Features / Report

Art Basel in Hong Kong 2019: A Post-mortem

posted 16 April 2019

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Lee Bul, 〈Willing To Be Vulnerable – Metalized Balloon〉, 2019. Exhibition view of Art Basel in Hong Kong (29–31 March 2019). ⓒOcula. Photoⓒ Charles Roussel

Although Art Basel in Hong Kong is the youngest of the Art Basel fairs, and a relative newcomer to the international art fair circuit, it has now become a major attraction for collectors and galleries from around the world. The seventh edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong saw thousands of art courtesans and benefactors kick off the week with a string of parties, fundraisers, and dinners, which left many complaining about their stressful schedules, and collectors visibly exhausted by the time Art Basel opened on Wednesday for the first of two VIP preview days (27–28 March 2019). How we suffer for art.

While a number of male artists were in town, including KAWS and Neo Rauch, many galleries seemed to get the memo about female representation as gender inequality has come increasingly under the spotlight in the wake of the #metoo movement. Sprüth Magers brought an all-female 《Eau de Cologne》 exhibition to a pop-up space in Hong Kong's H Queen's, showing works by eight female artists, who have mostly been with the gallery from inception. This third iteration of Eau de Cologne》, which originally took place as a series of exhibitions and publications in Germany between 1985 and 1989, featured some of the most outspoken female artists of the time, including Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and Cindy Sherman. Meanwhile, JC Contemporary, in the new Tai Kwun heritage cultural complex, staged 《The Violence of Gender: Performing Society》 (16 February–28 April 2019), curated by Susanne Pfeffer, a radical and timely group exhibition with works by 11 international artists—including Pamela Rosenkranz, Anne Imhof, Wong Ping, and Marianna Simnett—examining the construction of gender in society.

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Wong Ping, 〈Who's the Daddy〉, 2017. Single-channel animation, 9 min 15 sec. Exhibition view of 《Performing Society: The Violence of Gender》, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (16 February–28 April 2019). ⓒTai Kwun Contemporary

Pace Gallery showcased a series of large-scale and mainly monochromatic luminous and scintillating paintings by 1970s 'Light and Space' artist Mary Corse (26 March–11 May 2019). Painted with microsphere-embedded paint, the works are playfully interactive, radiating light as you move around them. Largely overlooked in favour of her male counterparts in the 1970s, the California-based artist has finally gotten the recognition so long overdue. Last year, her art was the subject of a career-spanning survey, 《A Survey in Light》 at the Whitney Museum, which will open at LACMA later in 2019. A long-term presentation of historical works by the artist is also on view at Dia:Beacon in New York.

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Exhibition view of 《Mary Corse》, Pace Gallery, H Queen's, Hong Kong (26 March–11 May 2019). © Mary Corse, Pace Gallery. Photoⓒ Boogi Wang

Gagosian presented a group exhibition of floral still life paintings by three famous deceased male artists—Cézanne, Morandi, and Sanyu—curated by Chinese art superstar Zeng Fanzhi. Sanyu is known well in the upper echelons of the art market, driven mainly by the 1992 Sotheby's auction in Taipei that saw a Sanyu painting sell for three times estimate and a 2016 Christie's sale in Hong Kong, when a 1950s oil on masonite still life of chrysanthemums in a glass vase reached 13.4 million US dollars.