Art Basel Arrives in Hong Kong

Athens-based Bernier/Eliades gallery at Art Basel Hong Kong. (Courtesy MCH Messe Schweiz)

Art Basel continues its expansion, adding yet another stop on the global art calendar. Post-Frieze New York and pre-Venice, it’s all about Hong Kong, where the first edition of Art Basel Hong Kong opened to the public today. The Swiss company that owns Art Basel entered the Asian market with a splash in 2011 with its acquisition of Asian Art Fairs, the organizers of ART HK. Last year’s edition of that fair, established in 2008, kept the ART HK name, but now the neon pink-and-gray rebrand is complete, and 245 galleries (more than half from Asia and the Asia-Pacific region) have converged on the Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Center for the third event in the Art Basel empire.

“The debut of Art Basel in Hong Kong is but one example of the global reach of today’s art world, and yet I have to think that Art Basel Hong Kong forces a confrontation with its locale in ways that differ from Art Basel Miami, perhaps, or even Art Basel in Basel,” said Pauline Yao, curator at the new M+ museum, at Sunday’s kickoff panel at the Asia Society Center in Hong Kong. “Perhaps this stems from an appreciation of difference and a desire to have a more nuanced understanding of the context here and as well to recognize that Hong Kong has its own legacy of artistic production.” Yao also pointed to the “topophilia” of Hong Kong. “There’s a strong sense of place or love for a certain kind of place which overwhelmingly becomes mixed with a cultural identity,” she said. “So even if we admit that the power of place is increasingly diminished and occasionally lost here it certainly thrives, with implications that are quite complex.”