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Luxury, Asia

Huang Lijie
Thursday, May 22, 2014

Luxury, Asia

Raves for Art Basel in Hong Kong

The Straits Times | Huang Lijie | Thursday, May 22, 2014

The declaration, "Art Blase", was emblazoned on one of the many slogan T-shirts that Australian artist Anastasia Klose showed at the Art Basel in Hong Kong fair. The statement, a witty play of words on the prestigious art fair with roots in Basel, Switzerland, and the public's obsession with the art market, is, however, deeply ironic.

The art world, as well as the wider public, was hardly indifferent to the second edition of the fair in Hong Kong, which ended its five-day run on Sunday.

More than 65,000 visitors, including prominent collectors from around the world as well as museum directors and curators from leading international institutions, such as the Tate Modern in London and New York's MoMA PS1, thronged the art event. Besides art world royalty, the fair also drew its share of curious denizens of the city and students in uniform.

Equally, visitors were impressed by the works of art on show and quick to buy. Many of the 245 participating galleries reported strong sales.

Singapore's STPI, which championed works made by artists during their residencies at the arts centre, closed several deals including a sculptural painting by Filipino artist Ronald Ventura, sold to a private collector for $125,000, and the Spice Moons series of works by South Korean artist Haegue Yang for €42,000 (S$72,000) to MoMA New York.

The institute's collaboration with China's ShanghART gallery on an interactive art installation by Chinese artist Sun Xun, which sells citizenships (at US$13,000 or S$16,250 each) and visas (from US$30 each) to a yet-to-be- formed utopian state, also successfully recruited more than 80 citizens and visa applicants.

Likewise, Mizuma Gallery, with branches in Japan and Singapore, sold more than 80 per cent of its works by last Friday, including a large-scale painting by Japanese artist Amano Yoshitaka for US$250,000.

Gallery owner Sueo Mizuma, 60, said: "This fair is very different from other Asian art fairs. It is more international and collectors come from as far as Europe and the United States. We met so many new collectors and buyers."

The gallery has also participated in the Art Stage Singapore fair. The latest edition of the Singapore fair in January featured 158 galleries and attracted 45,700 visitors.

The spread of high-quality works offered by prominent galleries from around the globe was a reason collectors flocked to the Hong Kong fair.

German art collector Sigi Lorenz, 67, said: "I attend the Art Basel fairs in Basel and Miami often but I have come to Hong Kong because I get to see art and artists that I don't see at the other two fairs."

The absence of sales tax - present in other Asian countries including Singapore - also appeals to art collectors such as Indonesian businessman Sutanto Joso, 60, who stopped by the fair on his way to Indonesia, enroute from business in Europe.

For Hong Kong interior designer Nora Leung, 40, a first-time visitor to the fair, the price tags of some works took her by surprise.

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