The 2023 edition of Art Basel Hong Kong finished yesterday with optimistic sales reports and a sigh of relief at the return of pre-COVID attendance figures. The fair was the largest edition since 2019, attracting an international attendance of 86,000 across the five show days. Despite the tanking of several banks in the US and Europe, the dealers found enthusiastic international buyers for all mediums. Artlyst was present at the fair to report the success first-hand.
Brisk sales across all sectors throughout the week celebrated the fair’s tenth anniversary in the city. Staged across two floors of the HKCEC for the first time since 2019, the show brought together 177 galleries from across the world – a significant increase from 130 galleries in 2022 – and saw the return of all particular sectors, including Encounters, Film, Kabinett, and Conversations. Forty-two galleries rejoined the fair following a hiatus during the pandemic, while 22 galleries debuted at the fair.
In addition, encounters extended beyond the show floor for the first time, showcasing a large-scale inflatable sculpture of King Tut by Awol Erizku in Hong Kong’s Pacific Place. The work was presented by Ben Brown Fine Arts and supported by Swire Properties, the Official Partner of off-site Encounters.
Leading private collectors from 70 countries and territories attended the fair and explored the city’s diverse cultural offerings, as did museum directors, curators, and patrons from over 100 international museums and institutions, including Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; M+, Hong Kong; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai; Serpentine Galleries, London; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum New York; Tate, London; UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and The Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Deepening its commitment to showcasing the breadth of exceptional art from across Asia and the Pacific, the fair featured over two-thirds of participating galleries with exhibition spaces in the region, including 33 galleries in Hong Kong. Galleries from mainland China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan continued to have a strong presence at the show. At the same time, galleries from India and Southeast Asia also presented compelling booths that attracted fair visitors.
Beyond the HKCEC, Hong Kong residents and international visitors enjoyed Pipilotti Rist’s site-specific moving image work ‘Hand Me Your Trust’ projected on the façade of M+, commissioned by M+ and supported by Art Basel and UBS. The façade was set within the undulating architecture of Hong Kong’s world-famous skyline along Victoria Harbour. It incorporated Rist’s typically vivid colour palettes and freeform camera work, echoing the dynamic shifts of the scale of Hong Kong’s urban landscape.
Additional public programming included the Film program at the Hong Kong Arts Centre, featuring 29 video works curated by multimedia artist and producer Li Zhenhua and special screenings curated by Videotage and Ghost 2565, two crucial non-profit video art organizations in Asia. Curated by author and editor Stephanie Bailey, Conversations featured 15 roundtable discussions and more than 85 speakers on topics such as art and mental health, solidarity beyond feminism, art after Sinofuturism, Cantopop and performance, and many more. Both Film and Conversations were accessible to the public.
‘This was our first show since Hong Kong lifted all pandemic measures, and the excitement and energy in the halls – and across the city – were extraordinary,’ says Angelle Siyang- Le, Director, Art Basel Hong Kong. ‘We are truly grateful for the commitment of our galleries and the art community here in Hong Kong, which has pulled out all the stops to offer visitors a vibrant cultural program, morning to night and all week long. More than ever, our show reinforces its pivotal role in the region, uniquely bridging the art scenes across Asia and beyond.’
‘This week marked Hong Kong’s grand reopening after three years of pandemic-related challenges, with our show reaffirming its position as the apex cultural moment in the region,’ says Noah Horowitz, CEO of Art Basel. ‘
Collectors from Hong Kong, mainland China, across Asia, and further afield emerged. It is inspiring to witness the extraordinary growth and vitality of the local art scene, bolstered by a new generation of collectors and the opening of world-class institutions. Once again, Hong Kong demonstrated its uncontested position as Asia’s leading art market hub and its critical importance within global trade.’
Galleries across all regions commented on their return to or debut at the fair: ‘The mood in Hong Kong is buoyant, and you can feel everywhere the energy flowing with the easing of COVID restrictions. The fair’s first day was a vivid reminder that there is simply no substitute for being together in person with Asia’s community of wonderfully informed, sophisticated collectors, curators, and patrons. We are delighted that we have placed truly exceptional works on the opening day of Art Basel Hong Kong with highly respected public and private collections in the region.’ – Marc Payot, President, Hauser & Wirth (Hong Kong, Ciutadella de Menorca, Gstaad, St. Moritz, Zurich, London, Somerset, Los Angeles, New York)
‘We took part in the fair for the first time and are thrilled to say we sold out our booth at the end of the first day. We have placed our exhibiting artists in some incredible foundations and private collections. A palpable energy was in the air, and people were happy to be back. We were also pleased to finally have met people in person with whom, before the fair, we’d only communicated digitally. We’ve met new contacts from Hong Kong, mainland China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, and Bangladesh. We’ve also connected with several London people we’d never met.’ – Grace Schofield, Co-Director, Union Pacific (London)
‘There was an energetic air of excitement in Hong Kong this week: Art Basel Hong Kong was rewardingly busy, and we were delighted to see our clients here after a three-year break. It was also a celebration of exceptional museum and gallery activity in the city. M+ is a revelation: an outstanding new museum that raises the bar regarding architecture and curatorial rigour. This has exponentially expanded the impact of this week both locally and internationally.’ – Sadie Coles, Owner and Director, Sadie Coles HQ (London)
‘This is the first time I saw all of my A-list clients back in Hong Kong simultaneously, together with important institutional visitors and members of the general public. We met many new Chinese collectors from the Greater Bay Area and beyond, expanding our networks and welcoming friends back to Hong Kong. Collectors have become more cultivated and discerning in what they buy, reflected in the robust sales we generated throughout the week. Overall, it’s been a thrilling week, and the excitement is palpable across the city.’ – Dr Henrietta Tsui-Leung, CEO and Co-founder, Ora-Ora (Hong Kong)
‘Pi Artworks has been part of Art Basel Hong Kong since its inaugural edition. Having experienced its growth in the past ten years, it is no surprise that coming out of COVID, this edition has been so vibrant. We have placed our works with new collections in Korea, and we caught up with our existing audience and met a whole new younger generation of collectors and art patrons. It has been so fulfilling to come back to Hong Kong.’ – Jade Y. Turanli, Founder and Director, Pi Artworks (Istanbul, London)
‘Art Basel Hong Kong has returned full steam. Catching up with old friends and meeting new faces has added to the buzz and excitement at the fair this week. Seeing positive interest and engagement with the three Malaysian artists showcased at our booth.’ – Richard Koh, Founder, Richard Koh Fine Art (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok)
‘We were delighted to celebrate the revival of the Hong Kong art scene with Art Basel returning to its full force. The participation and enthusiasm across nations and generations in the fair venue and throughout the city were unparalleled. We received tremendous interest in our presentation, demonstrating LGDR’s extensive expertise across genre and geography. We are excited to have placed exceptional works with individual collectors and institutions, including the incredible “S.2122” by Beeple, which now sits in the permanent collection of the Deji Art Museum in Nanjing, China.’- Rebecca Wei, Co-founder and Chairman, LGDR & Wei, LGDR (New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong)
‘Having experienced a surreal scene in Hong Kong over the past few years, we are glad the city’s art scene is filled with energy and good vibes again. The week was a tremendous success for the gallery, with strong sales for our artists showcased in our booth being acquired by several institutions and private collectors. In addition, we were happy to reconnect with our collectors from mainland China, Southeast Asia, the US and Europe. Undoubtedly, Hong Kong remains the key meeting point for the international art world, and Art Basel Hong Kong has played a vital role in it.’ – Vivian Har, Executive Director Hong Kong, Tang Cont.
Top Photo: © Artlyst 2023