At the opening of Art Basel Hong Kong, collectors and museums returned to the fair’s latest edition with dealers reporting success in placing works across private and institutional collections based in Asia.
In sales reports, dealers said that the return to the Asia-Pacific market hub was a healthy one. Works valued as high as $5 million landed with buyers by Wednesday. Despite some fears circulating among dealers that two recent banking crises in the U.S. and Switzerland might hamper business, the effects have yet to reveal themselves on the fair circuit, sources told ARTnews.
“There’s an appetite for buying art,” Phillips Hong Kong specialist Isaure de Viel Castel told ARTnews. Castel attended the opening day of the fair, which coincided with the auction house opening its new West Kowloon location. Castel and her colleagues had long been awaiting the market’s return to the hub after prolonged lockdown restrictions. “It’s really the first time that Hong Kong is fully open.”
Collectors appeared to be moving with clear intention through the fair, art advisor Ed Tang, who is based between New York and Hong Kong, told ARTnews, describing the pace of the inquiries and buying as moving at a “slightly different rhythm” than what’s typically seen at Western fairs. “I didn’t take it as a sign of hesitancy from collectors. There’s just a lot of choice.”
Collectors like Jens Faurschou, Alan Lo, Yusaku Maezawa, and Maya Hoffman were among the fair’s closely-watched attendees. Drawing some of fair’s high-profile guests this week. according to Tang and Castel, was another attraction in Hong Kong: the opening of the long-awaited M+ museum, decades in the making.
A few dealers said the opening outpaced expectations. David Kordansky Gallery, which has locations in New York and Los Angeles, reported that its entire booth of works on paper and painting by Adam Pendleton sold within the fair’s opening hours. The dealer reported that 11 silkscreen paintings and drawings on Mylar that Pendleton produced last year each sold for prices between $95,000 and $135,000 to collectors in Asia.
Works by Mark Bradford, Alice Neel, George Condo and Kazuo Shiraga commanded the highest prices during the fair’s opening days. Not for the first time this year, Hauser & Wirth reported that works by Bradford and Condo landed with buyers for seven figure sums. Per the gallery, Condo’s 2011 painting Purple Compression, a lavender-hued and Picasso-inspired group of distorted faces, sold at Art Basel Hong Kong for $4.75 million, going to a private collection that’s based between New York and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Mark Bradford’s large-scale abstraction A Straight Line sold for $3.5 million. Another by Bradford sold from the gallery’s showcase at Frieze Los Angeles for the same price. Works by Henry Taylor, Pat Steir, Ed Clark and Frank Bowling were among the others. Their works sold for prices between $350,000 and $975,000.
Chelsea dealer Lehmann Maupin saw success in placing works with collectors in the region. Works by Nari Ward, Liu Wei, Lee Bul and Tom Friedman went to Asian buyers, the gallery reported.
Among the other sales made during the fair’s opening days was one by Elizabeth Peyton at David Zwirner. Peyton’s 2005 portrait of a man’s from a side profile view titled Truffaut sold for $2.2 million to a museum based in China, the name of which the gallery did not disclose, but only described cryptically as “major.” It was not the only one by an in-demand artist from the gallery’s roster to see museum attention though. Another piece by provocateur Jordan Wolfson, a sculpture made from stainless steel hardware, nylon mesh, chain, and spray paint, dated from 2016 to 2022 sold for $900,000 to Shanghai’s Long Museum, a recurring buyer on the Hong Kong fair scene.
Other galleries made big figures. New York dealer Fergus McCaffrey made one of the event’s biggest deals, selling a 1991 red abstract painting by Kazuo Shiraga that came from the artist’s estate for $5 million. It went to an undisclosed buyer. At the Brussels-based dealer Xavier Hufkens’s booth, a portrait of a seated woman by Alice Neel, who has seen renewed market attention following a showcase at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2021 achieved over the $1 million mark. The 1966 painting, Muriel Gardiner Buttinger sold for a price between $1 million and $1.2 million (the gallery did not disclose the exact sale figure.). Though it was the only work from the dealer’s showcase to achieve a blue-chip price, five paintings by Cassi Namoda and other sculptures by Thomas Houseago and also sold. Those works went for prices ranging between $50,000 and $400,000, respectively.
Meanwhile, dealers based in Europe and U.K saw steady sales that hit big numbers. Cardi Gallery, which has locations in Milan and London and Paris’s Mennour sold paintings by Giorgio De Chirico and Lee Ufan, the first from 1970 and the other from 2014, for prices above $1 million, respectively. London gallerist Stephen Friedman brought a group of works by in-demand artists on its roster. Painting by Andreas Eriksson, Sarah Ball and Caroline Coon that Friedman showcased sold for prices around $100,000 each, the dealer reported. Works by the latter two were purchased by museums.
Elsewhere, works by Montréal-based artist Tammi Campbell that riff on canonical artists like Ed Ruscha and Josef Albers that were brought by Los Angeles dealer Anat Ebgi were sold in the fair’s “Discoveries” section that’s meant to highlight emerging artists. Those works went for prices between $10,000 and $40,000.