the premier art fair in Asia

Art Basel Hong Kong: A Success Story

Grace Piney

Art Basel Hong Kong has positioned itself as the premier art fair in Asia.


The first edition of Art Basel Hong Kong (2013) closed on Sunday May 26. The event was highly praised by critics and collectors, and had an impressive volume of sales.

More than 60,000 people attended the fair and admired the work of 3,000 established and emerging artists. Many of them are showing their work for the first time in an art fair in Hong Kong.

BUI CONG KHANH. The Past Moved, 2010. 10 Chancery Lane Gallery. Hong Kong, China.

A considerable number of art directors, curators and administrators from museums and international institutions visited the fair, including members of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco; the Asia Society from New York; the Pompidou Centre in Paris; the Dallas Museum of Art; the Beyeler Foundation, in Riehen; the Contemporary Arts Institute, London; MoCA of Miami; M+, Hong Kong; OCAT, Shenzhen from Beijing; The Royal Academy, The Serpentine Gallery and the Tate Gallery from London; the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art from Beijing; the Walker Art Center of Minneapolis; the White Rabbit Collection from Sydney; and the Yellow River Arts Centre from Yinchuan.

Although final figures have not yet been revealed, the information available indicates solid sales in all sectors. Several galleries have described to the media their experiences meeting new collectors from the region. Others say they had finalized sales to Asian collectors that had been in the making for up to two years, and most gallery owners reported that they had sold their entire collections during the first days of the event. The overall reception generated great excitement with this first edition, and optimism about the future of the growing art market in Asia.

ABDEL ABSESSEMED. Cheval de Turin, 2012. David Zwirner Gallery. New York, NY.

In addition to the interest shown by trade professionals, it is important to mention the participation of the public that visited the exhibition halls and attended a total of 14 lectures and 11 discussion sessions during the three days. To celebrate the first edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, the Asia Society and the Absolut Art Office organized a pre-program entitled “homegrown talent”, which featured the best local artists.

There were three meetings with the public. The first was a lecture entitled “The Artist and the Gallery Owner” by the Chinese artist Zhang Xiaogang, in a conversation with Leng Lin, President of Pace Beijing and Founder of Beijing Commune. The second was a discussion entitled “Building New Museums in Asia” and the third, “The Interest of Collectors”. Other lectures focused on the influence of the media on the development of art, and on globalization and its impact on artistic practices. In addition, there were book releases by artists such as Noritoshi Hirakawa, Li Liao, Kacey Wong, Wang Yuyang, Xingwei Wang, and Wu Zhang.

1. MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ. Measuring Body Heat (A). Galerie Krinzinger. Vienna, Austria.
2. SHOMEI TOMATSU. Misa Shin Gallery. Tokyo, Japan.

Art Basel elicits great interest in the regional art scene. The fair’s program always attracts business, and promotes short and long-term economic activity in the cities where it is held, as well as genuine interest in local art.

As it happens during Art Basel Miami Beach, on the other side of town, Hong Kong galleries and cultural organizations organized more than 150 cultural events in what is known as “Kowloon Cultural District”.

1. 2P TANG KWOK HIN. One-Man-Show. Contemporary Art Gallery. Hong Kong, China.
2. VIK MUNIZ. Pictures of Magazine 2 Study of Ostrich, After Nicasius Bernaerts, 2013. Galeria Nara Roesler. Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The first edition of Art Basel Hong Kong featured 245 of the most important galleries in the world, divided in four sectors. Fifty percent of the participants had exhibition spaces from Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, underscoring the commitment to Art Basel in the region. While the main sector, “Galleries”, presented established galleries from around the world, “Insights” was devoted to the presentation of precise contextual and thematic displays developed by the artists. “Discoveries” was the platform for younger artists. There were also displays of large-scale sculptural installations by leading artists from every continent.

Art Basel Hong Kong has positioned itself as the premier art fair in Asia. The second edition will take place from 15 to 18 May 2014.


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