The art fair franchise bought a controlling stake in Art HK two years ago to take over the management of Hong Kong’s biggest annual art event, giving it a presence in the southern Chinese city, a gateway to Asia’s booming art market.
The May fair will mark the first time the Hong Kong event is run by its new organisers, which are owned by Switzerland-based MCH Group. Art Basel also operates a yearly show in Miami, as well as its flagship event in Switzerland.
The Hong Kong fair will be slightly smaller than last year’s final instalment of Art HK, featuring 245 of the world’s leading galleries from 35 countries. More than half will be from Asia.
“The most important thing that Art Basel will bring to the table is the increased profile the fair will have on the international stage,” said Magnus Renfrew, Asia director for the fair, who also previously directed Art HK.
More than 3,000 artists will be showcased at the event that will see 48 galleries make their Hong Kong debut. A team of VIP relations managers has been hired to help build buzz over the show and entice the art world’s top private collectors and curators.
The fair’s four main sections will focus on significant works from the past 100 years from Asia and the West, curatorial projects specially developed for the show and large scale sculptural and installation pieces.
Selected emerging contemporary artists will vie for a US$25,000 prize.
Traditionally known as a centre of banking and finance, Hong Kong has become a luxury hub for fine wine to fashion and, increasingly, art, driven by the explosion of personal wealth among mainland Chinese.
Western gallery owners have rushed to open franchises in the former British colony, including the likes of Gagosian, White Cube and Acquavella in the face of some of the most expensive rents in the world.
Despite recent economic turmoil in the eurozone and uncertainty in the United States, the art market has displayed resilience as investors look for havens.
“Things go up and down but we believe in long term growth, we believe the market for art in Asia will grow and we believe the long term interest in art will grow,” said Marc Spiegler, Art Basel director.
“It makes a lot of sense for us to be here at this time even though things are unpredictable.”