Art lovers' picks at ART HK 11

Art lovers' picks at ART HK 11

The annual Hong Kong International Art Fair is so huge, it's overwhelming. We get artists, critics and curators to sort the wheat from the chaff

art hk 11From Picasso to Takashi Murakami to Damien Hirst, we can find it all at ART HK 11.


With a week to go until the Hong Kong International Art Fair (ART HK), the city’s art scene is shifting into high gear.

From May 26 to 29, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai will be festooned with paintings, sculptures and installations by some of the world’s most revered artists.

Highlights include a massive steel installation by Pakistani artist Rashid Rana, a video portrait by the legendary Bill Viola and never-before-seen works by Scandinavian Olafur Eliasson.

Now in its fourth year, ART HK has grown from a regional affair into a major fixture on the international art calendar. This year’s roster boasts more than 250 galleries from 38 countries with many prominent dealers signing up for the first time.

When the prestigious Swiss art fair Art Basel acquired ART HK it further cemented the status of ART HK on the global art circuit. Dealers are pulling out their best work for this annual fest, collectors are abuzz with anticipation and art world insiders are getting ready for a party.

While it’s worth singling out a few booths beforehand, the best way to experience the fair is to explore the grounds instinctively.

“The best bits are often the things one discovers by wandering around rather than the big name artists one knew in advance would be there,” explains David Clarke, a professor at the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Hong Kong.

So instead of listing the usual suspects (Damien Hirst et al.), we have asked the city's artists, critics, curators, museum directors and collectors what they will be looking out for at ART HK 11.

ART HK 11 includes a slew of events that are staged outside the trade fair itself, each tailored to art collectors, critics and academics, as well as the lay art-lover. Check out the full range of activities at


ART HK 11People watching becomes an art at the ART HK vernissage.The art world comes out in full force for the vernissage of ART HK 11.

The opening night preview is a chance to see the art before the weekend crowds hit. It's also great for people watching.

Art critic John Batten says, “I love the vernissage and jostling with the art wannabes. I dress-down and am happily ignored. Those that dress-up have their 30 minutes of art wonder.”

After collectors survey the grounds in the afternoon, the doors are thrown open to ticketed guests and A-listers in the evening.

“The vernissage culminates all the excitement that has built up around the fair," says fair director Magnus Renfrew. "In addition to the great and good of Hong Kong, the collectors, curators and artists from around the world fly in and every year there is a great buzz.”

May 25, 5-9pm. Tickets available through HK Ticketing. 

Newcomers to the fair

(Left) "Untitled (woman holding her hair)" by Ravinder Reddy and "Wonder Women III (flying girl)" by Thukral and Tagra, both at Nature Morte.

Art HK 11 will also feature heavyweight international works.

“This year, the fair sees an increased presence of renowned galleries from the West bringing top-tier works,” says independent art consultant Jonathan Crockett.

Highly anticipated newcomers to the fair include David Zwirner, Marian Goodman Gallery, Gladstone Gallery and Blum & Poe each bringing a host of blue chip artists.

Acquavella Galleries is another major addition to the fair. One of the most respected galleries in New York City, the family-run space is known for their impressive museum-quality shows. Their booth at ART HK will feature works by artists Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Lucian Freud to name a few.

Representing the Asian side of the story is notable dealer Peter Nagy who heads Gallery Nature Morte. Nagy has spaces in Berlin and New Delhi as well as a partner gallery in New York.

Nature Morte represents superstar artists from India including Subodh Gupta and Jitish Kallat.

“We'll be a showing a mix of artists from the very well-known to the unknown -- at the top of the heap will be a new sculpture of a standing woman by the Indian artist Ravinder Reddy,” says Nagy.

Art Futures

ART HK 11Adriane Wachholz's "dark friend."

Dedicated to up-and-coming artists aged 35 and below, Art Futures proves that the fair isn’t just about the blue chip set.

“This is where you have a chance for the big surprises, the new discovery,” says Executive Director of M+ and Art Future judge Lars Nittve.

For ART HK 11, a total of 45 young galleries will participate, almost triple the number from last year. Represented countries include Turkey, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Norway among others.

A panel of judges picks the most promising artist and awards them a prize of US$25,000. Judges include critic and Serpentine Gallery co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist, editor and publisher of ArtAsiaPacific Elaine Ng and Lars Nittve.

Among the most interesting works is an installation by artist Adriane Wachholz represented by a Korean gallerist based in Berlin. Titled "dark friend" it is a graphite drawing of foliage with ethereal projections shooting through the leaves and branches.

Public installations

art hk 11The "Resuscitation Garden (an ailing planet)" by Janet Laurence featuring Chinese herbs and medicinal plants.

Head to Art HK this year and you will be greeted by a handful of public installations outside the grid of gallery booths.

“The fair itself is supporting the work of some artists around the Convention Center -- I want to see the results of local artist Nadim Abbas’ work,” says Batten.

Abbas will be creating a coral reef tunnel using resin sourced from an aquarium manufacturer in mainland China. Titled "Marine Lover -– A Hermatypic Romance," the work is a sprawling 18-meter long installation situated near the VIP lounge.

The 30-year-old artist, who has been obsessed with coral since a young age, says, “It reminds of me brains. It’s a cross between matter, something living, and something science fiction.”

Read more about Hong Kong artist Nadim Abbas and his dead coral reef.

Next to the cloakroom, Australian artist Janet Laurence will be setting up an interactive installation titled "Resuscitation Garden (an ailing planet)." The work is a translucent room made of a mesh-like material. Inside, various plants have been hooked up to tubes and scientific glass vessels.

Laurence spent several days in Hong Kong investigating local plant life and becoming fascinated with aquatic plants. Her work is a revival and resuscitation system for weak plants. Visitors can enter the vitrine and explore the microcosm symbolic of our fragile environment.

New Media Archeology (Hong Kong Edition)

ART HK 11Sewing machine powered by Twitter, by Marco de Mutiis.

Veteran video artist Ellen Pau will be curating a special project that features recent technology-inspired work by seven local artists.

“The exhibition presents some of the most memorable works in new media art history, particularly the first appearance of a 50-year-old sewing machine that collects desires from those who tweet,” Pau says.

She is talking about the installation "Thread of Desire" by artist Marco de Mutiis that involves a converted old sewing machine that is hooked up to Twitter. The machine sews whenever it detects a tweet involving the words "I wish."

Read more about the Twitter-powered sewing machine.

Among the most interesting pieces is a video work by João Vasco Paiva titled "Sea of Mountains."

Paiva shows a section of Victoria Harbour in his video. The footage of the sea also used a piano score to generate a computational music piece. The sounds accompany the abstract rectangular screen of turbulent waves.

Also scattered around the fair will be seven LCD TV screens streaming video art and artist interviews. Much of the video art will be from old-school Hong Kong artists who were working in the 1980s and 1990s.

AAA Backroom Conversations

ART HK 11Backroom Conversations from last year's ART HK discussing "Artist as Activist, Art as Catalyst." 

A staple in the art fair schedule, the AAA Backroom Conversations seminars offer a break from the commercial bustle of the fair. Presented by the fair's education partner, the Asia Art Archive, the seminars are a space for scholarly musings by curators, critics, academics and artists.

“The conversation that I am most eager to attend is 'The Decade Revisited,’” says Yana Peel, Collector and Founder of Intelligence Squared Asia and Outset Contemporary Art Fund.

For this lecture, speakers from Hong Kong, Australia and Egypt converge to examine some of the most powerful art produced over the past decade. They will discuss artists who deal with the political revolution, the financial crisis and climate change that have come to characterize our times. 

Another highly anticipated speech is the Burger Collection Keynote Lecture titled "Sounding Asia Pandemonium" by renowned art theorist Sarat Maharaj.

“I’m a fan of Sarat Maharaj. He is a brilliant mind with strong and clear arguments and a very good speaker,” says Pau.

AAA Backroom Conversations are free and open to the public. See details at

A freelance writer, Payal Uttam found her way back to Hong Kong after a prolonged stint in Chicago.

Read more about Payal Uttam