Art Basel Hong Kong concluded its third edition this week with impressive sales reports. The fair was launched in 2013 as a satellite to Art Basel, the 45-year old fair in Switzerland that is the most significant annual event in the contemporary art world, and Art Basel in Miami Beach, which was launched in 2002.
The VIP Private View and Vernissage opened on Friday and Saturday, and the fair was open to the public from Sunday through Tuesday. Attendance was expected to reach 65,000 but was reported to be about 60,000. The more established editions in Miami Beach and Basel attract 75,000 and 86,000 visitors, respectively.
This was the first year that Art Basel Hong Kong was hosted in March, which may explain attendance. It followed the Armory Show in New York, was concurrent with TEFAF Maastricht, and preceded Art Fair Tokyo and Art Dubai. The March art fair schedule is challenging, but this repositioned date for Art Basel Hong Kong avoids splitting attendance with Frieze New York and the Venice Biennale in May.
Many notable sales came from the Galleries sector and quickly after the Friday preview. David Zwirner (New York and London) sold Chris Ofili’s Dead Monkey–Sex, Money and Drugs for $2 million on Friday evening. (The work sold at Christie’s in 2010 for less than $1 million). Zwirner also sold two new Neo Rauch paintings for $1 million each, and two recent Yayoi Kusama infinity net paintings for over $300,000 each.
Galerie Gmurzynska (Zurich, St. Moritz, and Zug) sold a work by Fernando Botero for $1.2 million. White Cube (London, Hong Kong, and São Paulo) sold Damien Hirst’s Shanghai for $1.2 million. Liang Gallery (Taipei) sold two works by Chen Cheng-po for $1.3 million each. Sprüth Magers (London and Berlin) sold Andreas Gursky’s SH IV for €400,000.
Art Basel Hong Kong included 233 galleries from 37 countries. 26 were from Hong Kong and 29 were new to the fair.
As in Miami Beach and Basel, the fair was divided into sectors: Galleries had 179 exhibitors, with half from Asia. Insights included single artist exhibitions from Asian and Asia-Pacific galleries. Discoveries presented emerging artists, Encounters featured large-scale sculptures and installations, and Film presented moving images. Magazines exhibited printed art publications, and there was a Salon series of lectures and panels.
While Art Basel in Miami Beach has some 20 satellite art fairs, Hong Kong has only one – Art Central – which launched this year. Its founders had previously organized ART HK since 2008, which became Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013. The Art Central co-founders are responsible for other fairs including PULSE, Sydney Contemporary, and Art13London. In its inaugural year, Art Central counted 77 galleries and nearly 30,000 visitors.
Art Basel commissioned, with the International Commerce Centre (ICC), a public work by the Chinese artist Cao Fei. Same Old, Brand New was a light show of images from 1980s video games projected onto the 118-story ICC building, which is the tallest building in Hong Kong. Visible from all over the city, Same Old, Brand New expanded Art Basel beyond the convention center and across the harbor to West Kowloon where the forthcoming M+, the 645,000-square-foot museum of contemporary art designed by Herzog & de Meuron, will open in 2018.
Coincidentally, Herzog & de Meuron are the architects who designed the Messeplatz exhibition halls for Art Basel in Basel and the Pérez Art Museum Miami.