It’s the perennial question: how do you start with a blank canvas and end up with a multimillion-pound product? In just over a decade, Hong Kong’s art market has grown to the third-largest in the world, behind only New York and London. Fairs and galleries have blossomed in the city – and the local and street art scenes are thriving alongside them.
Much of Hong Kong’s art market has its origins in the Art HK art fair, set up in 2008 to spark investor interest in Hong Kong – the perfect location for China’s burgeoning art investors, as well as established western investors with a taste for contemporary Chinese art. The fair was a hit, and in 2013 Art Basel bought out Art HK, propelling it to international prominence. The annual show, this year running 29-31 March, is the keystone of the city’s art calendar – and its success has led a host of other art fairs to grace the city: Art Central is timed to coincide with Art Basel, but aims for a more Asian focus; the twice-yearly Asia Contemporary Art Fair is a far more intimate affair set over several floors of the Conrad Hotel; while May’s Affordable Art Fair is aimed squarely at first-time buyers. Auctions at Sotheby’s and have set global records, trading everything from pink diamonds to Warhols and whiskies.
Meanwhile, the gallery scene is booming, with international blue chip galleries moving into the Central business district: London’s White Cube and New York’s Gagosian and Lehmann Maupin, to name just a few, all occupy the few hundred square meters that mark the city’s most desirable retail real estate.
The brand new H Queen’s tower in the heart of Central is focused on luxury retail and art, with a prominent ground-floor exhibition space and skyscraping galleries from international names including Hauser & Wirth, Pace and David Zwirner. While you’re in the area, the venerable Pedder Building has long been home to some of the city’s most prestigious galleries, and a trip through its corridors can leave behind a score of happy gallerists.
Made in Hong Kong
While the international brands flood in, Hong Kong’s home-grown galleries are also fighting their way up. Once upon a time, the city’s galleries were to be found exclusively around the Hollywood Road strip of arts and antiques stores. But rising rents have forced many farther afield, and the recent opening of the MTR’s South Island tube line is gradually transforming the formerly industrial district of Wong Chuk Hang into a brand new arts hub. Housed in former warehouse buildings, galleries and artists are now able to spread their wings with large-scale installations and exhibitions that were never previously feasible. The South Island Cultural District, as it’s become known, holds the twice yearly South Island Art Day to draw people in to this hive of new, Hong Kong-focused creativity.
The sixth edition of Art Basel Hong Kong is underway with close to 250 galleries representing more than thirty countries and territories staging exhibits. From new work by high-profile artists, to masterpieces by the likes of Picasso and Lichtenstein – a public with a growing appetite for art is sure to be satisfied.