Open to the public from 27 May to 29 May 2022, Art Basel returned to Hong Kong, welcoming 130 galleries from all over the world, categorized in sections Galleries, Insights, and Discoveries. This year’s fair was yet another hybrid fair, catering audiences both physically and virtually. There was also an increasing focus on digital assets and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in this year’s fair. Amidst the strict quarantine rules that’s still held in the city, while there was a slight decrease in international participation, it was a chance for local artists to shine.
Gaybird, Fidgety (in between & and down), installation
Hong Kong artists took their chance to show at this year’s fair. The fair featured six large-scale installations, three of which were local artists. Hanart TZ Gallery presented the work Fidgety (in between & and down), by GayBird, a respected Hong Kong musical director, producer and composer, it was a 40-channel speaker system installation sounding the heartbeat of the artists. The device moved with each beat from the vibration of the speaker, which made his heartbeat perceptible by sight. Angela Hui Hoi Kui’s work, Embroidery on the Plastic Bag: Hong Kong Goldfish Street 2, presented by Alisan Fine Arts, was a reminiscent of the Hong Kong’s Goldfish Street, while many pondered at the delicate and detailed embroidery of goldfish on the plastic bags, it was also a collective memory of the Hong Kong visitors. Presented by Flowers Gallery, Moavana Chen, 'Deconstructing' (2004-2008), and comprises of 24 of her magazine paper-woven wearable pieces into a 5-metre-tall monument. Liang Gallery bring in Taiwanese artists, Hsu Yungshu’s 2021-3, free-formed work, and Ink Studio brings Beijing-based artist Bingyi’s The Birth of Black Holes, Birth of Geology, Birth of Water from her land and weather projects and lastly New York-based artist Ming Fay’s Garden of Life, placed at the middle of the exhibition, exaggerated size of fruits and vegetables, where his works comments on the symbolic relationship between humans and nature was also another crowd’s favourite.
Visitors taking pictures of Angela Hui Hoi Kui’s Embroidery on the Plastic Bag: Hong Kong Goldfish Street 2
Vistors at Tezo's exhibition The Ever-Evolving World of Art
Tezos, an energy-efficient blockchain, also partnered up with Art Basel Hong Kong this year, to create the exhibition: The Ever-Evolving World of Art. The exhibition featured 22 international digital artists, with a strong focus on Asian creators, including Bjorn Calleja, renowned Filipino painter and interdisciplinary artist, Singaporean artist Yeo Shih Yun, and Song Ting from China. The centre of the exhibition was an interactive installation in collaboration with FxHash, a generative art platform, where visitors could generate their own NFTs created by the participating generative artists. Through scanning the QR codes, it would trigger the live minting of an NFT from one of the participating artists that would simultaneously be displayed as part of the installation and sent to the visitor’s Kukai wallet (Tezos’ browser-based wallet) as a gift. The exhibition showcased the vast potential, strength, and diversity of NFT as an art medium and the ever-changing scene of the art market.
Visitors at Lucie Chang Fine Arts booth presenting works of Tsang Cho-Choi
Insights brought together 16 galleries, presenting solo and curatorial projects developed by artists from Asia and the Asia-Pacific Region. Lucie Chang Fine Arts decided to bring spotlight to the work of Tsang Cho-Choi, the self-proclaimed ‘The King of Kowloon’, who was a cultural icon in Hong Kong. His works are usually found on walls, and bridges, covering the streets of Hong Kong. His work was also recreated and featured in last year’s Digital Art Fair Asia, which will open its second edition from 28 Sep until 5 Oct 2022. Lucie Chang Fine Arts offers an NFT collection of the booth, which allowed buyers to various benefits in Hong Kong M+ museum and their gallery, with an augmented reality view of the booth. Empty Gallery also brought the work of James T Hong, Three Arguments about the Opium War. Two images of Hong Kong were presented side by side, with the city’s modernized skyline juxtaposed against shots of empty military sites and monuments, presenting two different point of views from the British and Chinese about the Opium Wars, leaving the viewers in a state of ambiguity.
James T Hong, Three Arguments about the Opium War, film
The fair consisted of 96 galleries, of which many booths had incorporated digital aspects to their pieces. Either through incorporating it into their works they bought or bringing in a digital gallery. A sculpture generated many attentions from the crowd, bought in by the New York dealer Lehmann Maupin, Tom Friedman’s Looking Up, where they incorporated AR component, and visitors could use their phone and through the ZHEN app to see the sculpture come to life. Fine Art Asia presented a group exhibition named Artique, a combination of art and antique. Fine Art Asia brought 6 galleries that specialised in historical arts to exhibit their antiques and invited 20 contemporary artists to draw exhibition from the antique to create new pieces. Two original NFTs were created in the Sandbox metaverse and were inspired by the antiques shown in the exhibition. One was a bronze lamp in the shape of a mythical bird from Han Dynasty, shown to have broken out of the stand and flew around the base, and a zitan wood lamp base in a bear shape from the Qing Dynasty, where the bear was fighting with a lightsaber. The exhibition presented a dialogue between traditional and contemporary art.
Tom’s Friedman Looking Up in augmented reality view.
Pace Gallery decided to spotlight their Asian artists bringing the works of artists such as Zhang Xiaogang, Song Dong, and Hong Hao from China, Kohei Nawa from Japan, and Lee Kun-Yong from South Korea, while also showcasing pieces by Torkwase Dyson, Sam Gilliam and Louise Nevelson. In addition to paintings and sculptures, the more traditional medium, Pace decided to showcase their NFTs, bringing their digital platform Pace Verso to the fair. Where collectors would also be able to buy works of by Zhang Huan, Glenn Kaino, and Lucas Samaras in its booth.
Lucas Samaras, XYZ 0810 (Chinoiserie), 2012/2021, non-fungible token
Just above Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Central returned to Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, offering booths to 52 galleries, 41 of which are Hong Kong based. At the centre of the exhibit was United Overseas Bank (UOB)’s Art Space, presenting the finalists of the 2021 Art In Ink Awards, and featuring a newly commissioned interactive ink art installation by Hong Kong based artist Desmond Leung , The Bloom of the Water Lilies. An interactive ink art installation where the presentation interweaved traditional ink with contemporary digital technology, inviting the public to interact and create a continuum of shared mindful experiences. Presented in a form of a water lily on top of a blue stage that mimicked a pond, the monitors showed traditional ink paintings of water lilies. Through movements visitors could trigger the buds on the screen into blossoming flowers from the detailed drawing of Carolyn Yim, the winner of 2021 UOB Art in Ink Awards, through the mentorship of Leung, they bought the water lilies to life. In addition to the installation, UOB again, through ZHEN, incorporated augmented reality into the works of their winners, probing visitors to view traditional ink art in a different light.
Desmond Leung, The Bloom of the Water Lilies, interactive installation
Visitors voting for their favourite piece for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize
In addition to participating galleries, Art Central 2022 curated various exhibitions inside the fair. Partnered up with Sovereign Art Foundation, they presented the finalists of the 2022 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, visitors of the fair were invited to cast a vote for their favourite artist to win the Public Vote Prize. This year’s shortlist featured artists from 16 regions across Asia-Pacific, of which Hong Kong had the strongest representation. Of the finalists, 27 artists had been shortlisted for the first time. Azin Zolfaghari, from Iran, was announced to be the Grand Prize winner at the Art Central, and Marium Agha from Pakistan was awarded the Public Vote Prize Winner. Made In Hong Kong was another special exhibition at the fair, featuring the artistic creation of Hong Kong-based independent artists. Presenting 40 artists’ work, the participants came from diverse backgrounds, including both professionally trained and self-taught artists as well as designers and writers. Many works touched upon the idea of space, architecture and urban landscape and often explores their identity in the chaotic city. The works were often about their own memories, dreams, and experiences, presenting visual creations of Hong Kong in a multifaceted perspective.
The Grid and the Skin, 2020-21, Bowie Lee, Video Installation, including natural fibres woven panels
Organised by Asia Society Hong Kong Centre, Gok Dou Live was held at the Asia Society Theatre of the fair. “Gok Dou” means perspective in Cantonese, brought in different conversations from artists, curators, collectors, writers, publishers, and critics to provide a platform to exchange a myriad of contemporary issues in the Art scene, ranging from “Sexuality, Queer Culture, and Art Making” or “How Will Technology Craft Our Future”. They also holding live performances from different artists, such as Love elasticity of demand from Kiwi Chan, which explores the nature of a mother-daughter relationship.
Audience watching Love Elasticity of Demand performed by Kiwi Chan.
While leaving the Exhibition Centre, visitors could see the huge site-specific moving image work The Shape of Light by Ellen Pau on the M+ Façade. Co-commissioned by Art Basel and M+, supported by the Lead Partner UBS, Pau’s The Shape of Light, explores the possibilities of the immaterial and the material, transforming light into digital objects. Pau’s sees the M+ Facade as a futuristic lighthouse “standing on the shores of West Kowloon like a guardian that shines a light to all travellers and homecomers”. The performance was inspired by ‘The Heart Sutra’ from Mahayana Buddhist tradition, in the form of sign languages which mediates on the concept ‘form is emptiness, emptiness is form’. Pau described this was an installation created for the city and its people, she hoped that The Shape of Light can convey a healing message to the city.
Ellen Pao, The Shape of Light, 2022 Photo Courtesy Art Basel
From the growing popularity and demand in the NFT space, this year’s Art Fairs had a stronger focus on digital art and NFT, galleries had multiple ways of trying to incorporate digital offers into their booths alongside with traditional medium as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The fair exhibited various forms of digital arts from films, interactive installations, augmented reality, generative art and the mixing of antiques and modern technology, showed the diversity of digital as a medium. It would be interesting to observe how galleries would present their various mediums in future fairs. Despite the recent NFT market dip, whether NFT would stay or go, it is inarguable that the market for digital art has dramatically changed since its emergence.