Hong Kong. Photo Tuomas Lehtinen  Alamy

Art Basel Hong Kong 2019: The insiders’ guide

Ahead of Asia’s most important annual art fair (29-31 March), art-world insiders reveal the gallery shows to look out for, the restaurants to reserve now and their favourite spots to relax

What do you love about Hong Kong and its art scene?

Elaine Kwok, Director of Christie’s Education, Asia: ‘I love how the art scene is changing so quickly here. When I was growing up, no one would call Hong Kong an art capital of the world, even though it had a thriving market in Chinese antiques. Art Basel Hong Kong has catalysed this dynamic shift in the city, which now hosts more and more international collectors buying across categories.

‘In recent years, more non-commercial museums and gallery spaces have opened, including Asia Society in 2012, Tai Kwun Contemporary in 2018, and the Centre of Heritage, Art and Textiles this March.

‘We’re also now eagerly anticipating the re-opening of the Hong Kong Museum of Art at the end of this year, the openings of M+ at the end of 2020, and of Hong Kong Palace Museum in 2022 — it just keeps getting better and better.’

Hong Kong has become a ‘fundamental hub for the Asian market’, says Christies Elaine Kwok

Hong Kong has become a ‘fundamental hub for the Asian market’, says Christies Elaine Kwok

Lorenzo Fiaschi, Co-Founder, Galleria Continua: ‘I simply love Hong Kong. For me, it’s one of the most exciting places to be. In recent years, it has definitely become a fundamental hub for the Asian market, and, in particular, for collectors from the Philippines, Korea and Indonesia.’

Nazy Vassegh, Founder, Business of Art: ‘Hong Kong is incredibly energising — it’s always buzzing, which inspires me enormously. Apart from the great food and shopping, you also have fabulous centres for art and culture, such as H. Queen’s and the Pedder Building.’ 

Whitney Ferrare, Senior Director, Pace Gallery, Hong Kong: ‘My hometown is one of the most welcoming cities in the world. I think this is definitely one of the reasons why the art world has grown so much here. You can be anyone from anywhere and find your groove in Hong Kong.’

What exhibitions, events, and trends should we be looking out for during Art Basel Hong Kong?

Elaine Kwok: ‘Beyond Art Basel, I am really looking forward to seeing Cézanne, Morandi, and Sanyu, the Zeng Fanzhi-curated exhibition at Gagosian; the inaugural exhibition at the new Lévy Gorvy gallery; and Convergence, a show co-organised by Maria Kiang, a dealer who specialises in Chinese antique scholars objects, Chelsea Art and 88 Gallery. They have teamed up to present a show on the 6th floor of Pedder Building, which mixes Chinese contemporary and classical, fine and decorative arts.

Elaine Kwok looks forward to the inaugural exhibition at the new Lévy Gorvy gallery. © Kitmin Lee

Elaine Kwok looks forward to the inaugural exhibition at the new Lévy Gorvy gallery. © Kitmin Lee

‘I’m also looking forward to our popular First Open| Hong Kong sale, which Christie’s has offered alongside Art Basel Hong Kong for the past few years; and the Christie’s-hosted selling exhibition of blue-chip international artists — including Bacon, Calder and Kusama — in our space at Alexandra House and the atrium of the Mandarin Oriental.’

Lorenzo Fiaschi: ‘We have been working with Antony Gormley since 2009 and are very proud to have a special presentation of three Gormley works at Art Basel Hong Kong this year.

Lorenzo Fiaschi of Galleria Continua looks forward to a presentation of three works by Antony Gormley, including WAIT, 2015. 2 mm square section stainless steel bar 240 x 65 x 50 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano  Beijing  Les Moulins  Habana. Photo by Stephen White, London

Lorenzo Fiaschi of Galleria Continua looks forward to a presentation of three works by Antony Gormley, including WAIT, 2015. 2 mm square section stainless steel bar 240 x 65 x 50 cm. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Habana. Photo by Stephen White, London

‘We’re also really looking forward to the panel discussion at our booth (29 March, 5-6pm) between the director of The Uffizi Gallery, Eike Schmidt, and art critic and curator Shen Qilan. They will discuss the Antony Gormley exhibition ESSERE, currently on view at the Uffizi, which we were involved in.’

Nazy Vassegh: Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong is presenting the first solo exhibition in the city of works by French-American artist Louise Bourgeois. It’s curated by Jerry Gorovoy, who worked closely with the artist in the last two decades of her artistic output, so it should be a fantastic show.’

Nazy Vassegh, founder of Business Art, looks forward to the first solo exhibition in Hong Kong of works by Louise Bourgeois, My Own Voice Wakes Me Up, at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong. © The Easton FoundationVAGA at ARS, NY Courtesy The Easton Foundation and Hauser & Wirth. Photo JJYPHOTO

Nazy Vassegh, founder of Business Art, looks forward to the first solo exhibition in Hong Kong of works by Louise Bourgeois, My Own Voice Wakes Me Up, at Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong. © The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY Courtesy The Easton Foundation and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: JJYPHOTO

Whitney Ferrare: ‘The brilliant thing about Art Basel is that the whole city comes alive with a breadth of transformative shows and experiences. We’re honoured to present a solo show of works by Mary Corse, the artist’s inaugural exhibition with Pace Gallery since her Whitney Museum retrospective in 2018.

Whitney Ferrare of Pace Gallery is pleased to be presenting a solo show of Mary Corse, including Untitled (White Multiband, Beveled), 2019. Glass microspheres in acrylic on canvas. 78 x 120 in (198.1 x 304.8 cm). © Mary Corse, courtesy Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Pace Gallery, Lisson. Photo credit Flying Studio

Whitney Ferrare of Pace Gallery is pleased to be presenting a solo show of Mary Corse, including Untitled (White Multiband, Beveled), 2019. Glass microspheres in acrylic on canvas. 78 x 120 in (198.1 x 304.8 cm). © Mary Corse, courtesy Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Pace Gallery, Lisson. Photo credit: Flying Studio

Hart Haus in Kennedy Town is inviting artists to work and share their practice in a “Social Studio”; and K11 is taking art outdoors in a major way.

‘We’re also seeing an embrace of digital and tech-based-medium artists: Studio Drift and Studio Swine, for example, are in Hong Kong for the fair, both speaking on panel discussions around the city. I’d also recommend checking out Nova Contemporary, Silverlens, and Gallery Exit, all of which have fantastic regional programmes.’

What advice would you give to first-time visitors to the fair?

Elaine Kwok: ‘Visit multiple times, for no more than two hours each time. Fatigue often sets in after a couple of hours, so that’s your cue to go and take advantage of some of Hong Kong’s other offerings.’

Nazy Vassegh: ‘Do research online first to identify areas of interest and talk to people, otherwise it can be overwhelming. Art Basel Hong Kong week is the  art week in the Hong Kong calendar: there is so much to see and do, so it’s important to plan your itinerary to get the most out of it.’

Visitors to Art Basel Hong Kong in 2018. Copyright © Art Basel

Visitors to Art Basel Hong Kong in 2018. Copyright © Art Basel

Lorenzo Fiaschi: ‘I would suggest, as always, to follow your own passion and to look for things that are surprising.’

Whitney Ferrare: ‘My partner and I usually make a last-minute loop around the fair to see what hidden gems have been left unsold. Buy with your eyes, and not your ears.’

And what about your tips for relaxation and downtime?

Elaine Kwok: ‘I love Repulse Bay, and would recommend afternoon tea at The Verandah — the colonialist decor and ocean views evoke the slower pace of a bygone era, while the food and service by the legendary Peninsula are just brilliant.

‘I’d also suggest checking out the brand new Rosewood Hotel; it’s a bit of a trek to get to, but the views are magnificent, and I have heard great things about the food.

‘For art lovers, Old Bailey and Madame Fu at Tai Kwun are great for food, too.’

Lorenzo Fiaschi: ‘I would recommend a trip to see the grand Buddha on Lantau Island, as well as taking a ride on the ferry from Victoria Peak. Visit all the fantastic galleries in the city, too’.

Nazy Vassegh: ‘The most surprising and relaxing place I’ve been to near Hong Kong is Shek O Beach, which is just 20 minutes outside the city. When you’re in this gorgeous beachside village, it’s hard to believe that you’re still on Hong Kong Island.

‘The food in Hong Kong is amazing. I love going to Mott32, which is inspired by Mott32 Street in New York, and the al fresco  terrace at Sevva. I also really love the bar at Upper House — it’s a great place to catch up with people.’

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Whitney Ferrare: ‘The outdoor hiking in Hong Kong is like nowhere else in the world. I love that I can step outside of my front door and be hiking within minutes.

‘First-timers to Hong Kong should hop on the tram. It’s 25 cents and will give you a real glimpse of life here. Sit up top, or stand in the back. Start in Kennedy Town, and jump off in Happy Valley.

‘You’ll usually find me in Wan Chai, around Star Street standing on a small street corner at Ciacoe with a Spritz in hand, or at Café Grey. Dai Bing, the sister bar to Ping Pong, is the new kid on the block and one to check out — it serves delicious Macanese samosas!’