Art Basel Hong Kong 2017 A Journey By Virginie Puertolas-Syn

Art Basel HK - Cai Guo Quang


There is such a contrast between Maastricht and Hong Kong. Two different cities, continents, cultures and art fairs.It is this contrast that I embrace and cherish travelling from one fair to the other just a few days apart.

Hong Kong has definitely imposed itself as the art hub of Asia

Hong Kong has definitely imposed itself as the art hub of Asia for the 5th edition under the Basel brand.There were over 70,000 visitors this year. Not only were there collectors from the region such as Koreans and Japanese and a good contingent of Australians but the contingent of Europeans and Americans collectors was also significant this year. There were several Museum patron groups, including from Serpentine, LA, visiting the fair and venturing to Shanghai and Beijing prior to or after Art Basel HK. I met many of them at the fair and at the numerous events taking place during the Art Basel Hong Kong week, in particular: The White Cube party at Potato Head, the new hype spot or the glamorous Pearl Lam dinner at the Peninsula curated as an art installation, a tribute to Korean artist Kim Tschang-Yeul.

The Chinese collectors were more visible over the last few days but still remain less numerous than the year before, most likely due to the weakness of the yuan, the slowdown of the Chinese economy and the anti-corruption policy from Beijing.

With 242 galleries from 34 countries participating, Art Basel HK offered to western visitors the best opportunities to discover Asian art, galleries and artists. On the other hand, Asian collectors get the chance to engage with the “crème de la crème” of the galleries and international artists.

Entering the fair I encountered 18 screen works by Cai Guoqiang at Eslite Gallery from Taiwan for sale at 3.8 million USD. The artist uses his trademark gunpowder. creating little explosions to make marks on the canvas, to replicate a landscape in Taiwan. CaiGuo Qiang’s (Top Photo) inimitable contemporary style makes him my favourite Chinese Contemporary artist. I had seen his exhibition My Stories of Painting at the Bonnefanten Museum the week before in Maastricht and was pleased to see him again in Hong Kong.

Art Basel HK - Shen Shaomin Chairman Mao
Art Basel HK – Shen Shaomin Chairman Mao

At the centre of the fair, Shen Shaomin’s installation “Summit” gathered much attention from visitors.  The ultra-realistic life-sized wax figures of Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, placed in glass sarcophagi and bed (for Fidel Castro) are reimagined as a summit of communist leaders. The work asks questions of the relevancy of their ideas in a contemporary context

Art Basel HK 2017 - Dinh Q Le
Art Basel HK – Dinh Q Le

In the Encounters section of the fair, I loved The Deep Blue Sea the large-scale photographic and video installation by Vietnamese/ American artist Dinh Q. Lê . I met Dinh a few years ago in Ho Chi Minh City where he has set up a centre of Contemporary Art. The spectacular work shows layers of glossy photographs cascading from the ceiling and finally folding onto a white plinth. Apart from the aesthetic side of these works, Dinh questions perceptions of historical events and explores people’s personal memories of events. The message is clearly political. These single images of the Mediterranean Sea stretch across a 150-foot scroll are meant to raise awareness of the refugee tragedies taking place in Southern Europe.

One of the highlights of my stay in Hong Kong was to attend the beautiful projection of Yang Fudong’s Movie “Moving Mountains” commissioned by Rolls Royce. A truly poetic masterpiece of a movie. Doctor Andrea Seehusen, Art Consultant and curator of the Rolls-Royce Art program, explained to me that the artist was inspired by the ancient tale of a man, who some called foolish, by seeking to move a mountain.

Visually, the masterful ink painting produced in the early 1940s by Xu Beihong(1895-1953) was the starting point of Moving Mountains. It is a metaphor of the virtues of perseverance and willpower. The spirit of motherhood is central and embodied in a character played by the popular actress Wan Qian.



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