Review of Art Basel Hong Kong 2020, China

On March 19, 2020, Art Basel return to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre for the fair’s eighth edition in Asia. Several of those joining galleries of the fair’s main sector have yielded much influence in their respective cities and regions.

Art Basel Hong Kong 2020 show, feature 242 leading galleries hailing from across 31 countries and territories. In a challenging time for Hong Kong, Art Basel remains to be committed to this city. The reason why Hong Kong remains to be the perfect location for our fair is due to its surrounding art scene, its supportive art community, and its position as a leading art market in Asia.

Hong Kong Spotlight by Art Basel is a showcase of Hong Kong galleries who have participated in Art Basel’s Asian show. Organized in collaboration with Fine Art Asia, this unique platform is a united response to support and bring together the city’s arts community during these challenging times.

The presentation artworks comprised precisely curated projects, ranging from thematic solo and group exhibitions to art-historical showcases and film. With Hong Kong Spotlight, Art Basel’s first physical presentation in 2020, to deliver an opportunity for art enthusiasts to come together, experience art, and exchange ideas.

Maintaining its Asia-strong position, half the participating galleries, once again, have physical spaces in Asia and the Asia Pacific, including 11 homegrown galleries. Meanwhile prominent galleries from across the United States and Europe was joining for the first time.

Focused on solo presentations by emerging artists, the Discoveries sector feature 25 galleries in the 2020 show including a new project by Hong Kong-based artist Leelee Chan, presented by Capsule Shanghai and New Zealand-based, South Korean artist Yona Lee, presented by Fine Arts, Sydney.

The Insights sector showcase 21 feature presentations including a tribute to the traditions of modern fiber art in China from Shanghai-based gallery, Bank who was exhibiting works by Shi Hui and her teacher Maryn Varbanov. While from Down Under, Jan Murphy Gallery was showcasing the works of Tjala artists and leaders of Western Desert painting, Sylvia Ken and Tjungkara Ken.

The presence at Art Basel’s Hong Kong edition give visitors a chance to discover works by a wide array of outstanding artists, including Richard Long, Shara Hughes, Liu Dan, and Jong Oh.

After a decade working for other galleries, Bridget Donahue decided it was time to open her own in 2015. “I was at a fork in the road and thought: no better time to give it a shot,” the New Yorker says. Her eponymous gallery on the Bowery is one of this year’s first-time participants, with a solo booth by Jessi Reaves presented in Statements, the sector devoted to emerging artists.

Jake Miller became a bona fide gallerist eighteen years earlier. He turned The Approach – his artist-run space on the floor above the namesake London pub – into a fully-fledged gallery in 1997, which he has co-run with business partner Emma Robertson since 2003. Also known for spotting young talents, Miller and Robertson’s gallery has since then become a mainstay of the London art scene, and a regular participant in Art Basel’s main sector, including this year.

Reflecting the noughties’ shift towards the digital, Umer Butt started his gallery Grey Noise in 2008 as a website in Lahore, Pakistan. Six months later, he rented a small space in a friend’s office and staged the Grey Noise’s first show. ‘Back then I was not at all aware of what art galleries do, other than making exhibitions, which I was interested in’, he says. Butt relocated to Dubai in 2012 and partnered up with Hetal Pawani to run the gallery. Grey Noise will return to the Statements sector for its third participation, with works by Shreyas Karle.

A sense of inspired spontaneity often transpires from these stories. Olivier Antoine, who founded Art: Concept in Nice in 1992, says he felt he ‘had to open a space’. At a time where the glitz and excess of the 1980s still rippled through the artworld, he titled his first show ‘Fiasco’. ‘I’ve always had a penchant for contradiction’, he adds. Emanuel Layr started his namesake space in 2011, encouraged by Vienna’s cultural dynamic, which had enabled local artists to reach a new level. Antoine’s gallery has since become a fixture of Art Basel’s main sector, while Layr’s join it for the first time this year.

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Donahue has also witnessed a host of changes since she first started working in the artworld, noting the arrival of ‘new voices, models, collectors, geographies, and media’. While some of the old models might soon be a thing of the past, Antoine also foresees the arrival of a new art economy, ‘perhaps less ostentatious but closer to the tangible aspects of life’.

This closeness to ‘beings and substance’ is something Antoine has always advocated for through his program, which includes Ulla von Brandenburg, Michel Blazy, and Jeremy Deller. Emanuel Layr pinpoints ‘clear models of thought, models of inner and outer worlds’ as a recurring topic of the exhibitions he has presented since the gallery’s inception. His Art Basel presentations of Cécile B. Evans in 2017 and Stano Filko in 2018 are good examples of that self-assessment.

Bridget Donahue articulates the core of her motivation in a particularly poetic way: ‘When I decide to work with an artist it is usually because I’m in awe of what they do,’ she says, ‘I’m confounded by it. I want to inhabit their world.’

Cooperative Gallery
Participants from established powerhouses to emerging enterprises.

Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich and New York City
Eva Presenhuber has always had a sharp instinct for outstanding artists. The Austrian-born, Zurich-based gallerist’s early – and long-term – commitment to people such as Ugo Rondinone, Karen Kilimnik, Liam Gillick, and Angela Bulloch is not the only proof of it. Since founding her namesake gallery in 2003, Presenhuber has regularly added daring positions to her roster, which now also features Eva Rothschild, Sam Falls, Torbjørn Rødland, and Jean-Marie Appriou, among others. Even before the opening of a New York City branch in 2017, the gallery had established itself as a global powerhouse, where conceptual incisiveness meets visual potency. Galerie Eva Presenhuber returns to Art Basel’s fair in Asia after a five-year hiatus.

Sabrina Amrani, Madrid
Sabrina Amrani’s program focuses on artistic voices from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Established in 2011, Amrani’s program features Joël Andrianomearisoa, who has represented Madagascar at this year’s Venice Biennale, Egyptian master Chant Avedissian, South African artist Alexandra Karakashian, Pakistani draftsman Waqas Khan, and Saudi Arabian sculptor and video artist Manal Al Dowayan, among others. Many of the artists the gallery represents use the visual and narrative traditions of their homelands as departure points to reflect on what exactly defines ‘culture’. Amrani herself is French of Algerian origin and runs the gallery from Madrid. After participations in the show’s Discoveries and Encounters sectors last year, Amrani will join Art Basel’s main Galleries sector for the second time in 2020.

Ink Studio, Beijing
Ink Studio’s name quite clearly indicates the gallery’s focus. The millennia-old tradition of ink painting in Asia is the cornerstone of this Beijing gallery, founded in 2013 by Craig Yee and Christopher Reynolds. While primarily associated with the past, the medium continues to be explored by artists to this day – Zheng Chongbin, Bingyi, Huasheng Li, and Xu Bing only being some examples. Ink Studio shows both historic and contemporary works, with a particular emphasis on a critical and scholarly approach to the medium. At Art Basel Hong Kong, the gallery will focus on the transnational aspects of ink painting by featuring a group presentation of works by Japanese, Korean, and Chinese artists.

Konrad Fischer Galerie, Düsseldorf and Berlin
Konrad Fischer Galerie is nothing short of an institution. Initiated in 1967 in Düsseldorf by its eponymous founder and his wife, Dorothee Fischer, the gallery was among the first ones to give Minimal and Conceptual Art a platform in Europe. Well-known artists such as Bruce Nauman, Sol LeWitt, On Kawara, or Hanne Darboven exhibited there early on. So did exponents of Arte Povera, including Jannis Kounellis and Mario Merz. Over the years, less established – but nonetheless renowned – artists joined the gallery, including Paloma Varga Weisz, Alice Channer, and Manfred Pernice. Since 2007, Konrad Fischer Galerie has also been operating spaces in Berlin, only recently turning a former electricity sub-station into their new headquarters in the German capital. This was the first time this artworld fixture participates in Art Basel’s Hong Kong edition.

Mayoral, Barcelona and Paris
Since 1989, Barcelona’s Mayoral has been celebrating some of the region’s most fascinating Postwar artists. They include Antoni Tàpies, Modest Cuixart, Antonio Saura, and Manolo Millares, all protagonists or contributors to the Dada and Surrealism-inspired Dau al Set movement. The gallery, which only days ago inaugurated a Paris branch, has also regularly exhibited Joan Miró and Eduardo Chillida, two of Spain’s most revered artists. Earlier this year, Mayoral showed Chillida’s sculptures in combination with works by Fernando Zóbel; the Filipino-born painter was a master at blending the energy of Abstract Expressionism with the subtlety of East Asian ink painting. Mayoral will dedicate its entire booth to him come March.

Online Viewing Rooms
Art Basel launch two new Online Viewing Rooms embracing a brand-new concept. With up to 100 exhibitors, they last only four days and focus on key themes. ‘OVR:2020’, dedicated to artworks produced in 2020, while ‘OVR:20c’, focus on 20th century works. Both Online Viewing Rooms are open to proposals from all former Art Basel exhibitors from 2018 onwards.

The presentations, which include up to 6 artworks, was handpicked by two new selection committees: The September Selection Committee comprises Sadie Coles (Sadie Coles HQ), Massimo de Carlo (Massimo de Carlo), Prateek Raja (Experimenter), Lisa Spellman (303 Gallery), Mills Moran (Morán Morán), and Jasmin Tsou (JTT). The Selection Committee for the October iteration includes David Fleiss (Galerie 1900-2000), Emi Eu (STPI), Lucy Mitchell-Innes (Mitchell-Innes & Nash), Mary Sabbatino (Galerie Lelong & Co.), Steve Henry (Paula Cooper Gallery), and Thiago Gomide (Bergamin & Gomide). The participation fee is 5,000 CHF and the platform feature a new live-chat function, allowing collectors and visitors to connect seamlessly with galleries.

Tags: China