Following a successful launch last year, Hong Kong’s edition of Art Basel is back with a larger schedule of events and even more art than one can see in a week. This year boasts more than 3,000 works of art from over 200 galleries.
Although a welcomed spotlight, Hong Kong was never lacking in the international art show circuit, or arts for that matter—we currently have several a year and even two fairs that proudly share the weekend with Basel (read on to find out who).
While Basel has prepared an impressive schedule of artist talks, public art displays, and exhibitions in addition to their main event held at the HK Convention Hall, local galleries and businesses have been peppering the week with their own celebrations of art, beginning on Monday the 12th.
With a slew of official, unofficial, and underground events happing across the S.A.R., here is our breakdown of how you can enjoy the much anticipated annual event whether you’re a local, a tourist, or an art connoisseur.
MONDAY, MAY 12
Kicking off on Monday, the week starts with the Asia Society’s annual Art Gala, celebrating artists who have contributed to contemporary art. This year the honorees are Bharti Kher, Lio Guosong, Zhang Xiaogang and Takashi Murakami. The evening includes an auction to benefit the many important initiatives the Society puts on throughout the world. If you can’t make it to the gala, start the art week whetting your appetite by attending the opening of The Scarlet Bauhinia in Full Bloom, at the always inspiring Amelia Johnson Contemporary. A group show featuring four local artists, the works speak to the sensitive but important issue of the relationship between China and Hong Kong (through May 31st, G/F 6-10 Shin Hing Street NoHo, Central).
Also of note on Monday is Beijing-based painter Song Yige’s recently opened exhibition Another Dimension at Sotheby’s gallery (10AM to 6PM, through May 18th, 5/F One Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong) and the opening of Space Painting by Chinese contemporary artist Zhang Enli, his first solo exhibition, at the K11 Foundation Pop-up Space (11AM to 7PM, through July 13th, G/F, Cosco Tower, Grand Millennium Plaza, 183 Queen's Road Central, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong).
Su Xiaobai, Painting and Being New Green, 2013; Courtesy Pear Lam Galleries
TUESDAY, MAY 13
The headlining event on Tuesday is Art Gallery Night, sponsored by the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association. The free event includes thirty-six participating galleries staying open past your bedtime for exploration and discovery, while featuring cocktail parties and artist talks. It’s the perfect way to brush up on your art vocabulary for Basel later in the week (6PM to 10:30 PM). Be sure not to miss the impressive works by French sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel at Galerie Perrotin (through June 21st, 50 Connaught Road, Central, 17th Floor), or local diva Pearl Lam’s eponymous gallery exhibiting the celebrated Chinese artist Su Xiaobai, featuring his labor intensive painting technique and unique final presentation (through July 15th, Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central, 6th floor).
Tuesday also plays host to the debut of Swarovksi’s new installation by Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard of the British design duo, Fredrikson Stallard. Titled Prologue, a symbol of “life and rebirth,” the temporary display will be housed at the courtyard of a former police married quarters, repurposed as the recently opened PMQ, a new creative hotspot in Hong Kong housing design related businesses and shops. Featuring over 8,000 crystals and soaring 12 feet high, this will be a sculpture that Swarovski lovers won’t want to miss (35 Aberdeen St Central, Hong Kong).
And for something really different, check out the Paloma Powers boardroom. Hosted by Focus Media at The Centrium this event features a “corporate environment” designed by Shawn Maximo with a soundtrack by Justin Simon. There will be cocktails and various refreshments, but space is limited, so you’ll want to RSVP or they may turn you away empty handed (60 Wyndam Street, Central Hong Kong, 4 – 6 PM; RSVP to Paloma@palomapowers.com).
WEDNESDAY, MAY 14
Officially, Art Basel kicks off Wednesday afternoon with the invitation only Private View followed by the Vernissage, a preview party complete with a cash bar and celebrity sightings (with tickets available for public purchase and a price to match the fancy name). If you haven’t got the connections to score an invite or the cash to shell out for the party, you can attend the public opening on Thursday, with tickets that start at a reasonable HK$250 from any Hong Kong Ticketing outlet.
Following Basel’s opening, it’s the after party everyone’s been waiting for. Each year, Absolut Vodka chooses one artist to create a theme and installation that will become the Absolut Art Bar. Hosting the opening night’s post-show festivities, it will remain open throughout the week to serve thirsty art lovers. This year Absolut picked Nadim Abbas, a lecturer at the Hong Kong Art School and one of most impressive artists on the local Hong Kong art scene (read our interview with Abbas here). Drawing inspiration from movies like A Clockwork Orange and Alien, Abbas dreamed up Apocalypse Postponed—a science fiction theme which entails a bunker styled setting complete with specially designed cocktails served out of blood bags and an impressive showcase of live music and DJs (Free, open to the public beginning Thursday, 5PM to 2AM, Stonewall Plaza II, Midtown POP, 1 & 29 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay).
If drinking and dancing with someone who you’re not sure is a real zombie or just brain dead from viewing too much art isn’t your cup of tea, head over to the Asia Society for Captured in Ink on Wednesday afternoon. Gala honoree Liu Guosong, along with Hong Kong artist Wucius Wong and American photographer Michael Cherney, will be on hand for an interesting discussion on traditional ink drawing and the blending of ancient art practices with modern interpretations. Moderated by M+ curator, Tina Yee-Wan Pang (12:15 PM to 2:15 PM, HK$490 Asia Society members; HK$650 non-members, 9 Justice Drive, Admiralty).
Carsten Nicolai, a (alpha) pulse
THURSDAY, MAY 15
Finally, once Thursday rolls around Art Basel is officially open to the public. In addition to the show, launching today is the impressive list of daily side events, such as Basel’s morning scheduled Conversations (free!), special curated films and afternoon Salon (show ticket required, check website for details). But don’t think the famed art fair rules the day. Also launching today is the Asia Contemporary Art Show at the Conrad Hotel. Promoted as their largest event to date, the biannual fair offers a more intimate setting but equally as powerful a showing as Basel (through the 18th, tickets from HK$180).
Thursday is also the much anticipated launch of a (alpha) pulse, a commissioned audio-visual public installation by German sound artist Carsten Nicolai. Taking place on the outside of the International Commerce Centre building in West Kowloon, and visible from most of western Hong Kong Island, the nightly event will feature a pulsating light based on viewer interaction via a custom designed app which allows the pattern to be affected by the audience. The multi-sensory experience will include sight and sound (free App download: alpha pulse, showing each night from Thursday to Saturday, 8:30 PM to 9:20 PM).
For those saving the light show for another night, be sure to head over to Sin Sin Fine Art, for the opening of Exposure, an exhibition showcasing the works of four talented Indonesian artists. The night includes a special live art performance and wraps with an after party at Hong Kong’s exclusive KEE Club (6PM to 9PM, performance at 8PM, 52-54 Sai Street, Central, RSVP required).
Also on the calendar for Thursday is the Wong Chuk Hang Art Night, located on the south side of Hong Kong Island. A growing art gallery hood, the area features annexes of established galleries as well as the headquarters for local galleries housing some of the most provocative local art. Not to be missed is Gallery Exit’s group show The Bold Sopranos, a multimedia whirlwind of fiction and reality (7PM to 10PM, SOUTHSITE, 3/F, 25 Hing Wo Street, Tin Wan, Aberdeen).
If you’re down for something a bit off the cuff, and want to increase your knowledge by going back to school, head over to famed auction house Christie’s where they’re offering a two day course as an essential guide to post-war art. Taught by NYC based Program Director Robin Reisenfeld, the lectures are designed for those who want to learn more about important contemporary art and is suitable for all levels (HK$9,000, offered in English, May 15th to 16th, and Mandarin, 17th to 18th).
Pio Abad, The Bold Sopranos - Decoy II, 2014; Courtesy Gallery Exit
FRIDAY, MAY 16
With Basel still in full swing, two more important events launch on Friday. Yet another fair, located in yet another hotel, opens today. The Hong Kong Contemporary Art Fair, housed in The Excelsior Hotel, focuses on more accessible modern art from around the world, and with tickets starting at HK$50, it’s worth a visit (May 16th to May 19th).
Following the art fair, head east to the Chai Wan Mei Open Studios. Located in the fast growing center of Hong Kong’s creative scene, the industrial area is home to a number of innovative galleries, artist studios, and secret shops, such as a vertical gallery space in a warehouse stairwell. Organizers are offering a round trip shuttle bus from the HKCEC (where Art Basel takes place), so we better see you there.
SATURDAY, MAY 17
Saturday marks the last day for Basel’s Conversations and afternoon Salon panels, but have no fear, it’s actually when Hong Kong celebrates International Museum Day (who knew?). Take the Star Ferry across the harbor to the Hong Kong Museum of Art for an impressive display of 120 artworks by celebrated Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming. On show are works made of wood, bronze, stainless steel, and more (HK$20, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon).
If you want to stay island side, here are two great options: First, be sure to take some time to visit the Hong Kong Arts Centre Open House. The HKAC houses a theater, restaurants, several galleries, indie clothing shops, and a well-stocked book store to keep you busy for hours (Open from 10AM to 10PM, 2 Harbour Road, Wanchai). Second, the Asia Art Archive is hosting a live war of words, with no blood spilled (hopefully). Presented by artists-in-residence C&G (Clara and Gum), the event will be a parody of the local education system—in quiz show format—pitting different local artists and their teams against each other over knowledge (or lack thereof) of Hong Kong’s local contemporary art scene. An impressive list of contestants has been arranged, including Hong Kong artists Kacey Wong, Leung Mee Ping and Law Man Lok. Note: The Quiz will be in Cantonese, but will feature live commentary by sound and performance artist Samson Young. Live action sport sounds like a great way to finish off the week.
SUNDAY, MAY 18
As the week comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to veg out and reflect on the action packed week you’ve had. Luckily, the Mandarin Oriental, Art Basel’s official host hotel, has a few things to help you relax. Of note are the Art Chocolates, on sale in The Mandarin Cake Shop, featuring edible art supplies in the form of brushes and palettes, as well as the Art Cocktails in the M Bar, featuring drinks inspired by Art Basel Hong Kong (5 Connaught Road, Central). Enjoy.
(Image on top: View of Hong Kong Convention Centre, Art Basel in Hong Kong 2013, General Impressions MCH Messe Schweiz (Basel) AG / Courtesy of the artist and Art Basel Hong Kong)