Hong Kong is a dynamic international city full of creative, forward-thinking minds. It makes sense then that Art Basel, one of the world’s leading contemporary art exhibitions, would begin setting up show there. Presenting museum-worthy pieces from established artisans and displays from emerging talents, Art Basel in Hong Kong (May 23 through 26 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre) promises to be an extension of the artsy extravaganzas annually held in Switzerland and Miami. For those art aficionados planning on seeing the all the wonderful works for themselves, we’ve painted a clear picture of what to expect.
What to Know
In 1970, art gallerists Ernst Beyeler, Trudi Bruckner and Balz Hilt sparked the Basel, Switzerland art scene with a show that was a success from the start—90 galleries and 30 publishers from 10 countries exhibited at the show, which drew a crowd of more than 16,000. During the last four decades, Art Basel has continued to evolve and grow, with Art Basel in Miami debuting in 2002; and now, the latest addition to the roster, Art Basel in Hong Kong, is making its splash into the venerable series May 23 through 26.
The Hong Kong edition is truly embracing its location, carving out a unique spot for itself in the trio of Art Basel shows. At least half of the participating galleries hail from Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, and works from both emerging talents and modern masters will cover 1,200 years of art history in paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photographs and video. The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, a work of art itself with sweeping roofs and a glimmering glass façade looking out onto Victoria Harbour, will play host.
Tickets for Art Basel in Hong Kong can be purchased at the show or online in advance. You have the option to buy a one-day ticket for HK$250 (around $32); but if you know you’ll be returning for more, we suggest the four-day option for HK$750 (around $96).
What to See
With almost 250 galleries from 35 countries, navigating Art Basel in Hong Kong could be quite the headache. But the show is split into distinct sectors that include contemporary art, sculpture, photography and large-scale works, making it much more manageable.
The “Galleries” sector will showcase more than 170 of the world’s top modern and contemporary art galleries—such as London’s Atlas Gallery and Amsterdam’s Grimm. This is where you’ll find a wide range of art forms including paintings, sculptures, film and digital pieces.
“Insights” is for pieces created specifically for the Hong Kong show from galleries in the Asia and Asia-Pacific region. Here, you’ll find special works such as artist duo Zhuang Hui and Dan’er’s Leftover Material from the Carpenters, a multimedia piece of copper and acrylic that’s painted to mimic the texture of wood, and Australia’s Tolarno Galleries’ collection of paintings featuring bizarre depictions of faces.
The “Discoveries” sector is where budding contemporary artists from across the globe are showcasing their works. Viewers here get an early glimpse into a new era of artists still young in their careers, such as video and installation artist Erin Shirreff, who is presented by New York’s Lisa Cooley gallery.
“Encounters” focuses on large-scale installations and sculptures prominently displayed throughout the convention center. These giant projects range from mountainous sculptures to works from galleries such as Beijing’s Osage Gallery, which has featured artists like Shen Shaomin and his I Touched The Voice of God installation made from broken pieces of China’s second manned rocket into space.
While the show offers a staggering amount of art to view, the Art Basel experience is far from passive. Attendees who want to gain more insight into the art world should check out the Conversations and Salon programs. At morning “Conversations” discussions, you can listen to (and chat with) prominent members of the art community debating things such as producing, collecting and exhibiting art, while the afternoon “Salons” feature smaller presentations, panels and lectures from artists, academics, curators and collectors.
Where to Stay
Although the beauty of art is in the eye of the beholder, there’s nothing subjective about Hong Kong’s staggering seven Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotels. From that prestigious lineup, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong stands as the official hotel for the inaugural show. Those looking to fully embrace their artistic experience can book the Art Basel Stay package available May 20 through 27. The offer includes overnight accommodations, two passes to Art Basel Hong Kong and all related events (including the invite-only Vernissage on May 22), use of the Collectors Lounge at the show, breakfast in the Clipper Lounge (which also is showcasing an exhibit of 20 pieces from Hong Kong artists) or Café Causette, a welcome bottle of ‘R’ de Ruinart champagne and Hong Kong Eye, a book showcasing works by Hong Kong artists.
The Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel is also featuring a number of special Art Basel touches to its usual luxury. The Mandarin Grill + Bar will offer a pair of artistic menus (three-course lunch and five-course dinner), which includes a ticket to Art Basel Hong Kong), featuring dishes name V.v.G., Soup, Pop Art and The Skull. The Clipper Lounge and M bar will also get in on the artsy fun: Specialty chocolates shaped like pencils, paint brushes and palettes will be available during afternoon tea for guests who opt for the Art Basel Stay package (they’ll also be on sale at The Mandarin Cake Shop), and the bartenders at the 25th-floor M bar will be mixing cocktails based on the art show’s sectors: Insights, Discoveries and Encounters.
Photos courtesy of Art Basel 2012