Tour Asia’s Hot Art Market
Art Basel Hong Kong
By Ingrid Chen
Art enthusiasts in Hong Kong had to wait until 2008 to quench their creative thirst. ART Hong Kong debuted that year and quickly rose to become the largest and arguably, the most important art event in Asia. Previously, many considered Hong Kong to be only a financial center, and a ‘cultural desert’. Within a few years after launching the art fair, Hong Kong was recognized as the art hub of Asia. In 2011, the art fair was acquired and rebranded as Art Basel Hong Kong (ART HK). Today, ART HK is the crown jewel of Asia’s art fairs and will take place March 24 – 26th.
The 2016 edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, now in its fourth year, brings in 239 galleries. Half of the galleries are from the Asia Pacific region. Each year, after the New York Armory Show, the art world turns its eyes to Hong Kong in March. The Art Basel brand combined with the potential of the Asia market, pulls in top galleries from around the world. Each gallery brings their best, or most sellable artists, to attract collectors in the region. Many galleries use the fair to test the water, before setting up their branches in Hong Kong.
For local artists, some believe Art Basel gives them the opportunity to showcase their work to a wider audience, and they thank Art Basel for injecting energy into the Hong Kong art scene, thus changing Hong Kong’s cultural landscape into a more global scope. Others complain that Art Basel only focuses on the commercial value of art, hence making Hong Kong merely an ‘art exchange’ instead of ‘creative hub’. It is true that many collectors see Art Basel HK as their access to works by internationally renowned artist, rather than a platform to see Hong Kong’s local art. To many, Art Basel is like a bottle of good wine, it has a full body and a wonderful finish, but it does not reflect the terroir of Hong Kong. Rather, what Art Basel reflects is Hong Kong’s struggle between global competitiveness and local approval.
What to See
Kung Fu in Africa: Golden Age Hand-Painted Movie Posters from Ghana (1985-1999) Hanart TZ Gallery, 401 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central
A selection of outstanding examples of the unique genre of hand-painted movie posters, by master African artisan-painters from Ghana. This exhibition presents a rare and singular perspective on China through these artists’ interpretations of martial arts. The exhibition is curated by Los Angeles-based specialist, Ernie Wolfe III.
Art Basil Unit S401, Block A, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central
Claiming to be ‘the smallest art fair in the world’, Art Basil has invited 9 locally based illustrators to participate. Each of them pays tribute to commercially successful artists such as Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. Without sponsorship or support from established galleries, Art Basil is trying to revise the possibilities of organizing an ‘art fair’.
HK Walls in Sham Shui Po
HK Walls is an annual street art festival, using the façade of several buildings in Sham Shui Po area as canvases. Both local and international artists showcase their works on the streets, turning Sham Shui Po into a roofless gallery.
Eat and Drink
A hidden gem in Shui On Centre, just across the road from the venue’s old wing, serves fusion Cantonese food without the usual fusion restaurant price tag. Most of their dishes are less than 20 USD. Many of its signature dishes took inspirations from the local cha chaan teng (tea restaurant) menu, which is the symbol of Hong Kong’s quickly disappearing past. Cha Chaan Teng could be very intimidating for visitors who can’t read Chinese, and their waiters often only communicate in Cantonese. So Kasa is a great alternative to experience the Cha Chaan Teng culture in Hong Kong, and their food not only adds finesse to the local dishes,but also a little creative twist.
I recommend ordering Arancini to start, followed by a burger, and finish with a molten duck-yolk custard lava cake, and a cup of Hong Kong milk tea in a ‘Live for Ten Thousand Years’ cup. The Arancini is similar to risotto with Cantonese claypot rice and preserved sausages, the burger features Char Siu honey roasted pork with ginger mayonnaise and a sunny-side-up fried egg (the best friend of Char Siu), encased in a local favorite - pineapple bun. The lava cake took a turn from the lava bun in dim sum menus and replaced the chocolate with duck-yolk custard. Enjoy the moment when the luscious golden custard slowly ooze out…
Ingrid Chen is a Hong Kong based translator and arts journalist.