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Friday, October 9, 2015, 09:54

HK’s affair with art blossoms

By KARL WILSON in Sydney
HK’s affair with art blossoms

A visitor takes a picture of a painting by Chinese artist Xu Longsen displayed next to artworks by Chinese sculptor Wang Keping at Art Basel Hong Kong 2015. The success of the show has enhanced Hong Kong’s status as a world arts center. (AFP)

Not all that long ago, Hong Kong had a reputation for being a cultural backwater. But that is changing.

Until quite recently the art scene was dominated by global auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s and a scattering of upmarket galleries. Today, new galleries are being built while the Hong Kong Museum of Art has been closed for a four-year, HK$930 million ($120 million) face-lift to bring it up to world standards.

Hong Kong is now the world’s third-largest art market by auction sales.

The total number of galleries in the city has grown from about 10 before 2000 to more than 90, according to the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association. Some of the world’s leading contemporary art gallery owners have also opened in Hong Kong.

Among them are such notables as Larry Gagosian, who owns the Gagosian Gallery chain of art galleries; Jay Jopling, owner of the contemporary White Cube gallery in London; and Ben Brown, owner of Ben Brown Fine Arts, also headquartered in London.

Gagosian has built one of the art world’s most expansive and frequently emulated global enterprises. It has five galleries in New York, two in London, two in Paris, and one each in Beverly Hills, Rome, Athens, Geneva and Hong Kong.

Heiman Ng, spokesman for the privately owned British auction house Bonhams, which opened its first Asia office in Hong Kong in 2007, said there are many reasons for the city’s rise as an internationally recognized arts center.

“But let me cite three,” he told China Daily Asia Weekly.

“The first has been the success of Art Hong Kong (now known as Art Basel Hong Kong), which has helped put Hong Kong on the map over the last seven to eight years as a world arts center.”

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