The 6th edition of Art Basel Hong Kong is kicking off this week with a significant  lineup of works to be sold at the fair and its related events, some already sold in those VIP days, before the official opening. It seems that dealers are busting out the Blue Chip for Art Basel Hong Kong, willing to best capitalize on its booming and growing  art scene. However other dealers, meanwhile and with the same aim, have rather decided to  focus more  on artists who have a connection to the region, such as Mexico City gallery kurimanzutto‘s solo booth of works made by Gabriel Orozco while the artist was living in Asia.

Indeed, This year’s fair features 248 galleries and a roster that is “more international than ever before,” fair director Adeline Ooi told artnet News in an email to Artnet. 

Apart from the fair is a full schedule of exhibitions and a series of major sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, strategically held alongside the fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, attracting many of the highest level collectors not only from China, but from all Asia, including Japan and growing Corea.

Let’s look at some of the reported sales by now from the Art Basel 2 VIP day : 

  • Kukje Gallery: a work by Lee Ufan sold for USD 1.5 million-1.7 million
  • Mazzoleni: Giorgio de Chirico’s oil on canvas from 1951 priced at USD 600,000 sold to a Hong Kong collector
  • Almine Rech Gallery: sold George Condo’s oil on canvas from 2006 for over a million USD to a private collection in Asia
  • König Galerie: a new sculpture by Alicja Kwade sold for EUR 80,000
  • Antenna Space: two sculptures by Guan Xiao, who recently had a solo exhibition at ICA London, selling for $23,000 each.
Cardi Gallery at ABMB18

However probably the most impressive sale was the power dealer Lévy Gorvy’s one, who sold a $35 Willem de Kooning Untitled XII (1975), originally owned by Seattle billionaire and Microsoft co-founder (and ARTnews “Top 200” collector) Paul Allen, less than two hours into the VIP preview. The gallery declined to say who or what nationality the buyer is, except to specify that the work is going into a private collection. But Gorvy told artnet News immediately after the sale that the gallery tailored its presentation to the specific fair audience in question. “One of the things that I always saw at Christie’s is that you have this area of people who are above the $20 million mark,” she said. “It’s a small group but they’re very passionate and knowledgeable and they want the best of the best.”  Indeed, his  gallery partner Brett Gorvy said that the gallery had Asian collectors in mind when it decided to present the work in Hong Kong, and according to Dominique Lévy, the gallery had been in discussions with the buyer for some time, but he came to Art Basel Hong Kong to confirm his interest and the sale was finalized. In fact, the gallery sent out a brochure to individual clients roughly two weeks before the fair, with the obvious understanding  that everything shown had to be available on the day of the fair. Interested buyers could place a hold on the work, but only for an hour.


Willem de Kooning, Untitled XII (1975). Courtesy Lévy Gorvy

I think the energy here is different this year,” Lévy said. “There is a wider range of people coming from everywhere and I think the fair is much better organized and much more sophisticated.  The galleries are making a much bigger effort. In the first few years, people brought things that were second rate, but in the last two years, people have been really stepping up.”

In fact, such a rapid sale of what is probably one of the most expensive works at the fair, confirms what dealers and auction houses have been betting on, namely the growing ranks of asian wealthy buyers who are determined to score blue-chip masterpieces and who are not afraid to spend  7/8 figure sums for the best work.

But de Kooning wasn’t the only star in the booth, as Lévy Gorvy is also showing work by a diverse group of artists including Zao Wou-Ki, Pierre Soulages, Rudolf Stingel, Frank Stella, Carol Rama, Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama,  and Pat Steir. This last one, an artist who has began to rise since Dominique Lévy began representing her just over two years ago, was also one of the one sold in those VIP Days: Her work, from a new series titled “For Hong Kong, an “homage to the artistic and literary heritage of East Asian cultures.”, have truly charmed the asian buyers, and the work have been sold bought for $500,000  by private collectors and foundations in Asia.

It seems like that the Asian collector and art scene is confirming as a place of a growing strong interest for all art dealers who here can find true highest level collector willing to buy just very trophy works.


Art Basel Hong Kong Marc 29-31 2018

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