Much of Hong Kong’s art market has its origins in the Art HK art fair, set up in 2008 to spark investor interest in Hong Kong – the perfect location for China’s burgeoning art investors, as well as established western investors with a taste for contemporary Chinese art. The fair was a hit, and in 2013 Art Basel bought out Art HK, propelling it to international prominence. The annual show, this year running 9-31 March, is the keystone of the city’s art calendar – and its success has led a host of other art fairs to grace the city: Art Central is timed to coincide with Art Basel, but aims for a more Asian focus; the twice-yearly Asia Contemporary Art Fair is a far more intimate affair set over several floors of the Conrad Hotel; while May’s Affordable Art Fair is aimed squarely at first-time buyers. Auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s have set global records, trading everything from pink diamonds to Warhols and whiskies
Meanwhile, the gallery scene is booming, with international blue chip galleries moving into the Central business district: London’s White Cube and New York’s Gagosian and Lehmann Maupin, to name just a few, all occupy the few hundred square meters that mark the city’s most desirable retail real estate.
The brand new H Queen’s tower in the heart of Central is focused on luxury retail and art, with a prominent ground-floor exhibition space and skyscraping galleries from international names including Hauser & Wirth, Pace and David Zwirner. While you’re in the area, the venerable Pedder Building has long been home to some of the city’s most prestigious galleries, and a trip through its corridors can leave behind a score of happy gallerists.
The public option
When it comes to municipal galleries, the city lags behind – the Hong Kong Museum of Art is currently undergoing a multi-year renovation, and there’s no other significant public art museum in Hong Kong. But that’s all set to change in 2019, with the opening of the M+ Museum for Visual Culture. This enormous 40,000 sq m venue on the West Kowloon waterfront will house the Uli Sigg collection, one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary Chinese art. It’s intended to propel the city to the forefront of the global art scene. In the meantime, the site’s completed M+ Pavilion is currently operating as an exhibition space.
Made in Hong Kong
While the international brands flood in, Hong Kong’s home-grown galleries are also fighting their way up. Once upon a time, the city’s galleries were to be found exclusively around the Hollywood Road strip of arts and antiques stores. But rising rents have forced many farther afield, and the recent opening of the MTR’s South Island tube line is gradually transforming the formerly industrial district of Wong Chuk Hang into a brand new arts hub. Housed in former warehouse buildings, galleries and artists are now able to spread their wings with large-scale installations and exhibitions that were never previously feasible. The South Island Cultural District, as it’s become known, holds the twice yearly South Island Art Day to draw people in to this hive of new, Hong Kong-focused creativity.
Even the streets of the city are coming alive with art like never before. The HKWalls non-profit has been instrumental in encouraging the growth of the art form in the city, organising an annual street art festival to breathe colour into the city’s drabber districts. Meanwhile, Hong Kong has seen an influx of global street artists, including Shepard Fairey and Invader, whose distinctive video game-inspired mosaic art fights a constant battle against being removed by the next property development company or overzealous street cleaner.
Five Hong Kong galleries to explore
Para Site Art Space
Set up in 1996 and for many years the city’s only name in contemporary art, Para Site is still a proud voice in Hong Kong’s independent art scene.
• 22/F, Wing Wah Industrial Building, 677 King’s Road, Quarry Bay
Gallery Exit opened in 2008 to provide an exhibition space for emerging Hong Kong artists, with an emphasis on edgy, conceptual art.
• 3/F, 25 Hing Wo Street, Tin Wan, +852 2541 1299
The first completed portion of the West Kowloon Cultural district, the M+ Pavilion currently serves as an exhibition space until the completion of the M+ museum proper in 2019.
• West Kowloon Cultural District, West Kowloon
Pearl Lam Galleries
Gallerist Pearl Lam has been in the business for 20 years, making her a key figure in the rise of the Chinese contemporary art market.
• 601-605 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central
Above Second is a small space punching well above its weight, as the only gallery in Hong Kong to specialise in urban and street art.
• 9 First St, Sai Ying Pun
Art to dine for: three artsy eats in Hong Kong
Half fine French fare, half art gallery: Bibo’s walls are bedecked with work by Banksy, Damien Hirst, Basquiat and Takashi Murakami – and the dishes look almost as good.
• G/F, 163 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
The Michelin-starred dim sum is great , but so too is the artwork. Duddell’s runs a rotating series of exhibitions of some of Hong Kong’s and Asia’s finest contemporary art.
• 3/F, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street, Central
The Popsy Room
A gallery by day, by night The Popsy Room transforms its space into a private kitchen that takes a multi-sensory approach to food.
• 30 Upper Lascar Row, Sheung Wan