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Friday, October 9, 2015, 09:54

HK’s affair with art blossoms

By KARL WILSON in Sydney

He said the prestigious annual art fair has seen attendance numbers grow from 19,000 in 2008 to 67,000 in 2012.

It has “become not only a platform for galleries from all over the world to present their works and reach out to the collectors here, but also a good opportunity for all art lovers in the region to see works of art that are of best quality”, Ng said.

Another reason behind Hong Kong’s rise as a major destination on the global art circuit has been the increasing number of overseas galleries, including some of the world’s leading ones, establishing themselves in the special administrative region.

“That has been positive for the Hong Kong art scene,” he said.

Hong Kong has seen an explosion in galleries over the last five years. He said names like Gagosian and Galerie Perrotin have made an “enormous contribution” to the development of art in the city, Ng added.

The third key element, he said, has been international auction houses such as Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams and the Chinese mainland’s auction houses such as Poly and China Guardian opening in Hong Kong.

“They have played a key role in terms of making Hong Kong a true art hub,” Ng said.

“Thanks to the booming economy in China and other developing countries in Asia, we have been seeing news about new world record-breaking items sold by these auction houses in different categories, ranging from antique to modern and contemporary art.”

These factors have all helped put Hong Kong on the global art map, he said.

One man who has played a key role in Hong Kong’s development as an arts center is Magnus Renfrew, the former Art Basel Hong Kong director who resigned last year to rejoin Bonhams as deputy chairman.

As founding director of Art HK, he played an instrumental role in the art market, not only in Hong Kong but elsewhere in Asia.

Art HK was launched in 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis, with the Wall Street-based Lehman Brothers as its main sponsor.

The future of the fair was in doubt when the global financial services firm collapsed, but Renfrew managed to find a new sponsor to keep the fair going before it was acquired by Art Basel.

The Swiss-based art show stages the world’s premier modern and contemporary art fairs annually in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong.

The concept began in 1970 in Basel, a city in northwest Switzerland, when three Basel galleries got together to put on an annual fair to promote art. It has since become the world’s premier art exhibition providing platforms for galleries and artists from around the globe.

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