HONG KONG—The city’s first international art fair, ART HK 08, held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on May 14-18, attracted major players and blue-chip works of Western and Asian contemporary art, leading to high results by the end of the fair. With 102 galleries participating and attendance exceeding 19,000 visitors, sales were made both for top Chinese contemporary artists, as was expected, and for U.S. and European artists, which was something of a surprise.
Although only a few booths sold out, strong sales were reported all around. Ben Brown Fine Arts, London and Hong Kong, proved that Western contemporary art can find buyers in Asia, selling 17h 16m/-45°, a 1990 starscape by Thomas Ruff, for $200,000 and a Ron Arad chair for $150,000. Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London, sold a 1992 Roy Lichtenstein, Water Lilies–Blue Lily Pad, for six figures. Yvon Lambert sold a Kendell Geers neon sign, Fuck, for $47,000 and an acrylic on canvas by Ian Wallace for $150,000 to a Korean collector.
Many other galleries brought art to test the waters of the Asian market: Marlborough showed works on paper by Pablo Picasso, Fernando Botero, and Lucian Freud and two tiny Gerhard Richter oil paintings, as well as a pair of large-scale paintings by Chen Yifei. Gilbert Lloyd, senior vice president of Marlborough, reports that 50 percent of the gallery’s sales over the weekend were of Western art.
Chinese contemporary art sold particularly well. Gana Art Gallery (Seoul, Busan, Paris and New York), reported the sales of an untitled 2000 painting by Yue Minjun for $1.5 million and of a smaller work by the artist for $350,000. London’s Albion Gallery, which recently opened a New York branch headed by former museum director David Ross (ANL, 3/18/08), reported sales of several works by Xu Bing—including Square Word Calligraphy, 2007, for $350,000—in addition to Wang Qingsong’s mammoth photograph Skyscraper, 2008, for $85,000.
Michael Goedhuis reported strong interest in Chinese contemporary brush paintings, at prices ranging from $35,000 to $75,000. ShanghART sold a painting, Louis XV, by Zhou Tiehai (known for his images using the Joe Camel character) for HK$1 million ($128,000), and Contrasts Gallery, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, sold two ash paintings by Zhang Huan—whose show recently opened at PaceWildenstein, New York—for prices over $100,000.