Art Basel /Hong Kong May 23-26, 2013

It comes as no surprise that Hong Kong should become the third ring in the chain of Art Basel host cities. With the combined economic clout of powerhouse cities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Dongguan (China’s third largest export city) and the financial might of Hong Kong itself the base for a large investment market in the Fine Arts is present. Art Basel is all about developing that market.

The fair opens in 2013 with the inclusion of 245 top tier galleries from 36 countries. These are arranged into four formats. The Galleries area highlights 170 galleries from around the world selected on the merit of their programming. An Insights category showcases installations from regional galleries who provide themed or solo artist exhibitions from the work of Asian artists. The Discoveries area highlights 27 presenters, introducing the work of one or two emerging artists. Finally, the Encounters sector includes 17 large scale, sculpture and installation projects created by principal artists from around the globe, selected by the Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, Yuko Hasegawa.

In the The Discoveries category the work of Benjamin Appel presented by Weingrȕll Gallery of Karlsruhe, Germany was notable. In an artwork reminiscent of Donald Judd’s sculpture, Appel’s installation combines found furniture to create a base for a finely constructed concrete slab. In this way the elements become one monolith. The work is both minimal in reference yet contemporary in its “recycled” nature.

Benjamin Appel
Benjamin Appel

Another interesting artist found in the Discoveries category is Brendan Earley, who could be found at Mother’s Tankstation a gallery from Dublin, Ireland. Again an artist who toys with Minimalism, Earley’s constructions at moments have a Futurist edge. The materials are simple: fluorescent lamps, colored gel, and simple wood or composite structures suffice to modulate a dynamic space.

Brendan Earley
Brendan Earley

One could also find an assortment of Post-Minimalist artists at Art Basel at locations like the Italian Gallery Lorcan O’Neill from Rome, where one could find signature works by artists like Richard Long and Rachael Whiteread.

Richard Long, Rachael Whiteread
Richard Long, Rachael Whiteread

Regionally, the Encounters sector installation by Raqs Media Collective, A Different Gravity from Project 88 in Mumbai, India provides us with an interior composition of elements, a table, mirror, chair, and carpet, which defining a “private” space in the exhibition hall. The three words found displayed on these objects WRONG, TIME, FLYING remain somewhat cryptic, but perhaps allude to a personal space and a desire to remain there.

Raqs Media Collective
Raqs Media Collective

When contemplating the regional at Art Basel Hong Kong it was interesting to see how many galleries were present from India. Project 88 gallery was joined by several others to make a dozen presenters from the region.

Subodh Gupta, Valay Shende
Subodh Gupta, Valay Shende

Sakshi Gallery from Mumbai presented the work of their artist Valay Shende, who created an assortment of impressive garments made from a collection of ball bearings. This was in addition to another work, a Lukas Samaras-like box clustered with portrait beads and other images.

In addition many other artists of Indian origin could be found among the scattering of galleries within the different sectors of the exhibition hall. These included artists like Subodh Gupta showing at Arario Gallery of Seoul, S.Korea, who presented an untitled work, which included a “found traditional boat” along with other objects. From the presence of these artists and galleries it is clear that there is a strong, new voice coming into the global arts dialogue from the Indian sub-continent.

Of course, as one might expect, the great majority of galleries at Art Basel Hong Kong were from Hong Kong and the rest of China. Outnumbered only by the combined presence of exhibitors from the United States and the U.K..

Gao Brothers, Chen Chieh-jen, He Xiangyu
Gao Brothers, Chen Chieh-jen, He Xiangyu

Some of the contributors were the Long March Space in Beijing, which held one of the Encounters spots, with an installation entitled Play (201301) by Madeln Company. Grotto gallery from Hong Kong brought the work of Danny Chin-fai Lee. He Xiangyu, who was shown by White Space gallery of Beijing, created a mock death bed entitled, My Fantasy, which makes a self reflective reference to the embalmed Mao found at rest in Tiananmen Square. The 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong presented several interesting works from the artists of The Propeller Group and the photographic images of Bui Cong Khanh. Other more socially reflective artists included the Gao Brothers who had several works featured by IFA gallery in Shanghai and Chen Chieh-jen who presented a video installation entitled, Friend Watan. This video, a self-reflective attempt to capture the essence of a friend’s past, was showcased by Lin & Lin Gallery from Taipei.

Another contributing artist worth noting is Lin Tianmiao born in Taiyuan, China and working in Beijing. Her silk encrusted bones and other objects have a macabre yet beautiful presence. They were presented by the Lelong Gallery of Paris, France.

Ai Weiwei,  Lin Tianmiao
“Ai Weiwei, Lin Tianmiao

A stunning installation, not part of the Art Basel Hong Kong venue, but held concurrent with it by the Hong Kong based non profit Parasite was Ai Weiwei’s installation, as part of an exhibition entitled, “A Journal of the Plague Year” In this work Weiwei, making reference to recent accidental poisonings from baby formula, placed hundreds of cans of baby milk formula into a pattern profiling the map of China, detailed with different colored regions identifying each province. The reference underlines problems with food supplies in China and the resulting mass descent on Hong Kong to purchase items like baby formula deemed to be safer there.

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