Having taken five Volkswagen Beetles and compressed them into spheres, artist Ichwan Noor was always going to grab attention at the inaugural Hong Kong Art Basel.
Noor is known in his native Indonesia but is hoping the glittering, champagne-soaked art fair will give him further recognition beyond his home borders.
Such are the opportunities that await emerging and lesser-known artists at the fair, which aims to highlight Hong Kong’s growing role as a global arts hub.
Soon after the event opened to guests on Wednesday, Noor saw one of his US$88,000 Beetle Spheres snapped up.
“Events like Hong Kong Art Basel will provide him (Noor) with the needed exposure,” Jakarta-based art museum and gallery Art:1 deputy director Monica Gunawan, said.
“He is quite well known in Jakarta, but not so much in the international art market.”
Works from more than 3,000 international artists have been exhibited through 245 of the world’s leading galleries, more than half of which are from Asia.
Buoyed by the arrival of so many well-heeled international collectors, galleries have competed with each other to hold lavish parties in the hope of attracting big-spending buyers.
At one event earlier this week supermodel Kate Moss was photographed sipping champagne with the likes Rupert Murdoch’s wife Wendi and Dasha Zhukova, the art collecting wife of billionaire Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.
Henrietta Tsui, owner of local specialists Gallerie Ora-Ora and founder of the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association, has even taken guests out into Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor on the family’s 80-foot yacht. She initially planned to hold a single event on the boat but had to make multiple trips because of demand.
“The response has been overwhelming, we were five times oversubscribed and we couldn’t accommodate all of them,” she said, adding that buyers came from all across the globe.
“It’s been fun at the back of the (exhibition) room trying to figure out all the different credit cards from around the world — that’s quite an indication of the kind of turnout,” she said.
The four-day annual show, which ended last Sunday, has until now only been held in Switzerland and the United States and has made a dazzling debut in a city better known as a fast-paced financial hub.
Art:1, which is exhibiting in Hong Kong for the first time, is aiming to match up its artists with collectors who show long-term interest, Gunawan said.
“If we can get a good collector from here and maintain a long-term international relationship, it would be very good,” she said.
Collectors new to Hong Kong are looking to tap into the growing Asian market. Gagosian, White Cube, Acquavella, Lehmann Maupin and Galerie Perrotin are just some of the big-name galleries to have arrived in the city in the past two years despite sky-high rents.
Art Basel replaces Art HK, Hong Kong’s former art fair which was set up in 2008. It was recently taken over by the high-profile Swiss Art Basel franchise, which has been showcasing modern and contemporary art since 1970.
The event also featured local Hong Kong artists such as Lam Tung-pang who showcased his One-Two-World, an installation where scale models, plants and drawings were projected on paper.
Also on display were five works including video and three-dimensional installations using day-to-day items by Lam’s compatriot Tang Kwok-hin (鄧國騫).