Fair Frenzy

So Art Basel recently made a big move, they opened up a fair in Hong Kong.  There was an iPhone app and everything.  The general feedback was that the fair was a massive advancement for international dealers, but that it is still to be determined if this fair will actually reveal new Southeast Asian/Asian artists, or continue to raise the profile of already “blue chip” artists (mainly Western ones at that).  

This got me thinking: what is the point of big art fairs anyway?  We all know about the Venice Biennial, but I always associated that with more of a celebration of national cultures at the highest level, not a commercial art scene complete with back door deals and exorbitant prices.  Maybe that is naiive,  maybe it isn’t.

To start answering my questions about fairs, I began with a why: why Hong Kong?  What about that city in Asia made it the place for Basel?  We all know that the Asian markets are growing, and the art scene is booming, but in all of Asia, why Hong Kong?  Is it the biggest? Most internationally exciting?  Most friendly in terms of taxes and art buying?  As my mother always told me, the answer is usually written in dollar signs.  With a bit of research, I discovered that Hong Kong and Singapore are competing head to head for the reputation of being Asia’s artistic hub for the international art market.  However, more and more it is looking like the two nations might end up both winning.  Hong Kong pulls from more of the mainland China market while Singapore pulls from more of the Southeast Asian market.  And hey, why wouldn’t the international art market want two new sources of growing revenue?  Not to mention the added visual freshness of two new cultures.  

As it turns out, Hong Kong was selected for its roots, meaning the Western world kind of already has a sense of what Hong Kong has to offer, in terms of profit that it.  Singapore on the other hand is far younger, and far more of an experiment.  Everything about that nation-state is a work in progress, but a thus far speedy and upward going work in progress.  In fact, many major galleries and art investment funds are expanding their galleries to Singapore.  The Singaporean government, despite censorship issues, have made infrastructural decisions that create fertile soil for the expansion of a creative industries sector.  Just check out Gillman Barracks, or FreePort. These places don’t even come close to revealing the grassroots level infrastructure to allow for the arts.  Singaporean students can even win scholarships to study abroad for university, focusing on cultural development and arts curation with the promise that they will come back to a job in those very things with the Singaporean government.  So while Hong Kong got the “prize” this time around, Singapore has a bit to offer as well.  ArtStage Singapore is set to be quite the excitement, stay tuned for sure. 

Art Fairs are a chance to expose new visual trends.  Art Fairs are a chance to economically rejuvenate a very specific, yet globally focused market: the art market.  And, Art Fairs are a chance for nations to make a claim to their worth in terms of culture, the most valuable intangible there is to cause growth.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s