Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Deal of the Art

Look at that price tag. Not THAT’s creative!

The inaugural edition of Art Basel Hong Kong has now come and gone. The general consensus is that the contemporary art fair was a resounding success. The branding with Art Basel (in previous years, the annual event was known simply as Art HK) had a clear impact on the image and positioning of the fair. The galleries attending were more carefully selected. Celebrities such as Kate Moss flew in to have a look around. The detailing of how the space was laid out was just a tad more polished than before. All in all, it felt like an important step forward in helping Hong Kong set itself further apart from other rival cities in Asia as the continent’s most open, cosmopolitan hub for international culture.
Naturally, this being Hong Kong, the event was perfumed liberally with the distinct fragrance of money. There was an uptick in the visibility of luxury brand sponsors. The Intelligence Squared debate that took place during the fair posed the theme “The Market is the Best Judge of Art’s Quality” (Note: the consensus before and after the debate was “no”). However, the buying mood wasn’t frenzied, as has been the case in recent years with Asian wine auctions, real estate or luxury products. Buying activity was measured and studied. And there were plenty of attendees from the general public present simply to enjoy the art, have the kids run around a bit, and escape the humidity and thunderstorms that dominated last week’s weather. If Hong Kong can continue to grow its art appreciation market without resorting to hot money fever (or worse, the use of art as a vehicle for money laundering), it will indeed be an artful achievement.  

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