A+ Contemporary of Shanghai and Dubai’s The Third Line.

Monir Farmanfarmaian. Untitled (Heptagon). 2016. Mirror and reverse glass painting on plexiglass. The Third Line. Image Courtesy of The Artist and The Third Line, Dubai

There’s a growing presence of works from across the MENA region at ABHK, both exhibited by galleries from the region and by those from elsewhere taking an interest in its artists. Four galleries have spaces in the Middle East and Africa: Selma Feriani Gallery of Tunisia and Goodman Gallery, from South Africa, alongside the Dubai galleries Lawrie Shabibi and The Third Line who will exhibit the work of Hamra Abbas and Shahpour Pouyan (Lawrie Shabibi) and Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (The Third Line).

Meanwhile two galleries shed light on the works of MENA artists in Kabinett, a concept new to Hong Kong but familiar to those who visit the Miami event, wherein 19 exhibitors in the main Galleries sector use a portion of their booth for a mini curated project. Galerie Lelong, based in Paris and New York, will show works on paper and new paintings by Lebanese American artist and writer Etel Adnan, including a leporello, paper folded like an accordion covered in Adnan’s poetry illustrated with her drawings. London and Hong Kong-based Rossi & Rossi, meanwhile, show photographs by the late Abbas Kiarostami, an Iranian artist and film director, from his Snow Series (2002) shot in Iran, minimal images that quietly celebrate the country’s landscape.

Hamra Abbas. Place. Labour. Capital, 2016. Paint on silk. 21 x 29.7 cm. Courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist

Lawrie Shabibi take part within the Insights sector, dedicated to 27 galleries showing work by artists from Asia and the Asia Pacific region (including the Middle East). Like The Third Line, the gallery comes straight from Art Dubai, as does Aicon Gallery from New York, a first-time exhibitor also within Insights. Aicon’s exhibition Less is More – Geometry and Repetition in the Other Minimalism groups which, as the name suggests, groups minimalist works by three artists from South Asia and the Middle East; Anila Quayyum Agha from Pakistan, Saad Qureshi from the UK and Algerian artist Rachid Koraichi.

Saad Qureshi
. Handful of Landscape
. 2015
. Charcoal, pastel, Indian ink, brick dust on gaboon plywood
. Image courtesy of Aicon Gallery

A nod to the growing exploration of virtual reality by artists, the fruits of a new collaboration between Google Arts & Culture and Art Basel will be presented in Hong Kong. Titled Virtual Frontiers: Artists experimenting with Tilt Brush, this presentation includes five new virtual reality artworks created by the artists boychild, Cao Fei, Robin Rhode, Sun Xun and Yang Yongliang using Google’s Tilt Brush, a 3D drawing and painting application, during residencies in Beijing and Paris. Marc Spiegler, Art Basel's Global Director, says Virtual Frontiers “extends Art Basel's interest in the digital realm and how artists approach this topic on different levels”, allowing artists to “experiment with new technology and to expand their practice into another dimension.”

Another collaboration is the BMW Art Journey, supporting emerging artists. This year’s winner is British artist Abigail Reynolds, represented by Rokeby, who was awarded the prize last year and spent her journey visiting the lost libraries along the Silk Road. The fruits of her experience, ‘The Ruins of Time: Lost Libraries of the Silk Road’, will be unveiled in the Discoveries sector of ABHK for emerging artists. And for those interesting in the statistics of the art world, on 22 March, Dr Clare McAndrew, previously author of the TEFAF Art Market report, will release her first Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report following her surprise move to Art Basel last year.

Art Basel Hong Kong runs from 23-25 March at the Hong Kong Convention Center (HKCEC). For more details and a full programme see