Art Basel in Hong Kong 2017

Our weekly edition from Art Basel in Hong Kong, including news, analysis, interviews and live reporting from the fair

Hong Kong’s ascendancy as an international art capital is undeniable, and we’ve got the high-profile fairs and events to prove it. Particularly since the launch of Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013, the city has welcomed more and more major art-world players to our shores, adding to an already vibrant local scene in which dozens of galleries exhibit the work of artists from near and far. If you’re keen to start planning your 2017 art adventures, look no further than our list of this year’s most anticipated art fairs.

When: 23–25 March 2017

Art Basel Hong Kong, the city’s biggest art fair, returns once again this March. Brace yourself for the busiest three days of the art world’s entire year, featuring hundreds of exhibitors, not to mention a similar number of cultural events around the city planned to coincide with Art Basel. Newly added to this year’s programme is the ‘Kabinett’ sector, which Art Basel Miami Beach veterans will be familiar with. Participating galleries will be each presenting a curated project in a dedicated area within their booth, which can feature thematic exhibitions, solo shows, and more. Tickets start at HK$180; buy them here.

Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong; +852 3128 8288, artbasel.com

It seems a very brief run for such a mighty production effort. This coming week, some 242 galleries from 24 countries across the world will be shipping works of art and people thousands of miles, designing booths, chivvying their artists, organising, curating, sending volleys of tempting publicity to clients. Not to mention the investment that entails. Meanwhile the fair’s organisers will have worked all year to create the framework and apparatus for the galleries’ various activities: everything from lighting to talks programmes and triggering a giant publicity machine.

All for a few short days in these strange modern-day souks. The shorter hours are a great relief to most galleries. Most sales are made, fast and furious, in the first (preview) day or even the first few hours: after that, galleries are effectively putting on a free show for the public whose (substantial) admission moneys go to the fair’s organisers, not to the galleries themselves. Last year a record 70,000 of the general public thronged the Hong Kong convention centre to gaze at the riches on display.

Yes, it’s a fine showcase, but the price points are extremely high and sales in the later days are considerably more sparse, often non-existent. The big buyers have already flown off like migrating birds, while weary gallery staff wait out the last couple of days with aching legs and smile-muscles, doing little more than dust and guard the work.

Though the rewards are great, it’s a risky proposition for all but the very biggest names: not every gallery makes enough sales to cover the mighty costs of attending an event like Art Basel. But the influence of art fairs stretches far beyond their time span and location. While their opening hours get shorter, fairs are looking to extend their reach into their host cities, not only during the fair’s run but around the year.