At Art Basel Hong Kong, slow sales meet a ‘positive’ market – cialisdfr
At Art Basel Hong Kong, slow sales meet a ‘positive’ market
At Art Basel Hong Kong, slow sales meet a ‘positive’ market

On Tuesday, some 243 galleries returned to the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center for this year’s Art Basel. For the first time since 2020, the fair, which runs until March 30, is back to its pre-pandemic size, up 37 percent from last year. About 10 percent of the fair’s exhibitors are exhibiting in Hong Kong for the first time.

Some of the excitement surrounding the fair and programming around the city’s West Kowloon cultural district was dampened by Hong Kong’s newly introduced security law, commonly known as Article 23, which aims to curb dissent. Experts have expressed concern about the law’s vague language, which many have argued could give way to a legal system that will more closely resemble that seen in mainland China.

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But the law appeared to have had little impact on trade during Art Basel Hong Kong’s VIP day, where dealers said they sold works early on. A spokesperson for Hauser & Wirth said ARTnews that sales were unexpectedly “brisk”.

Things are slower in China, said Marc Payo, president and senior partner of Hauser & Wirth, which just moved into a prime street-level space in Hong Kong’s central business district last January. This wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t an active buyer base in town.

This year, of the 16 works the gallery said it had sold by Tuesday evening, 10 went to collections in Asia. “We take this region very seriously and we’ve just opened a new space here, so it’s a huge investment,” Payo said ARTnews.

The paintings, as usual, sold particularly well. Hauser & Wirth sold the painting to Mark Bradford May God be the first in the car… and the last to get out (2023) and by Ed Clark A bow to the sands of spring (2009) for $3.5 million and $1.1 million, respectively. These were already solid numbers—Clark’s figure is just above the artist’s record for public auction. But then those sales were followed by those for a Willem de Kooning painting for $9 million and a Philippe Guston painting for $8.5 million. Compare that to last year, when the gallery’s most expensive work was a George Condo painting that sold for $4.75 million.

Things seem to have gotten off to a slower start almost everywhere else. At a nearby booth, the Brussels-based Xavier Hufkens gallery offered a painting by Milton Avery. As of press time Tuesday, the $1.6 million canvas had yet to find a buyer. It was one of the few works with a seven-figure price at the fair.

The crowd at Art Basel Hong Kong.

Photo Sebastian Ng/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Brett Gorvy, founder of Lévy Gorvy Dayan Gallery in New York, said ARTnews that in the opening hours of the fair, they sold five works each priced under $500,000. (He declined to specify which artists created those works, saying only that they were on the gallery’s list.) Large Red Dot Painting by Yayoi Kusama was the centerpiece of the booth. Gorvey said the gallery had valued the work at $4.8 million, but so far no one had bought it.

Pace, which has operated in Hong Kong for more than 15 years, said it had sold 15 works by artists across its roster, including those by Adam Pendleton, Kylie Manning and Maisha Mohamedi. Of the group that showed at the fair, only four of these works sold for prices above $100,000. Pendleton, painting from 2023 titled Black Dada (D)brought the highest price of the works sold, reaching $275,000.

Los Angeles-based dealer David Kordansky reported selling a total of 17 works on the first day. Five of them, works by Joel Messler to Shara Hughes, were priced north of $100,000.

Although big sales always lead to opening day, a range of collectors were on hand during the preview, many with plans to actively buy. In conversation with ARTnews before the fair, Fabien Frins, a Belgian collector who also works as an art adviser in Beijing, said he would be in “discovery mode” at the fair, looking for new artists who are in the early stages of their careers. Frins pointed out that Art Basel claimed a particularly high percentage of visitors to last year’s Hong Kong fair were young, and that, he said, syncs up with a trend he’s seen in his own private sales. Many of his Asian clients, who focus on contemporary art, are under 30. This is a situation quite different from what was seen in the mid-2000s, when Asian-based collectors were usually in the middle in the 50s.

In the past few months, Friens said that trade in the region has slowed significantly and that the change has put entrepreneurs in a state of constraint. “Business class is idle,” he explained. “They’re holding back right now.”

Some younger shoppers said they plan to be more conservative with their spending this year. Johnny Lee, who runs CCC Art Lab, a Japanese company that produces art books and events, said ARTnews he and a collector friend who accompanied him avoided buying works by KAWS and Daniel Arsham. Once popular among young collectors in Asia, these works are now considered overpriced. He said each is more focused on finding “more affordable” pieces that fit the decor of their respective lifestyles.

Gorvey praised the mix of young and old collectors in Hong Kong, which he says is different from what is seen in Basel or even Paris, where Art Basel also organizes fairs each year. Coming out of day one, he said he had “the feeling that there was new blood.”

To Alex Katz Yellow tree 2 (2021), sold from the Gladstone Gallery booth for $1.3 million.

©Alex Katz/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery

High attendance among younger visitors does not always translate into sales among more experienced collectors, who are usually older. And more established collectors may not jump on the bandwagon. “There is some caution. Things are taking longer,” said Shasha Titman, Hong Kong-based director of Lehmann Maupin.

“Collectors are making very thoughtful choices,” said Dawn Zhu, Asia director at European blue-chip gallery Thaddaeus Ropac. Zhu said sales showed “positive” signs on the first day and reported that the best work the gallery sold was an Untitled painting from 2023 by Marta Jungwirth, which had an asking price of €450,000 (487,000 dollars). In Asia, the gallery has been working hard to expand its footprint – the Seoul space opened in 2021 with the aim of establishing itself in a city that is usually positioned as a competitor to Hong Kong in the art world. The bet seemed to pay off this week — even if the gallery’s eponymous owner wasn’t at the fair.

Elsewhere, longtime locals are securing deals alongside the bigger players. Katie de Tilly, who has run Hong Kong-based gallery 10 Chancery Lane for two decades, said ARTnews that in the fair’s opening hours she sold a work by Vietnamese artist Dinh Q. Lê for $65,000 to a Europe-based collector. Refuting anecdotal reports that trade has slowed in Asia, she said there is a very active scene in places like Shenzhen that are less visible to Westerners.

De Tilly claims that there are many young working Chinese artists who have a large following locally. This means there is much less pressure on them to exhibit at European exhibition fairs. But their absence from large-scale trade events like this one, she said, sometimes makes them harder to spot. She added: “The first half of 2023 was really slow – there weren’t many audiences – but things are picking up.”

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