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A record year at all levels: Art Basel's fourth edition in Hong Kong attracts over 70,000 visitors
Art Basel in Hong Kong 2016. General Impression. © Art Basel.

HONG KONG.- This year’s Art Basel show in Hong Kong attracted over 70,000 visitors, among them directors, curators, trustees and patrons from over 100 leading international museums and institutions. The show, which closed today, Saturday, March 26, 2016, featured a new floorplan, spotlighting strong performances by galleries from Asia and the West. Confirming Art Basel’s standing as the leading international art fair in Asia, galleries across all sectors reported strong sales throughout the week. Despite recent doubts surrounding the robustness of the international art market, Art Basel proved that there continues to be strong demand when high-quality work from premier galleries worldwide is presented to an audience of highly engaged collectors and museum directors. The continuing expansion and sophistication of the collector base from Asia's many regions was widely noted by gallerists.

This year’s edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, whose Lead Partner is UBS, offered its visitors 239 galleries with exhibition spaces in 35 countries and territories. Over half of the galleries have exhibition spaces in Asia and the Asia-Pacific, signifying Art Basel’s commitment to representing the continent at its Hong Kong show. Consolidating Insights, the sector dedicated to galleries and artists from across Asia, on the third floor and rearranging the distribution of smaller and larger galleries across both halls created a more balanced floorplan that ensured visitors navigated the show more extensively.

28 galleries exhibited at Art Basel in Hong Kong this year for the first time, including 18 leading Western galleries, alongside nine key Asian galleries and Selma Feriani Gallery from Tunisia. Art Basel’s show in Hong Kong is a unique presentation of the art scenes that are developing across Asia and the Asia-Pacific, showcasing their diversity and rapid development. In addition, the show presented more historical material of exceptional quality, as well as leading contemporary art by international artists. This year’s edition also saw the return of an ambitious Encounters sector comprising 16 large-scale installations, including six entirely new works and four site-specific works. The popular Film sector was doubled to include feature-length documentary and feature films.

The show was attended by over 70,000 visitors, a new record for Art Basel in Hong Kong. Gallerists reported meeting many new collectors from across Asia and the West, including representatives from museums who had visited the show for the first time. Directors, curators, trustees and patrons of leading museums and institutions came to the show including 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney; Art Gallery New South Wales, Sydney; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Fondation Beyeler, Basel; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London; Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; Long Museum, Shanghai; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; National Gallery Singapore, Singapore; Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Participating galleries spoke positively of their experience at this year’s show in Hong Kong:

‘This was certainly our most successful Hong Kong fair ever, with a super positive response from collectors all over the region, including Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, and Taipei. We were fortunate to have Belgian artist Michaël Borremans join us in Hong Kong for the week, where he entrusted us with five new paintings for the fair, which were all sold within the first few hours.’ David Zwirner, Founder, David Zwirner, New York, London

‘This year’s show has been one of the best fairs in Pace’s 55-year history. The exhibition sold out and we placed a Rauschenberg masterpiece in a great Asian museum.' Arne Glimcher, Founder, Pace, Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Menlo Park, New York ‘

Galleries, the main sector of the show, featured 187 Modern and contemporary art galleries, presenting the highest quality of painting, sculpture, drawing, installation, photography, video and editioned works. Exhibitors returning after a brief hiatus included Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York) and Applicat-Prazan (Paris), while many Asian galleries moved from other sectors of the show into Galleries, where they were able to present a wider range of their gallery programs. These galleries were: Athr (Jeddah), Blindspot Gallery (Hong Kong), Chambers Fine Art (Beijing, New York), Galerie Ora-Ora (Hong Kong), Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde (Dubai), Nanzuka (Tokyo), Nature Morte (New Delhi), Project Fulfill Art Space (Taipei), Taro Nasu (Tokyo), TKG+ (Taipei, Beijing), Yavuz Gallery (Singapore) and Yumiko Chiba Associates (Tokyo). Francesca Minini (Milan) and Galeria Plan B (Cluj, Berlin) also exhibited for the first time in the Galleries sector. Strong presentations of solo booths and significant historical materials from Asia were highlighted throughout the show, including Ryuzaburo Umehara (b. 1888, Japan) at galerie nichido (Tokyo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Karuizawa, Kasama, Paris); Jiro Takamatsu (b. 1936, Japan) at Yumiko Chiba Associates (Tokyo); David Diao (b. 1943, Mainland China) at Eslite Gallery (Taipei), Ni Haifeng (b. 1964, Mainland China) at In Situ - fabienne leclerc (Paris). Other solo booths of note by international names included Frank Stella (b.1936, United States) at Marianne Boesky Gallery (New York); Glenn Ligon (b. 1960, United States) at Thomas Dane Gallery (New York); and William Kentridge (b. 1955, South Africa) at Goodman Gallery (Johannesburg, Cape Town).

The Insights sector – dedicated to curatorial projects by galleries with spaces in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region – featured 28 solo shows, exceptional historical material and strong thematic group exhibitions. This year’s edition was a particularly strong presentation of Modern work, with around half of the galleries presenting material from this period. Insights also provided a particularly diverse and in-depth overview of art from across the region with featured artists from Australia, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Japan, Mainland China, South Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Turkey. Highlights included Michael Cook (b. 1968, Australia) at This Is No Fantasy + dianne tanzer gallery (Melbourne), Guan Xiao (b. 1983, Mainland China) and Yu Honglei (b. 1984, Mainland China) at Antenna Space (Shanghai), Stella Zhang (b. 1965, Mainland China) at Galerie du Monde (Hong Kong), Li Huasheng (b. 1944, Mainland China) at Ink Studio (Beijing), Kimiyo Mishima (b. 1932, Japan) at MEM (Tokyo), Tadasu Takamine (b. 1968, Japan) at Arataniurano (Tokyo) and Tayeba Begum Lipi (b. 1969, Bangladesh) at Pi Artworks (Istanbul, London).

The Discoveries sector presented its strongest showcase of emerging artists to date, with solo- and two-person exhibitions presented by 24 galleries. For this year’s edition, five of the galleries were completely new to the show. Highlights included Wu Tsang (b. 1982, United States) at Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi (Berlin), Jess Johnson (b. 1979, New Zealand) at Darren Knight Gallery (Sydney), Wan Lee (b. 1979, South Korea) at 313 Art Project (Seoul), Alvin Zafra (b. 1978, Philippines) at Artinformal (Mandaluyong City) and Waqas Khan (b. 1982, Pakistan) at first time exhibitor Sabrina Amrani (Madrid).

Samson Young, the winner of the first BMW Art Journey, presented a new work titled ‘So You Are Old by the Time You Reach the Island’ at this year's Art Basel show in Hong Kong. The work took the form of a multi-media walk that led participants on a journey through the streets of the Admiralty and Wan Chai districts in Hong Kong. Art Basel and BMW also announced the second shortlist selected from the Discoveries sector by an international jury during the show. The shortlist consists of Abigail Reynolds (b. 1970, United Kingdom) with Rokeby (London), Newsha Tavakoljan (b. 1981, Iran) with Thomas Erben Gallery (New York) and Alvin Zafra (b. 1978, Philippines) with Artinformal (Mandaluyong City). All three artists have been invited to submit their proposals describing their ideal journey. The winner will be announced in the early summer of 2016.

Alexie Glass-Kantor, Executive Director of Artspace in Sydney, returned for a second time to curate Encounters. The selected artists and works demonstrated unprecedented ambition, with six of the art works premiering at the fair, while four were site-specific for Art Basel’s show in Hong Kong. This year’s curation included work by Brook Andrew (b. 1970, Australia), Charles Avery (b. 1973, United Kingdom), Hans Berg (b. 1978, Sweden) and Nathalie Djurberg (b.1978, Sweden), Roberto Chabet (1937-2013, Philippines), Chen Zhen (1955-2000, Mainland China), Isa Genzken (b. 1948, Germany), Kyungah Ham (b. 1966, South Korea), Arik Levy (b.1963, Israel), Peter Liversidge (b. 1973, United Kingdom), Richard Maloy (b. 1977, New Zealand), Tintin Wulia (b. 1972, Indonesia), Tromarama (Indonesia), Keiji Uematsu (b. 1947, Japan), Lawrence Weiner (b. 1942, United States), Pae White (b.1963, United States) and Zhang Ding (b.1980, Mainland China).

The third edition of the Film sector expanded to show over 70 films. Beijing and Zurichbased multi-media artist and producer Li Zhenhua returned once again to curate the sector, which centered around six diverse themes. For the first time the program included five feature-length films, which were screened at the HKCEC. Highlights of this year’s program included the Asian premier of ‘The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg’ by Michael Schindhelm, ‘Zeng Fanzhi: YOU Art Project’ by Shi Li-Sanderson and Philipp Stölzl, Takashi Murakami’s ‘Jellyfish Eyes’, ‘Poet on a Business Trip’ by Ju Anqi and finally a series of ten animated films by William Kentridge. The Art Basel film program was attended by over 1,500 visitors and shown at the agnčs b. CINEMA at the Hong Kong Arts Centre and at the HKCEC and remained free to the public.

Conversations and Salon, Art Basel’s talks program, attracted over 2,000 visitors over four days and presented renowned cultural figures from Asia and across the international art world. This year’s Premier Artist Talk featured Chinese American artist David Diao in conversation with Pauline J. Yao, Curator, M+, Hong Kong. Anne Pasternak, Defne Ayas, N'Goné Fall, and Thomas J. Berghuis joined a discussion titled ‘Building Platforms’, moderated by András Szántó, exploring the various ways in which independent institutions might flourish as contemporary platforms. The final Conversation, ‘Collecting as a Radical Practice’, featured Aaron Cezar, Hideaki Fukutake, Phillip Keir, Sara Puig, and Roobina Karode. The Conversation was moderated by Alan Lau. The afternoon Salon program, which consists of more informal and often shorter presentations, featured talks and panel discussions with artists, curators, museum directors, academics and critics.

Internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima (b. 1957, Japan) collaborated with Art Basel and Hong Kong’s iconic 490 meter high International Commerce Centre (ICC) on the Kowloon harbor front to present ‘Time Waterfall’, a largescale public light installation that comprised the natural numbers one to nine, which cascaded down the building’s facade, never reaching zero. The project will continue with two screenings each night until April 2016.

Art Basel continued to work closely with key cultural organizations across the city, including Asia Art Archive (AAA); the Asia Society; Para/Site Art Space; Spring Workshop; and M+, Hong Kong’s future museum for visual culture, offering an associated program of events onsite and throughout the city during the week of the show.

During the Hong Kong show this year, Art Basel announced its new Art Basel Cities initiative, which will expand its engagement in the art world from staging art fairs to working with cities to develop cultural events with international resonance. Art Basel Cities will offer the art world new opportunities to discover and engage with cultural scenes across the world. As part of this initiative, Art Basel will work with selected partner cities to develop vibrant and content-driven programs specific to the city, connecting them to the global art world through Art Basel's network. Art Basel also announced a newly formed advisory board, consisting of prominent art world figures with expertise across various disciplines, including: David Adjaye, Füsun Eczacıbaşı, Richard Florida, Jacques Herzog, Sam Keller, William Lim, Simon Mordant AM, Lars Nittve, Anne Pasternak, Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Dennis Scholl, Uli Sigg and Michael Tay.

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