Former Art Basel Hong Kong Director to Launch New Fair in Taipei

Dennis Chen, country head and head of wealth management, UBS Taiwan, and Magnus Renfrew, cofounder and director of Taipei Dangdai.


Since being acquired by Art Basel seven years ago, Art HK (now called Art Basel Hong Kong, which opens next week) has become the premier art fair in Asia. Now Magnus Renfrew, the fair’s former director, will launch a new event in Taipei. The first edition of Renfrew’s new art fair, titled Taipei Dangdai, is set for January 2019, and UBS has made a multi-year commitment as presenter of the fair. It will coincide with the 11th Taipei Biennial, which will be curated by Mali Wu and Francesco Manacorda and runs from November 17, 2018, through March 10, 2019.

Renfrew was founding director of Art HK, which was launched in 2008; he stayed on through its acquisition by Art Basel a few years later, and then led Art Basel Hong Kong as Art Basel’s Director Asia until September 2014, when he left for Bonham’s auction house. But, Renfrew told ARTnews, he is not out to compete with his alma mater.

“With Hong Kong, I was proud to be involved in organizing a fair that asserts itself as a global fair for the region and will remain so,” he said. He sees Taipei Dangdai as playing a different role. “There is a big gap between Art Basel Hong Kong and other fairs in the region, in terms of quality and how they are progressing. It’s necessary to have other fairs that have real quality and don’t necessarily aspire to be the global fair for the region.” Instead, he said, his fair will “make the most of the attributes” of Taiwan; it will “create the best fair for that destination” and emphasize “regionality rather than being ‘second-best’ ” as a global fair.

Renfrew, who last year founded the ARTHQ / Group, a service provider for the art world, with offices in Hong Kong and London, said that he has been spending a lot of time in Taipei recently, and has been “keen” to launch a fair with international cachet there.

Since 1992, Taipei’s World Trade Center has hosted the art fair Art Taipei, which is organized by the Taiwan Art Gallery Association and is put on in conjunction with the Taiwan External Trade Development Council and the Ministry of Culture. That fair had its 24th edition last fall and included over 123 galleries. It tends to be focused on modern art, as opposed to contemporary work, though there has reportedly been more art by today’s most important artists in recent editions.

Taipei Dangdai will be focused on contemporary art, but Renfrew says there will also be historical offerings. “In a developing market where you are trying to engage with new collectors, having historical work helps contextualize the contemporary work,” he said. In Chinese, “Dangdai means ‘contemporary’ and ‘the present moment,’ and the present moment depends on context. It doesn’t come from nowhere.”

Renfrew has started an advisory group for his fair that includes powerful local collectors like Rudy Tseng, a Taipei-based member of the Asia Pacific Acquisition Committee for Tate who has served as curator of the fair Art Stage Singapore’s Taiwan platform, as well as Jam Acuzar, Jason Chi, Evan Chow, Lawrence Chu, Ellie Lai, Sylvain Levy, Alan Lo, Ivan Pun, Leo Shih, Leslie Sun, and Patrick Sun. (The list is not yet complete.)

So far, members of the fair’s selection committee include Patricia Crockett (Sprüth Magers), Waling Boers (Boers-Li Gallery), Isa Lorenzo (Silverlens Galleries), Edouard Malingue (Edouard Malingue Gallery), and Elisa Uematsu (Taka Ishii Gallery). (Others will ultimately be added to that list, too.)

As part of his quality-over-quantity approach, Renfrew is keeping the size of the fair modest, at 80 galleries. Compared to Art Basel Hong Kong’s 248, that’s a small number, but it’s useful to recall that, when Art HK started in 2008, it was a mere 100 galleries.

Those 80 galleries will be a mix of Asian and international venues, with a focus on those that have made a commitment to showing their programs in Asia. Renfrew said he is interested in “providing an opportunity for collectors within Taiwan to have at their doorsteps some of the big international galleries that have made a commitment to the region.” He also sees his fair as a way of developing new collectors in the region.

Taipei Dangdai’s full list of exhibitors will be announced this coming fall.

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