The expert guide to Art Basel Hong Kong

The expert guide to Art Basel Hong Kong

From what to see to how to buy — art world insiders share their tips for this year’s event, on from 24-26 March

What are this year’s key trends?

Rita Targui, Director, STPI Gallery: ‘This year there are nine Asian galleries and 18 Western galleries participating for the first time. The show definitely introduces more diversity and scope in terms of what galleries are showing their audiences. There seems to be a heightened sense of the ‘new’ being presented at the fair. ’

Greg Hilty, Curatorial Director, Lisson Gallery: ‘The past couple of years have seen growing integration, or crossover, between Asian and non-Asian galleries. While galleries remain true to their origins and core values, they are finding good reasons to integrate artists from other cultures into their programmes. This is going to lead to some exciting new dynamics.’

François Curiel, Chairman, Christie’s Asia Pacific: ‘I always watch out for new trends. An important part of my job is to scout for the up and coming, so I always make a bee line to the Chinese and Southeast Asian galleries to check out the latest talents they promote.’

Nazy Vassegh, Chief Executive, Masterpiece London: ‘Interestingly, many galleries from both Europe and Asia are bringing high quality 20th century Modernist works to Hong Kong this year. Conventional opinion expects this to be just a contemporary fair, but it is exciting to see important historical works being brought to the Asian market by top international galleries.’

Louise Bourgeois, Spider Couple, 2003. Bronze, silver nitrate patina. 228.6 x 360.7 x 365.8 cm  90 x 142 x 144 in © The Easton Foundation  Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo Christopher Burke

Louise Bourgeois, Spider Couple, 2003. Bronze, silver nitrate patina. 228.6 x 360.7 x 365.8 cm / 90 x 142 x 144 in © The Easton Foundation / Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photo: Christopher Burke

Neil Wenman, Senior Director London, Hauser & Wirth: ‘This year you will see more high quality masterpieces raising the bar. At Hauser & Wirth we will be showcasing a major bronze sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, Spider Couple (2003) alongside a major painting by Phillip Guston, To J.S. from 1977.’

Philip Guston, To J.S., 1977. Oil on canvas, 172.7 x 264.2 cm  68 x 104 in. © The Estate of Philip Guston. Courtesy the Estate and Hauser & Wirth
Philip Guston, To J.S., 1977. Oil on canvas, 172.7 x 264.2 cm / 68 x 104 in. © The Estate of Philip Guston. Courtesy the Estate and Hauser & Wirth

Patricia Crockett, Director, Sprüth Magers London: ‘As always, the fair brings to Hong Kong a hugely diverse offering of both Asian and western contemporary and Modern art. Walking the aisles provides the chance to survey what the market has to offer from a global viewpoint, as the fair attracts the world’s best galleries who represent the world’s most famous artists. This is an unrivalled opportunity in the region. I also suspect this year’s edition will see even higher numbers of great western masterpieces being offered as the number of Asian buyers continues to increase, and collectors from the region become increasingly interested in collecting serious and challenging works of art by big name Western artists.’


General Impression © Art Basel
General Impression © Art Basel

What are your tips for a new collector visiting the fair?

Neil Wenman: ‘Focus on quality and the value of the artist in terms of art history. Will the artist be remembered in 20 years time? Buy with your eyes and not your ears.’ 

Nazy Vassegh: ‘With almost 250 exhibitors, try to avoid fair fatigue by doing some research in advance. Follow the development of galleries you like and return to them at different fairs to get a sense of their scope and depth. Ensure that you see all the galleries that are most appealing to you first. Engage them in conversation about the work you like, as this is the best way to gain knowledge. Ultimately, trust your instinct and only buy what you love.’

Mark Bradford, Untitled, 2015. Mixed media on canvas 335.3 x 304.8 cm  132 x 120 in © Mark Bradford. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo Joshua White
Mark Bradford, Untitled, 2015. Mixed media on canvas 335.3 x 304.8 cm / 132 x 120 in © Mark Bradford. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Joshua White

Greg Hilty: ‘Understanding art through your eyes remains the key but with so much new input it’s really worth talking to gallerists about the work that takes your interest.’

Patricia Crockett:  ‘Try to see as much as you can before committing to anything. If you don't act quickly sometimes you will miss out on something you might like so it always pays to do your research and prepare in advance by communicating with galleries whose artists you may be interested in. I truly think the more you learn and compare, the more you establish your own taste, and the more confidence you will have in your own decision making when it comes to buying art. At the end of the day, though, you should buy what you really love and trust your own instinct.’

François Curiel:  ‘Do not buy on day one! Art Basel is a colossal candy store for contemporary art enthusiasts, and the offerings will make your head spin. You will find a lot to like, so take advantage of the next few days to calm your nerves and decide on the one (or however many).’

Rita Targui: ‘Researching artists you are interested in and the galleries representing them will give you the chance to engage in deeper conversations with the gallerists. Asking the right questions will ultimately give you a more rewarding experience. I also think it’s important not to buy art for the sake of investing. Always go with your instinct and not what the market is telling you.’

What are this year’s must-see galleries?

Nazy Vassegh:Tornabuoni Art and Mazzoleni, both also Masterpiece exhibitors, because I am personally a huge fan of mid-20th century Italian art. I am also really looking forward to visiting Gmurzynska, Hauser & Wirth and Michael Werner showing works by Picasso, Calder and Francis Picabia respectively.’

Neil Wenman: ‘I would definitely make sure you visit Vitamin Creative Space, ShanghART and Platform China.’

Greg Hilty: ‘Art Basel Hong Kong is an ideal place to gain an understanding of new Chinese art through Long March Space, ShanghART, Antenna Space, Leo Xu and other mainland galleries.’

Alexander Calder, Spiders and Snakes, 1948. Oil on canvas, 64.8 x 92.1 cm  25 12 x 36 14 in Ó 2015 Calder Foundation, New York  DACs, London. Courtesy Calder Foundation, New York  Art Resource, New York and Hauser & Wirth
Alexander Calder, Spiders and Snakes, 1948. Oil on canvas, 64.8 x 92.1 cm / 25 1/2 x 36 1/4 in Ó 2015 Calder Foundation, New York / DACs, London. Courtesy Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York and Hauser & Wirth

Rita Targui: ‘It depends on what excites or appeals to the audience. Each gallery is unique in terms of artists and artworks being presented. If I were to give a biased answer, then I’d say STPI is one of this year’s must-see galleries, because we are presenting works from international artists who have challenged their own artistic boundaries, including Shirazeh Houshiary. At the same time, we are committed to the growth of the art scene in Singapore and the Southeast Asian region, so are also presenting works by local artists, giving them an international platform on which to introduce their work.’

Patricia Crockett: ‘Apart from Sprüth Magers (of course!), Taka Ishii Gallery from Tokyo represents some of my favourite artists, including Dan Graham and Thomas Demand. Ibid Gallery from London/LA, Long March Space from Beijing and Mendes Wood from Sao Paolo have a great programmes too. Something Art Basel offers is the opportunity to buy from a selection of some of the world’s most interesting younger galleries, which get the opportunity to exhibit alongside more established, bigger galleries. I always, therefore, recommend that people focus on the ‘Discoveries’ section of the fair. There are some great artworks by very interesting artists to be found in this section, and their prices are usually more affordable.’