Dec 20 2022

HKAGA Press Release – Greetings from Hong Kong (December 15, 2022)

The Hong Kong Art Gallery Association (HKAGA) and its members look forward to welcoming the familiar faces of out-of-town guests and international visitors during the March 2023 art season. With the recent lifting of all travel restrictions, the surge of airline recruitment, the influx of global financial leaders and the return of stadium cheers from Hong Kong Sevens rugby fans, this enthralling city is poised to re-emerge as the centre of energy that locals have lovingly dubbed ‘Home Kong’. No other city in Asia has proven to be as resilient.

Over the past years, Hong Kong has faced difficulties starting from the protests in 2019 to the COVID-19 restrictions that lasted till late 2022. Yet through it all, Hong Kong’s art galleries not only remained open – without a single one closing – but also continued to expand and flourish, demonstrating the city’s remarkable strength and adaptability. Of note, since January 2021, the number of HKAGA members has risen, from 49 to 62, an increase of 26 per cent. ‘We had an optimistic increase in membership applications, even in the pandemic years – and we are expecting more galleries to join’, says Fabio Rossi, co-president of the HKAGA. ‘This shows the confidence that the art industry has in Hong Kong and its environment as the pre-eminent place in Asia to be located and doing business’.

And the city’s galleries have continued to remain extremely active. The Central District of Hong Kong – the heart of the city where the largest financial powerhouses are located – is a major gallery hub and home to more than half of the HKAGA’s member galleries. Amongst them are globally renowned blue-chip spaces, including Hauser & Wirth, White Cube, Gagosian, David Zwirner, Pace and LGDR. Further up the hills, galleries such as Ora-Ora, Massimo De Carlo and Kwai Fung Hin reopened spaces in the newly refurbished Tai Kwun, a former 1800s police base and prison turned centre for heritage and arts.

‘This is Hauser & Wirth’s thirtieth anniversary and fifth year for our Hong Kong space’, notes Elaine Kwok, Managing Partner Asia of Hauser & Wirth. ‘It’s been a great year for us with a strong gallery programme, from Annie Leibovitz to William Kentridge to Nicolas Party to Mike Kelley. A hybrid way of online and in-real-life exhibitions has become our new normal. With the COVID policy eased, including most recently in Mainland China, we are excited and looking forward to next March, to have the chance to show visitors from all over the world, once again, what Hong Kong has to offer!’

Massimo De Carlo shares the sentiment. Claudia Albertini, the gallery’s Senior Director, remarks, ‘Despite the difficulties brought about by the pandemic and the strict regulations implemented in Hong Kong, our focus has remained unchanged, as has our commitment to presenting the best artists and exhibitions to our audience in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is the undisputed art hub in Asia, and we are proud to have had a gallery space here since 2016’.

Faina Derman, Director at White Cube, is equally optimistic. ‘White Cube has remained open throughout the past three years, continuously mounting exhibitions and welcoming guests to our gallery space’, she points out. ‘There has been so much going on in Hong Kong’s cultural scene since the start of the pandemic, from in-person shows to the development of fantastic digital content to the opening of M+, a world-class institution that will cement Hong Kong’s status as the major hub for contemporary art in the region. Now that Hong Kong is finally open to travel, we’re all excited to have artists, curators and collectors come back and experience our thriving art scene and to re-discover all the institutions, local innovative gallery spaces and artists that make this city so unique’.

On the south side of Hong Kong Island, Wong Chuk Hang is a rapidly developing hub. Once an industrial outpost, the area is now home to an increasing number of galleries, including those which outgrew the spatial restraints of the city’s centrally located buildings. Amongst the ones that expanded are Rossi & Rossi, DE SARTHE and Ben Brown Fine Arts, all of which revealed sprawling new spaces to accommodate not only the ambitions of the artists they represent, but also a growing number of collectors. Additionally, Art Intelligence Global, an art advisory firm led by art market veterans Yuki Terase, Amy Cappellazzo and Adam Chinn, chose to open their Asia headquarters here.

Meanwhile, not far from Central, the recently renamed Kiang Malingue (previously Edouard Malingue Gallery), revealed a new space in September – a renovated building located in Wan Chai – whilst keeping its Tin Wan studio. Other start-up galleries have also put down roots throughout the city, including Double Q, started by Queenie Law, showcasing Central and Eastern European artists; Square Street, infusing a collaborate programme with young local talent; and PhD Group, operating out of an adapted 1970s rooftop clubhouse.

Furthermore, at a time when global art fairs were being postponed or even cancelled during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of local galleries led by the HKAGA and advised by Art Basel organised and held two editions of a non-traditional art fair aptly named UNSCHEDULED. The event proved more than successful, with an overwhelming majority of participating galleries selling works to new collectors. Its organizers even made a profit (a first for any budding art fair), thus demonstrating the unity of the gallery sector that had allowed them to act with autonomy and in mobility during a time of international uncertainty. Amidst the rapid urban transformation, UNSCHEDULED found and connected temporary spaces, such as the former Central Police Station and an evacuated fashion retail shop, with curators and architects in order to put them to use during the fair.

Looking ahead, in March 2023, two major art fairs will be held once again at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). Art Basel Hong Kong will stage its largest edition since 2019, with the participation of 173 of the world’s leading galleries, and bring back all special projects, such as Encounters, Film, Kabinett and Conversations. Art Central, on the other hand, will continue to attract innovative galleries across Asia and focus on the next generation of young talent from the immediate area and beyond.

The entire Hong Kong art community is, in essence, closely collaborating in order to create a spectacular calendar of events in response to the growing momentum for March. Please join us for some exciting programming – with more details to come – as the city we all love comes back as vibrant as ever.

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