Focus: East Asia – China (Hong Kong)

South Ho Siu Nam “Into Light XIV” (2011) Courtesy of the artist and Blindspot Gallery

Art Hong Kong 2011 has succeeded its extravaganza and now closed triumphantly, as the world anticipated. The fair demonstrated an increase in achievements beyond the mercantile with special events to engage and reflect on the Asian region. Asia One for instance provided a platform for emerging talents of the widely diverse Asian terrain. Many talks and discussions were also programmed such as the ‘Backroom Conversations” by Asia Arts Archive, ‘Guerrilla Talk’ by ArtAsiaPacific and ‘New Media Archaeology’ by Videotage, in order to disseminate art from Asia to a wider audience.

Pak Sheung Chuen “Breathing in A House” (2009) Courtesy of the artist

Hong Kong has been deemed one of the world’s leading international financial centres as well as a “special autonomous region” within China, where British traditions of jurisprudence still place the city as an oasis of political stability and media freedom. The City has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade, and is largely recognized as the engine for much of China’s exponential growth. The art market is no exception. The last weekend Christie’s Hong Kong made a record for contemporary art sale, doubled pre-auction estimates by totaling US$62m and Sotheby’s Hong Kong contemporary art auctions during the spring of 2011 sold US$54.8m, triple its high estimates, thanks to the fast and furious attitudes of Chinese collectors, making earnings in Hong Kong going toe-to-toe with London and New York. When Gagosian Gallery opened a new Hong Kong branch in January of this year, it crystallized the international art hub status of this eastern metropolis. Gagosian’s inaugural exhibition by Damien Hirst’s “Forgotten Promises”, including “For Heaven’s Sake” (2008) as a symbolic centerpiece: a platinum cast of a human baby’s skull adorned with more than16,000 pink diamonds. The Art Hong Kong 2011 more than doubled its total numbers of exhibiting galleries from last year, and to seal its fate, it will soon be part of Art Basel enterprises.

Nadim Abbas “Cataract (Iguazu Falls)” (2011) Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Exit

Hong Kong encompasses one of the most diverse and liveliest art scenes in Asia. It not only handles a good portion of fine art deals from mainland China but also from South East Asia, as well as regular exhibitions of US and European artists. Still remaining are concerns about the dominant market-driven scene overshadowing more independent ones, which should in an ideal context cross-pollinate each other. Many feels that the city lacks efficient publicly funded art institutions, such as Serpentine Gallery in London or MoMA PS1 in New York, as a focal point to invigorate not-for-profit arenas. But such activities are emerging. Fo Tan for example hold one of the largest art communities in Hong Kong with a complex of 180 artists working in a refurbished industorial loft. This organization has disseminated independent art activities to local audiences for the last decade by promoting the annual Fotanian Open Studio Festival.

Open Studio view at Fo Tan art studio. Courtesy of Fotanian.

In spite of reaching the top of the art market, Hong Kong is still in urgent need to develop sustainable infrastructures for its cultural environment. Chinese governmental bodies are planning to develop the Western Kowloon Cultural District, which will include M+ (Museum Plus), a huge cultural center designed by none other than architects Foster and Koolhaas, focusing on 20th and 21st century visual culture, broadly defined, from a Hong Kong perspective and with a global vision. The museum has appointed Lars Nittve, ex-head of Tate Modern and Moderna Museet, as an executive director and Tobias Berger as a chief curator. It is still uncertain whether these future developments will respond to the needs of the local artist communities mentioned earlier, but surely the world is eager to see what kind of changes Hong Kong can bring to the international cultural sphere.

Simon Young “Machines for Making Nothing #1: Triumph of the Spectacle” (2011) Courtesy of the artist and Kunsthalle Kowloon

M-Kos listed below s selection of museums, galleries and alternative spaces operating in Hong Kong.

10 Chancery Lane Gallery
Ooi Botos Gallery
Above Second
a gallery
Art Statements
Fabrik Contemporary Art
Blindspot Gallery
Gagosian Gallery
Ben Brown Fine Arts
Espace Luis Vuitton Hong Kong
de Sarthe Fine Art
2P Contemporary Art Gallery
The Upper Station
The Cat Street Gallery
Moon Gallery
YY9 Gallery
Sin Sin Fine Art
Grotto Fine Art
Plum Blossoms Gallery
Hanart TZ Gallery
agnes b’s Librairie Galerie
Conoisseur Contemporary
Madhouse Gallery
Wellington Gallery

Tsang Kin Wah “MomFDadFDaughterFTeacherFJesusFMaryFBillFMonicaFPoliticianFPastorFKidFMomFTeen…” (2007)
Courtesy of the artist and Yvon Lambert Gallery New York

Hong Kong Arts Center
Osage Gallery
SCAD Gallery
Gallery EXIT
Blue Lotus Gallery
Para | Site
1a Space
Artist Commune
C&G Artpartment
Voxfire Gallery
IO (Input/Output) Gallery
and many more.
See Hong Kong Art Walk website for more galleries.

Annysa Ng “Empress V” (2011) pen on paper, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of the artist and Blindspot gallery

Asia Art Archive
Kunsthalle Kowloon – Contemporary gallery for the modern idea
Hong Kong Art Web
Fotanian (Fotan art community)
Yishu – Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art

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