Review of Art Basel Hong Kong 2017, China

The 5th edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, open to the public from March 29 to 31, at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. The show 242 premier galleries from 34 countries and territories. The presentation artworks comprised precisely curated projects, ranging from thematic solo and group exhibitions to art-historical showcases and film.

Hong Kong is the perfect location for art fair is due to its surrounding art scene, its supportive art community, and its position as a leading art market in Asia. With Hong Kong Art Basel’s 2017, deliver an opportunity for art enthusiasts to come together, experience art, and exchange ideas.

This year’s show features 29 new galleries took part for the first time, including ten new galleries from Asia: A+ Contemporary, Bank, C-Space and Hive Center for Contemporary Art (Mainland China); imura art gallery and The Third Gallery Aya (Japan); Jhaveri Contemporary (India); Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery (Hong Kong), Mind Set Art Center (Chinese Taiwan) and The Third Line (Dubai).

As for Europe, there were ten new galleries, including Alfonso Artiaco and Thomas Brambilla (Italy); Galerie Buchholz, Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Kadel Willborn and König Galerie (Germany); High Art and mor charpentier (France), Project Native Informant and Waddington Custot (United Kingdom).

The last nine new galleries were from the Americas and include Aicon Gallery, Clearing, Luxembourg & Dayan, Sundaram Tagore Gallery and Various Small Fires (United States); Bergamin & Gomide, Athena Contemporânea, Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel (Brazil) and kurimanzutto (Mexico).

Experience the incredible variety of Modern and contemporary art on view in the show’s five major sectors: Insights, Discoveries, Encounters, Kabinett, and Galleries, among them Kabinett is a new sector this year. Dive into the Art Basel Stories for a more in-depth look at the show’s protagonists and highlights.

In Hong Kong, the growth of the fair under the management of Art Basel, has blossomed in a symbiotic relationship with the rapid rise of the art market in the region, and the lightning increase in the number of important galleries establishing themselves in Hong Kong. The fair and Hong Kong’s art scene are certainly gaining momentum, a significant sales with a strong response from Asian collectors, including those from Korea, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Japan.

In the Galleries sector, 190 exhibitors including blue-chip powerhouse galleries like Gagosian, Acquavella, Blum & Poe, Hauser & Wirth, Sean Kelly, Sprüth Magers and Victoria Miro presented a variety of modern and contemporary works.

A major highlight in this edition of Art Basel Hong Kong 2017 was the application of virtual reality technology to create art. Virtual reality artwork by renowned international artists boychild, Cao Fei, Robin Rhode, Sun Xun and Yang Yongliang were presented in the show. They were created with Tilt Brush by Google, which served as a 3D drawing and painting application tool in the collaboration between Art Basel and Google Arts & Culture. That virtual reality was utilised as a means for production of art – rather than merely for the immersive experience of an existing artwork – and marked a shift in the creative process of art.

The Osage Gallery, first established in Hong Kong in 2004, brought together three Chinese artists in their group presentation in the Insights sector gallery booth. The artists were Jiang Zhi, Shen Shaomin and Zhao Zhao. Tremble, a work by Jiang Zhi, attracted large groups of visitors who were curious about the seven-channel video installation depicting seven life-size nude figures struggling to stand properly atop vibrating plates.

Bangladeshi and based in London, Begum uses sculpture to combine two worlds: her childhood memories of Islamic art and architecture with Western Minimalism ideals, resulting in these planes of color that come forward from the walls and stand upright on the floor. In The Deep Blue Sea, the glossy stripes cascading from the ceiling convey a deeper political subtext. These are single images of the Mediterranean Sea stretched to 150-foot scrolls that call attention to the ongoing refugee crisis taking place in those waters.

The Chinese Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso, his’s Family Album is just that: life-size cutouts of images of 17 family members in various forms of dress. Their mix of traditional Tibetan holiday costumes, military uniforms, suits and ties, and Adidas jerseys symbolizes an evolving Tibetan culture in a globalizing world.

Front and center on the two-story exhibition’s first floor, there is the Korean conceptual artist Kimsooja’s mesmerizing “Deductive Object,” a monolithic egg shaped after the Indian Barhmanda stone-sculpting tradition and striped in traditional Korean obangsaek colors, polished and glowing in a field of reflective tiles.

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Joshua Nathanson’s preliminary sketches take place on his iPad, a blurred effect he replicates in real life using an airbrush on canvas. His scene depicts staples of L.A. life: the coast, the mall, and LAX, locales his gallery Various Small Fires thought might resonate in Hong Kong.

In the Discoveries section, plenty of surprises among the emerging artists. Regional artists is growing from strength to strength every year at the Hong Kong fair, and there was much that provided critique and commentary on contemporary social and political issues.

Berlin-based Kathrin Sonntag’s multi-media installation of pictures, mirrors and objects played with perception at Galerie Kadel Willborn.

Huang Po Chih’s Protein Boy, at a.m. space, a poignant installation of drawings, writing, objects, photography and film exploring the disintegration of the mind of the artist’s mentally ill father.

At STPI Gallery, glowing pulp paper prints and paintings by Shinro Ohtake referenced the Fukushima disaster;

Eye-catching bold works by Eko Nugroho at Arario Gallery delivered a sugar-coated but powerful political message on refugees and migration;

Metal armour sculptures by Pakistani artist Naiza Khan at Rossi & Rossi explored the female body as a politicised site of war and repression.

In the Encounters section, politics and art were most closely entwined, reflect the percolation of recent political events through their work, and viewers could engage with the sociopolitical memes.

Shen Shaomin’s Summit was placed beside a work by Filipino artist Pio Abad, who presented Not a shield, but a weapon (2016), an installation of 180 knock-offs of Margaret Thatcher’s signature black Asprey handbag.

A meridian placed a little further along, large cascading reams of photographic paper depicted stretched and distorted digital images of boat refugees. ‘These refugees just become abstract to us, a distorted aesthetic rather than true human suffering. The work represents our emotional distance from the reality of what is really happening in the refugee crisis and war.

‘Hidden encounter’ by Chinese Taiwan artist Joyce Ho, was made for ‘the rule breakers, the curious, and the adventurous,’. Comprised of three separate rooms, the installation was something more than an object; the work created encounters between individuals.

Art Conversations
Programmed by Stephanie Bailey, art writer and editor, speakers from around the world engage in discussions about the art world. The talks include a conversation between Hong Kong artist Kingsley Ng and curator Valerie C. Doran on Ng’s project Twenty-Five Minutes Older. The project was first presented as part of the exhibition celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Arts Development Council in Hong Kong. The piece transformed two public trams in Hong Kong into moving camera obscuras, highlighting the ephemeral in the city.

In addition to the talks, the fair’s film screenings, curated by Beijing and Zurich-based multimedia artist and film producer, Li Zhenhua, include a special screening of Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo Qiang (2016) directed by Kevin McDonald. The documentary revealed how Cai created his large scale work using his preferred medium of fireworks and explosives. A short firm named Data, Algorithm and Beyond explored how our perception of the world would be altered when art and virtual reality intertwine with each other.

Tags: China