After Art Basel, Hong Kong is the place to go for art galleries


After Art Basel, the success of the leading art fair for contemporary art in Europe, its owners have announced to head a further annual fair in Hong Kong.

The art fair Art Basel Hong Kong is to take place for the first time from 23 – 26 May 2013.

European art dealers are trying to widen demand for European contemporary art in the Chinese market as it has gained importance in terms of treasure goods. Although leading art exhibitions are already organized on three continents – Art Basel, Art Miami, Art Hong Kong – Asia seems like the place to be for leading art galleries at the moment due to  a huge financial potential on the investor side.

The Chinese market, however, has slowed down recently, but it still looks promising as Asian investors are trying to make “fast money” due to investing in art. The only problem is that at the moment the Chinese are not very keen on contemporary art, neither from China nor from Europe, as they are more interested in jade, antiquities and jewelry is booming; as well as in wine.

Several European galleries have recently opened new branches in Hong Kong, such as the White Cube and the Parisian Perrotin Gallery – which count to the most notorious contemporary art galleries in the world.

At Art Basel, the Parisian art gallery Perrotin told me, that it has opened its second gallery in Hong Kong about a month ago to show off work by French, Indian, Iranian, Japanese, German, American and Italian artists to give them a shot to break through the Chinese market.

Hence, the Chinese market may be seen as a long-term project for the biggest art galleries. To get Chinese people interested in European art they need to understand the history of the cultural variety of the continent first. Lacking understanding and knowledge about it, is one of the reasons why the demand for Western art has been reluctant so far.

Earlier in 2007, Larry Gagosian – one of the world biggest art dealers with offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Paris, Athens, Geneva and Rome – opened an office in Hong Kong to find out how the Chinese art market works and decided, four years later, to venture the step to open a gallery space.

At Art Basel 2012, London galleries could see more Chinese people being interested in European art than the year before.

London galleries – such as the White Cube Gallery and the Victoria Miro Gallery told me that the fair had been a success.

The audience at Art Basel was widely international. People were spotted from China, Spain, France, England and Italy.

A sales person from the White Cube Gallery booth said, that they have seen a lot of Chinese and Italians stopping at their paintings.

According to a report by Art Market Trends, China has overtaken the US as the leader in fine art auction sales in 2011 with trade of £7.9bn. The biggest auction firms in China are Poly International and China Guardian.

“We have also seen Londoners, more at the beginning of the week and fewer when the exhibition center was opened to the general public,” Oliver Miro, the associate sales director at the Victoria Miro Gallery, told me at Art Basel.

Despite that investors are deciding more cautiously what they are spending their money on “demand for alternative assets – such as art – has risen due to the financial crisis,” Oliver Miro pointed out.

Ken Maxwell, a sales person from the New York flagship of the Gagosian Gallery, told the me at Art Basel that there was a hunger out there to own the highest quality of art. Europeans collectors have been very active but also the Americans.

With contemporary artworks reaching world-record prices, such as The Scream sold at Sotheby’s for £76m at the beginning of May and Mark Rothko’s work Untitled (1954) priced at $78m, and seeing European galleries opening new branches in China will push the prices for artworks further up.

In the light of these recent developments, it looks like as if the art bubble is not stopping to grow in the closer future.

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