Since it was founded in Basel, Switzerland, some 45 years ago, Art Basel has become the most prominent modern art fair in the world. Every year it hosts “the summer reunion of the international art world.” The top art galleries from around the world are invited to bring a small selection of their work to Basel for collectors and curators to view; these days over 300 galleries and over 90,000 people participate each year. In 2002 Art Basel Miami started – the winter reunion of the international art world – and then just three years ago Art Basel Hong Kong was started. To our surprise and delight our stay in Hong Kong overlapped with the three-day affair.
We thought this was paying homage to Mark’s St. Jeanne of the Turkey Platter.
Pure serendipity that we were here for the event, then, but on Sunday morning Mark & I headed off to the Convention Center to get tickets. Fortunately we got there nearly two hours before the public was allowed in – serious collectors got first dibs – and only had to wait in line 45 minutes to get to the ticket booth. By the time we got to the front of the line there were a few hundred people behind us. With but a single woman processing the sales. One woman, taking three to five minutes per purchase. To make it worse, the couple in back of us, who live here in Hong Kong, explained that even if you bought your tickets online you had to wait in this line because it was the only place to pick them up. I doubt either of us like art enough to wait in line that long just because they haven’t figured out a more efficient means of dealing with the modern, online world.
It’s worth noting that among other reasons, we’re here to visit our friends Lars and Shideh. Turns out Lars is one of the most prominent modern art academics in the world and is the Executive Director of M+, the emerging “museum for visual culture” here in Hong Kong. It’s probably not entirely a coincidence that Art Basel Hong Kong started a couple years after he moved here to establish the museum, but on the other hand this isn’t exactly the best time to just drop in to visit with him, so we won’t see them until Tuesday night when the event is over. Needless to say, we have a million questions about this whole process.
At any rate, we had a great time. As one might guess, some of the art was a little weird. OK, a lot weird. And some of it was stunning. We were curious, of course, just how much some of it cost but most of the pieces didn’t have prices showing. In some cases they did, though, and we were glad to know that some of our favorites could be had for $45,000 or in that range. Without a house to put the art, though, we didn’t buy anything.
With all the fancy art people around, there are a lot of other art-related events this week in Hong Kong, too. While we were waiting in the line to get tickets to Art Basel Hong Kong I was chatting with the couple behind me and they gave us tickets to the Asia Contemporary Art Show that was going on simultaneously. This was a more affordable opportunity for art lovers, but the setting was a bit surreal. It was in the Conrad Hotel, a pretty upscale hotel here in Hong Kong, but the exhibits were spread out in hotel rooms spread over four upper floors of the hotel. So you’d walk into a room there would be paintings displayed in the bathroom and on the beds and taped to the windows and all that. Very strange. But fun.
More on Hong Kong to follow!