It’s not just me who feels intimidated by the prospect of visiting an art fair the scale of Art Basel Hong Kong. Once the opening press conference is over and the media which have been chomping at the bit to enter Asia’s annual edition of the global behemoth are finally let loose on the halls of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, it quickly becomes clear that taking it all in is a near-insurmountable task. Facing the job of viewing the booths of 248 galleries from 32 countries spread across two halls (until 31 March), we stand hesitantly in front of the huge floor plan placed mockingly inside the nearest entrance and compare plans of attack, while simultaneously acknowledging that our strategies are destined to fall victim to any number of distractions – running into a friend or acquaintance, becoming sidetracked by a gallerist, or running off to one of the countless events taking place around the halls. Best to just forge ahead, and so I do.
The 250 booths are divided into various categories, reflecting (or perhaps disguising) the hierarchically structured nature of the art world. ‘Galleries’ is the dominant and self-explanatory one and now includes curated highlights under the banner of ‘Kabinett’. Chinese gallery Beijing Commune showed an array of dynamic, amusing sculptures from Liang Shuo’s ongoing ‘Fit’ series in which everyday found objects, from share bikes to showerheads, are ‘fit’ into one another without glue or nails to evolve a final form. At the other end of the aesthetic spectrum was Mexican gallery kurimanzutto’s pared-back presentation of work by Gabriel Orozco, with the artist employing repetitive graphic motifs in two- and three-dimensional form.
‘Insights’ and ‘Discoveries’ tend to yield quality and surprise, showcasing projects by Asian and Asia-Pacific artists, and solo projects by emerging artists respectively. This year they included an impressive survey of Colin McCahon paintings at Auckland’s Gow Langsford Gallery, a considered new body of work by Gala Porras-Kim at Los Angeles space Commonwealth and Council, which proposed new forms for anonymous fragments, and Philipp Timischl at Galerie Emanuel Layr (Vienna/Rome), whose presentation examined gender identity through physical and conceptual layers.
It might be the lure of a glamorous global art event that draws us into an occasion like Art Basel Hong Kong but, as always, it is the work of the artists themselves that allows us to find our way through it, and see the world in a different way as a result.
Chloé Wolifson, Hong Kong