The New York Times sums up the improvements as Art HK became ArtBasel Hong Kong:
This year, under Swiss management, the event had slightly fewer galleries — 245 in total, with 48 showing in Hong Kong for the first time. There were higher standards set for the gallery selection, better crowd control and far more breathing space. Viewers could move from booth to booth without elbowing through crowds; collectors could have conversations with dealers without yelling. And while Art Basel Hong Kong still drew a good mix of the local public, including Hong Kong’s ubiquitous uniformed schoolchildren, gallerists did not spend time trying to prevent toddlers from pressing their faces against the Anish Kapoor mirrored surfaces while their parents took photos with their iPhones.
As many noted, the event had “that Art Basel feeling.” When multimillion-dollar works are on the line, every detail counts — from high-quality walls that are exactly the right size, to lighting that casts that perfectly even white glow. Security guards beeped visitors in and out with electronic cards. “Last year, I was worried that someone could just take a small work under his arm and walk out with it,” said one U.S. dealer who asked to remain unnamed.
The Miami Herald found some galleries who are still climbing the wall of inscrutability that surrounds Asia’s market:
“It’s hard to know who the collectors are,” said Patricia Ortiz Monasterio of Mexico City’s Galeria OMR. But despite mixed results, she saw her gallery returning to Hong Kong fair as part of a long-term commitment to expanding in Asia. “If you only do an art fair for one year — put in all this time, all this money — what’s the point?”
Western galleries that have already established roots in the East had an upper hand in wooing collectors. For instance, fine art dealer De Sarthe Gallery, which moved from the U.S. to Hong Kong in 2011, reaped $4 million in first-day sales thanks to early outreach to its network of collectors.
The Miami Herald also offers these caveats around ArtBasel HK’s expansion:
A severe property crunch, however, means that Hong Kong cannot support the profusion of side fairs crucial to achieving the full-whirl “Miami effect.” Instead, the city’s best hope to capitalize on an Art Basel reputation boost will likely come in 2017, when the city plans to open a major contemporary art museum called M+. That museum will also help educate Chinese contemporary art collectors who are now negotiating a steep learning curve without much institutional support.
In the meantime, Art Basel Hong Kong will play primary host to this regional maturation. Indeed, much of the intrigue in the halls opening day came from seeing how galleries bet on what to sell in the rapidly developing, unpredictable Asian collectors market.
Breaking Views offers its judgment on Hong Kong’s suitability for long term growth as Asia’s art center:
What works for the financial sector work for the arts too: namely a good location, multilingualism, freedom of expression, zero sales tax and a well developed logistics industry. The city regularly hosts record-breaking sales, with international heavyweights Christie’s and Sotheby’s as well as regional players.
But some drivers of Hong Kong’s art boom look sketchy. One is the loose money coursing through the system as a result of low interest rates.
Hong Kong Art Fair’s New Look (New York Times)
Miami Beach’s Hong Kong Sister Fair Dubbed a Success (Miami Herald)
HK Art Boom Rests on Sketchy Foundations (Reuters)