Hong Kong: Asia’s New Art Capital?
Image Credit: Asia Contemporary Art Show (October 2012);

Hong Kong: Asia’s New Art Capital?


Since May 2, visitors to Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour who have come to take in the stunning view of the city’s magnificent skyline and mountainous backdrop have been greeted by an eye-catching addition: a 16.5-meter-tall inflatable rubber duck bobbing in the bay.

After being deflated for “maintenance” for a week, prompting a bout of collective despair, the giant inflatable fowl is back. The aptly named Rubber Duck Project is a quirky art piece set free to float in the bay until June 9 by Dutch artist Florentijin Hofman as part of the city’s massive art week – month, really – currently underway.

The month of May is shaping up to be an annual artistic tour de force for Hong Kong, with galleries across the city displaying increasingly sophisticated and globally relevant exhibitions, both catering to the city’s burgeoning art market and elevating the overall aesthetic consciousness of the city.

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Aside from catching the eyeballs of visitors to Victoria Harbour, Hofman’s duck alludes to a deeper point. During Hong Kong’s manufacturing heyday in the 1970s, rubber ducks of the bathtub variety were a major revenue generator for the city. Today, the blown-up version plying the polluted waters of the harbor heralds the arrival of a different market force: modern art.

Hong Kong’s presence in this mega-market is growing by the year. It will receive another massive boost today with the kick-off of the first, hotly anticipated Art Basel fair.

“The turnout at this time of year has always been strong; however I think that the buzz around Art Basel Hong Kong will have a significant effect on the caliber of international collectors,” Mark Saunderson, co-founder and Director of the Asia Contemporary Art Show, told The Diplomat.

Our-Soil,-Our-Homes_-by-Birdy,-Chu-Shun---100-x-80-cm---Acrylic-with-Photograhpy-on-canvasArt Basel is but one of Hong Kong’s many epic shows currently underway. A number of other galleries – both local and non – also hold numerous satellite shows this week, selling art that ranges from the traditional to the bleeding edge. A list can be seen here.

The Asia Contemporary Art Show is one of the largest. Inaugurated last year, it managed to bring together around 60 galleries and attract more than 5,500 visitors. This year’s show, to be held on four floors of the JW Marriott, will feature more than 70 rooms with 2,000 artworks produced by young, emerging and mid-career artists, aimed at slightly more budget-conscious collectors. The show is one of many, and more will come.

“The arrival of international auction houses, followed by the international ‘big boys’ Gagosian, White Cube, Perrotin have changed the landscape from sleepy Chinese contemporary back water to one of the most exciting frontiers for art – the market is in the East,” Saunderson said. “With rear guard action by government and playing regional catch up, with M+ and development of West Kowloon Cultural District, the Asia region offers an established base of serious buyers and collectors.” And importantly, he adds, there waits “in the wings a broader educated and aspiring public.”

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