As Time Out notes, Hong Kong is the world’s third largest art market in terms of auction sales. The number of visitors streaming through the doors at last year’s ART HK event – taken over and replaced by Art Basel – is an indicator to the market’s recent growth. In 2008, ART HK’s first year, 19,000 showed up. By 2012, the number had jumped to 67,000. This year is likely to continue the trend.
While Hong Kong’s strength has traditionally been Chinese modern art, there is a growing presence of Western artists. Even if it was a slight drop in sales, Sotheby’s Hong Kong still raked in HK$2.05 billion ($263 million) in sales from one art and wine showing last autumn.
“For a long time Hong Kong has been the market point of entry of mainland Chinese contemporary artists – and while they have had mass appeal in the last decade, some local Hong Kong and regional artists are being recognized,” Saunderson said, mentioning Halley Cheung (winner of the Young Artist Prize at the Asia Contemporary Art show last year) and Jims Lam (who won the Hong Kong Art Prize this year).Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
With today’s inaugural Art Basel event, Hong Kong will cement its reputation as an art hub. The four-day event is considered the world’s premier art show – only held in Switzerland and the U.S. until now – in which more than 3,000 artists from across the globe and 245 top galleries will come together to exhibit some of the world’s most progressive art. The event takes up where ART HK left off.
But having a large art market does not equate to having refined sensibilities. As Time Out suggests, Hong Kong’s art scene is held back to a degree by a handful of niggling factors. Namely, the city’s art community has a conservative streak, carries political baggage linked to the Mainland, suffers from a lack of meaningful critique and is prohibitively expensive for gallery owners paying rent in one of the world’s frothiest real estate markets.
“Hong Kong has a good, interested audience for contemporary art, but I don’t think there’s enough of an educated audience for conceptual art [yet],” said Pui Pui To, founder of 2P Contemporary Art Gallery. “A lot of people who come by the gallery would be like ‘what’s this?’ The educated audiences are usually those who are already involved in the art world, like curators and writers; many of them come from overseas.”
Still, momentum is building and Hong Kong is coming into its own, thanks in large part to the massive art happening each May, which grows by the year.
“One learns about art through having the opportunity to see it, and I think historically in Hong Kong, there had been very few opportunities to see modern and contemporary art in an institutional setting,” Art Basel Asia director Magnus Renfrew told Time Out. “But that’s changing.”
In a separate interview, he adds, “I think the cultural ecology of Hong Kong is really starting to come together.”