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ART ASIA REPORT
Exclusive VIP Coverage ART HK12
Hong Kong International Art Fair

JUNE 2012

· ART BASEL HONG KONG,ART ASIA,YAYOI KUSAMA

ART ASIA REPORT
Exclusive VIP Coverage ART HK12
Hong Kong International Art Fair

SARAH BELDEN FINE ART PARTNERS
Moment Design + Productions
KayRock Editions
Hamburg Kennedy Photographs

ONLINE GALLERY SPOTLIGHT
Yayoi Kusama

For those who have not already visited our newly launched website featuring our Art Consulting Services and Online Gallery, we welcome you to do so here. For this month's edition Sarah covers the Hong Kong International Art Fair and examines the art scene in Hong Kong itself, which is now being touted as the next major global art capital. With exclusive VIP coverage of the fair, as well as concurrent gallery openings, auctions and other events in Hong Kong this past May, SBFA gives you an extensive look at this emerging art metropolis. SBFA will also be celebrating the life and work of groundbreaking Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama this month with an exclusive offer at our Online Gallery, featuring a special limited edition print by the prolific and visionary female artist. And finally, SBFA is pleased to announce two new partnerships with innovative, Tribeca-based, interior design firm Moment Design + Productions and Kayrock Editions, whose limited edition prints we will be offering in our Online Gallery

In honor of Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama, who recently opened a major retrospective at the Tate Modern in London and “Hong Kong Blooms in My Mind,” a unique exhibition of works for sale at Sothbey’s new Hong Kong headquarters, SBFA is pleased to offer an exclusive print by the artist for a limited time only. The 84 year old, female artist, who was born in Nagano, Japan in 1929, has gained fame and notoriety with her groundbreaking art happenings and prolific life’s work in a diverse variety of media. Most famous for her obsessive, repetitive and endless polka dots and ‘Infinity Net’ paintings, made up of carefully repeated arcs of paint built up into large patterns, Yayoi Kusama is considered one of the most influential figures of modern and contemporary art today.
 
Kusama moved to New York City in 1957 where she launched a successful career producing paintings, sculptures, installations, performance and film. Her work has been aligned with the Pop, Minimalist and Feminist movements however, she may be considered an artist in her own right, who defies classification. As a female artist from the East, she had to contend with the male-dominated Western art world in New York and was surrounded by the likes of Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Joseph Cornell and Claes Oldenburg. For over a decade in New York she effectively put her energy towards creating inspiring artistic forms and achieved fame and notoriety with her groundbreaking work in the United States. In the 70s she returned to Japan where she settled, at her own instigation, in the Seiwa Hospital in Tokyo. Despite her lifelong battle with mental illness she continues to carry on her normal daily routine, spending several hours a day in her studio producing innovative new work.

Her work has the highest auction turnover of any living woman, and while her monochrome "Infinity Net" paintings command the highest prices, her colorful prints have also contributed to her high volume at auction. She was also ranked 5th among the top female Post War artists at auction for a work that sold at Christie’s for $5.1 million USD in 2008. Yayoi Kusama continues to re-invent her innovative and unique style and is now considered one of Japan’s most prominent artists, and indeed one of the most important contemporary artists of our time.

Please click here for SBFA's exclusive Yayoi Kusama offer.

SBFA PARTNERS

n addition to Hamburg Kennedy Photographs, with whom SBFA has been working for the past two years to source exclusive 20th Century and Contemporary Photography and Prints, we are now pleased to annouce that we will also be working in partnership with innovative, Tribeca-based interior design firm Moment Design + Productions. Moment Design has garnered recognition as one of New York’s finest young interior design firms with their inspiring and timeless approach. SBFA will continue to work with the firm to vet artworks for top clients, adding depth and sophistication to their one of a kind interior projects.

Moment Design: Photo Costas Picadas

ART HK12: Betting on the Hub: A True Art Metropolis?
May 17 - 20, 2012 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center

Hong Kong is a place of vastly diverse contrasts, a financial powerhouse situated on the cusp of mainland Communist China, a free market gateway between Asia, America and Europe, and a cosmopolitan metropolis "on the verge" with a burgeoning art scene to match. For the 5th edition of ART HK the fair has confirmed its status as Asia's premier art fair, with more visitors and galleries than ever, creating even greater expectations for next year when the fair will become Art Basel Hong Kong. The fact that Art Basel, the queen of all art fairs, has taken over ART HK shouldn't be such a surprise considering China has surpassed the United States and Europe as the world's biggest art market with Chinese buyers now making up over 41% of the global art auction market. This, coupled with the major hype surrounding Chinese Contemporary Art itself, have helped put Hong Kong on the map as a key market for contemporary art in the new global economy. So - is Hong Kong poised to become the next global art capital? Based upon the palpable excitement in the air during this year's fair, the recent frenzy of major blue chip galleries who have set up shop at an unprecedented rate here, and the growing ranks of newly minted Asian millionaires, who are not just interested in collecting Contemporary Art, but in setting up their own private museums, one would guess so.

This edition of Art HK boasted 266 participants from 38 countries, while maintaining it's unique 50/50 balance of Asian and Western galleries. With only six additional galleries this year, the aim was to make the fair better, not bigger. A quick glance at the line up reads like a whose-who of the art world, with all the usual suspects: Sadie Coles, Gagosian, Eigen and Art and some newer additions, such as Eleven Rivington, Daniel Templon and Carsten Greve. Since its inception five years ago, ART HK has always featured major artists from top galleries, but this year they aimed to diverge from the typical trade show format and invited Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, to curate Art HK Projects. Hasegawa presented 10 large-scale installations, that included Yayoi Kusama's signature polka dot Flower sculptures, that were a huge hit; Chinese artist, Yin Xiuzhen's shipping container reconfigured as a round-cut diamond, and Tatsuo Miyajima's six-meter high mirrored tower with 3,287 LED lights. Also adding to the newer more dynamic feel of the space was Galerie Gmurzynska's specially commissioned Zaha Hadid booth, featuring an important exhibition of the works of Wifredo Lam, the only 20th century classic modern artist of Chinese origins, which seemed a perfect fit, bridging the gap between East and West.

 

Peter Liversidge, Ingleby Gallery

At the VIP vernissage held on Wednesday night, it was clear that the bulk of collectors in attendance were Asian. There were a lot of Australians and some major European players in tow, but few American fly-ins to be seen. Some of the more prominent collectors present were; Uli Sigg, former Swiss ambassador to China, and one of the first major collectors of avant-garde Chinese art, who I had the pleasure of meeting at Art Basel Miami; Christie's owner, Francois Pinault, and the omnipresent dynamic duo, Don and Mera Rubell from Miami, who were in town for the Private Museum Panel. Having just landed on a flight from Seoul, I didn't have time to take much in opening night, but as I weaved my way through the seemingly endless rows of gallery booths, requisite glass of champagne in hand, I got a pretty good quick overview.

Many of the big names were immediately apparent; a Daniel Buren hanging colored, glass window installation; a Gerhard Richter minimalist "strip painting" (from the same series Marian Goodman exhibited at Frieze in October); one of Damien Hirst's massive pill cabinets at White Cube; a George Condo painting from 2012, which sold for $150,000, in addition to works by Georg Baselitz, Alighiero Boetti, and Robert Motherwell, who all sold well. Political dissident Ai Weiwei exhibited a monumental and emotive work entitled "Cong," which consisted of 123 framed letters from various Chinese government ministries regarding his investigation of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. The work also displayed the names of the 5,196 students who died in school buildings that collapsed as a combined result of the earthquake and poor construction methods. There were several elegant gunpowder works on paper by Cai Guo-Qiang and major canvases by star painters Zhang Xiaogang, Zeng Fanzhi and Yue Minjun, as well as large-scale works by top Chinese photographer Zhang Huan. Also immediately visible were large sculptural and installation works by Mariko Mori, Anish Kapoor, Takashi Murakami and Subodh Gupta.

While one could probably see most of the aforementioned at Basel or Frieze, there were also many interesting, new discoveries to be found in the ART FUTURES section and ASIA ONE. One of these was Thai artist, Navin Rawanchaikul, who presented an installation entitled "A Tale of Two Cities," at Singapore's Yakuz Fine Art. The solo exhibition of mixed-media work by the Chang Mai artist included nostalgic photographic studio style paintings, documentary video, textural work and a glass cabinet, encasing hundreds of small bottles, each one containing a photographic portrait of a different individual. This work entitled, "There is no voice" focused on the notion of community from a geo-cultural perspective, exploring local circumstances and trends of globalization and juxtaposing communities in Hong Kong and Chang Mai. Another installation that caught my eye was Herman Chong's "God Bless Diana," an "archive" of 550 photographs, printed as individual "postcards," each for sale as an artwork in it's own right. Chong's 'cinematic' images culled from urban life in London, Beijing, Singapore, and New York could be had for a mere 5 HK$. Once procured, the aim is that they be redistributed into the world, where they may function individually as well as collectively, resisting the usual art world exclusiveness.

I discovered a brilliant video work by Pakistani artist Rashid Rana, presented at Lisson Gallery (he is definitely one to watch), and at the Modern Institute, while I could barely take my eyes off Tony Swain's subtle, engaging and delicate painted collages on newsprint, I was also taken in by Richard Hughes refashioned basketball in a bottle, all of which was painstakingly made by hand with resin. The solo presentation of Peter Liversidge's work at Ingleby Gallery was also hard to miss, with an installation piece in bright lights that read, "Everything is Connected." Another gallery, whose booth worked well, was Galleria Continua. Based in, of all unlikely places, Beijing and San Gimignano, the gallery that features an incredibly diverse roster of artists was showing a monumental text work by Beijing- based Gu Dexin; a "labyrinth circle" made of thousands of matches encased in plexi by Egyptian artist Moataz Nasr; and Yaoundé-based, Pascale Marthine Tayou's uplifting, stacked Chinese "columns" made of blue painted vases, as well as a signature Anish Kapoor wall sculpture. Another artist who I kept coming back to see at Daniel Templon's booth was Mao Yan, whose lightly colored, sketchy water color portraits, interpreted from Goya and Delacroix started at $40,000 USD.

Galleria Continua, San Gimignano

A reoccurring theme I found in much of the work on display during the week was the fragmented and expansive nature of contemporary mobility, including issues of dislocation, duality and the construction of identity and place. A tongue in cheek piece that touched upon this was Indonesian artist Tintin Wulia's "passport machine." Similar to those found in amusement parks, by inserting a dollar coin in the slot, the viewer has a chance at grabbing a fake passport and winning their nationality of choice. This one off piece was like the "Mona Lisa" of the art fair and impossible to get close to, due to the constant onslaught of bemused viewers. Across town in Chai Wan Mei, I visited some artist's studios and galleries including 10 Chancery Lane that was exhibiting "Erasure" by Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê. Another highly emotive and political work, this installation featured three large wooden boat wrecks, set adrift in a sea of thousands of old, faded, family photographs strewn across the gallery floor. All of the photos were from families of Vietnamese refugees that the artist had found, while he, a refugee himself, was searching for clues to his past. In the darkened gallery, a large screen played a haunting video of a burning refugee boat wreck off of Australia's Christmas Island. This work highlighted the plight of the rising number of refugees from around the world caused by political and economic upheavals.

Throughout the week the city hosted numerous talks, tours, debates and important gallery openings such as Andreas Gursky's first ever exhibition in Asia featuring his large-scale, painterly and almost abstract Bangkok series at Gagosian in the historic Pedder building. In addition to the new works, there were other important iconic Gursky pieces on display, such as his "99 Cent II Diptychon" (2001), for which I was given an off the record quote of "5 Million USD" even though it "was not for sale." Ben Brown Gallery, also in the Pedder building, offered an extensive look at influential Italian artist Alighiero Boetti, and Anselm Kiefer's first ever exhibition in China opened at White Cube, featuring large-scale landscape paintings and lead and steel sculptures at Jay Jopling's newest outpost, located in a 31-storey skyscraper in Hong Kong's financial district. While one could easily compare the energy in Hong Kong during the week to that of Armory or Frieze, Hong Kong has not always been taken seriously as an international arts destination. According to Magnus Renfrew, the fair director, several years ago Hong Kong was considered by many to be "a cultural desert," with a relatively new and undeveloped art scene. Now it seems ART HK has become a catalyst in creating something greater that fits in with Hong Kong's long-term plans to become a year-round, art-selling hub to rival London or New York—an aspiration that has been attributed to Asia's recent wealth boom. Hong Kong's art scene has been expanding for the past few years and with the recent inauguration of Sotheby's 15,000 sq ft gallery space, and a flurry of other major gallery openings including, not just Gagosian, Ben Brown and White Cube, but also Simon Lee from London, Emmanuel Perrotin from Paris, and Shanghai's Pearl Lam, it appears that this expansion has reached it's apex.

Private Museum Panel at HK12

Despite the growing interest in Contemporary art in the region however, a strong network of publicly funded institutions has been sorely lacking throughout the Asia Pacific region, and this was the focus for discussion at the Private Museum Forum, a unique summit of some of most influential private museum owners from across Asia. I attended Art HK's Private Museum Panel which included; Li Bing, owner of the Bejing Jing Yuan Art Museum; Wang Huangsheng, Director of CAFA Gallery Bejing; Dr Oei Hong Djin, owner of OHD Museum in Magelang, Indonesia; Wang Wei, owner of the Dragon Art Museum in Shanghai; KC Kwok, director of the National Art Gallery, Singapore; and Lars Nittve, former director of Tate Modern, London, who is now the Executive Director of the M+ Museum, a major Contemporary Art Museum currently being developed in the West Kowloon Cultural District of Hong Kong where Norman Foster's new HK$29 Billion dollar City Park is slated to make its debut in 2017.

Much of the discussion centered around issues of responsibility, sustainability, and why these museums are so important in creating platforms for culture, education and a space for discourse. Larys Forgier, director of Thomas Ou's Rockbund Museum has stated that, "early collectors bought art for investment, the auction-led art market was an obsession, but now you're seeing something new. It is not about risk and speculation, they want a sustainable market, they collect with care and they support the artists. It's about the long term – they are trying to create a sense of their own contemporary world." Wang Wei, the wife of billionaire collector Liu Yiqian, who spent nearly $317 million on art in the last two years, discussed the responsibility of private collectors to share their collections and their knowledge with the public. Wei stated that "because there are so few public museums and art education is quite poor, it is up to private collectors to fill this gap." Other members on the panel voiced concerns about the lack of museum policy and the dearth of professional talent that is needed in arts management and questions were posed about how collectors might commit to and fund these museums long term, and what might happen to these important collections if the museums fail. The moderator Phillip Dodd, related what is happening in Asia now, to the robber barons in America in the 20s and 30s, who pioneered such important museums as the Whitney, MoMA and the Frick in New York.

After leaving this discussion I noticed the incredibly gauche signature tote bags and t-shirts that were being hawked around exhibition center that read, "Money Creates Taste," not sure whose idea that was. Another VIP panel which I unfortunately missed, while bouncing back and forth between the Pedder building, the Convention Center, and artists studios and galleries in Chai Wan Mei, was the Intelligence Squared Asia debate: "Contemporary Art Excludes the 99%," which posed such pertinent questions as: "what is the role of the contemporary art museum today; are biennales and art fairs platforms for experiment and exchange or merely social events for the elite; have collectors become the new curators; are private and corporate interests in culture at odds with the public good; and ultimately, who is art for?" Among other art world luminaries, Paul Chan and Joseph Kosuth joined in the discussion, Asia Art Archive's "Backroom Conversations" also featured the Burger Collection Keynote Lecture, this year given by Nigerian curator and critic Okwui Enwezor, as well as "The Decade Revisted" with Hans Ulrich Obrist. I passed on Obrist's lecture and attended Enwezor's instead, in which he discussed, amongst other things, the need to consider off-centered places of emergence and not to just see things as a competition between East and West.

Friday evening I attended a private dinner at collector and fashion impresario David Tang's China Club (not to be mistaken with the one in New York). Located on the thirteenth floor of the Old Bank of China Building, this multi-level, elegant dining club is reminiscent of 1930s Shanghai. With a veritable rabbits' warren of private dining rooms, bars and a library housing several thousand books, not to mention Tang's enviable vast collection of Contemporary Chinese Art, it was a challenge just to find our hosts. Amongst the guests were collectors from Korea, Europe and Australia, as well as art consultants from New York and Sydney. Most guests seemed in agreement that the fair was quite a success and almost everyone said they planned on coming back next year. Saturday night was the final VIP fête at the multi-million dollar waterfront home of collectors Stephen and Yana Peel. The multi-level house was filled with art, running the gamut from a Julian Opie video piece to installation works by bizarre performance artist Frog King Kwok. Yana, a tall, attractive brunette, Russian émigré to Canada, and former Goldman Sachs executive, is also the co-founder of Intelligence Squared Asia, the non-profit organization that hosted the debate "Contemporary Art Excludes the 99%," yet another irony I found amusing and quite fitting during this week of exuberance and excess all in the name of art.

While it seemed abundantly clear that some of the most powerful players in the art world have placed their bets on Hong Kong as the "next global art powerhouse," this boom comes at a time when Chinese economic growth is slowing, raising concerns about sustainability. Natasha Whiffin, gallery manager at Saamlung in Hong Kong, says, "Whilst this hype brings an air of excitement to the city's art scene, its very telling of the possible fragility of the market and whether it's sustainable." Although Christie's and Sotheby's spring auctions in Hong Kong reported strong sales for 20th century and Contemporary art, with record-breaking prices achieved by Chinese and Indonesian artists, London based research firm Art Tactic recently reported that after three years of rapid growth at the very high end, confidence in the Chinese art market is slowing down. And despite the recent flood of galleries in Hong Kong, many dealers warn that those headed eastward should scale back their expectations. Urs Meile of Galerie Urs Meile in Switzerland and Beijing said, "If you look long term, it will be a good market, but I'm not sure it will grow fast." Some dealers made reservations about the Chinese being able to absorb so much material and others voiced concerns about the difficulty of identifying the shifting tastes of the new generation of Asian collectors.

Hong Kong does not lack the financial clout to fulfill its aim of becoming the next major art hub, but the art scene, while certainly dynamic, is too focused on the commercial side. With only a hand full of non-commercial spaces, public museums and alternative spaces for emerging artists, it pales in comparison to say, Beijing (with its 798 zone) or Shanghai, and with the astronomical rents and lack of space in Hong Kong I cannot imagine it as a viable city for any artist trying to make it. It could do with a little of Berlin's "sexy but poor" vibe and perhaps it is exactly this energy that is missing from the financial capital. That said, it was just announced that former Swiss Ambassador Uli Sigg, one of the pioneering collectors of Contemporary Chinese art, has decided to bequeath his entire collection to the M+ Museum currently being built in Hong Kong's West Kowloon district. Amassed over three decades and valued at $167 million, the "encyclopedic" collection is an assemblage of over 1500 works, including edgy and subversive artworks from 350 of China's leading contemporary artists including activist Ai Weiwei. In Mainland China where sensitive art is still heavily censored, this collection would not be possible. While Sigg has considered donating his collection elsewhere, he has stated that, "it's very important that a Chinese public can ultimately get access to these works," and Hong Kong which does not have the same political limitations as Mainland China, is the only place to show this kind of work. Under the deal, Sigg will donate most of his collection, while 47 pieces will be acquired by the M+ for HK$177 million. While other major regions in Asia compete fiercely for higher-end cultural and arts based tourism including China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, Sigg's endowment could help clinch Hong Kong's current bid to become the next art capital of the world, despite its lack of "sexy but poor" artistic cache. Perhaps "Money (does) create Taste" after all.

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