DUCK-HYUN CHO, Reflection 0705, 2007, graphite and charcoal on canvas with painted wood frame, 106 × 132 cm. Courtesy Kukje Gallery, Seoul.

Hong Kong Welcomes New Art Fair

Hong Kong

Hong Kong joins the international art fair itinerary with the inaugural Art HK 08, a five-day event showcasing nearly 100 galleries from 17 countries, opening at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 14. Along with the locally organized Hong Kong International Contemporary Art Fair, Art HK 08 is part of a growing effort to entice international galleries and collectors to the island-city, which has become the third largest art auction market in recent years after New York and London.

Art HK 08 follows on the heels of last year’s successful ShContemporary, an international art fair inaugurated in Shanghai in September 2007 Organizers of Art HK 08 are aggressively promoting Hong Kong’s tax advantages, as there are no tariffs on the import or export of art, compared to mainland China where art imports officially attract a hefty 34 percent tax. Reportedly, the high tax rate dissuaded many mainland collectors from showing substantial interest in international art at the ShContemporary in September, and Art HK 08 organizers are looking to lure those collectors to Hong Kong.

The fair is backed by Asian Art Fairs Ltd. (AAFL), a collaboration of Single Market Events, who organize London Fashion Week, exhibition organizers Andy Montgomery Ltd. and Will Ramsay, CEO of the Pulse Contemporary Art Fairs. The AAFL is targeting established collectors from Taiwan, Korea and Japan, besides further developing the Chinese and Hong Kong art markets. As fair director Magnus Renfrew explained to ArtAsiaPacific: “The time is right for a major hub fair for Asia. In an increasing trend, collectors from mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong are taking an active interest in western modern and contemporary art, besides driving up prices for contemporary Chinese art.”

The AAFL is expecting that 15,000 visitors will come to see big names from European and American contemporary art hanging alongside stars from the Chinese art scene, including Zhang Xiaogang and Xu Bing. The fair lured important European and American names including Max Lang from New York, Yvon Lambert from Paris, Zurich’s Galerie Eva Presenhuber and Albion and Bernard Jacobson from London. Participants from mainland China include Pekin Fine Arts, Galleri Faurschou and East Link and both Hanart TZ and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery from Hong Kong made the cut.

Commenting on her gallery’s participation in the fair, Katie de Tilly of 10 Chancery Lane Gallery shared with AAP: “Hong Kong is very well positioned to gather a large number of collectors regionally. And with its range of activities, the fair will provide significant opportunity for debate and discussion about the local scene.”

The fair’s additional programming highlights the relatively small and fragmented local art scene with a major exhibition showcasing works by young Hong Kong artists. Entitled “Mirage: Play Between Illusion and Imagination,” the exhibition will include installations, videos and ceramics by Homan Ho, Catherine YM Lee, Esther LM Yip and Wong Chung Yu, among others. The exhibition is curated by Sabrina Fung, organizer of the Hong Kong Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2005. Fung views it as a rare opportunity to showcase large-sized exhibits from Hong Kong to a wide audience. “The city has very few places showing avant-garde contemporary art. At the fair we will be able to exhibit large-scale works by young Hong Kong artists, besides exposing the local audience to art from around the globe,” Fung told AAP.

To whet academic appetites, the Asia Art Archive (AAA), a Hong Kong-based non-profit art organization will run a series of talks with artists, collectors and curators. On May 17, a satellite conference on the role of museums in the 21st century—co-organized by AAA and the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, Chinese University of Hong Kong—will feature speakers such as Sheena Wagstaff, chief curator of the Tate Modern and Charles Merewether, chairman of the advisory group for Art HK 08 and an AAP contributor. The AAA will also run a lecture series titled “Hong Kong Conversations” during the event. “We have a long-term strategy of educating and expanding the market in Hong Kong,” Renfrew admitted to AAP. “We are not expecting to make profits for the first three years of the fair.”