With 130 galleries from 28 countries and territories, the 2022 edition of Art Basel Hong Kong opened to VIPs on Wednesday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Delayed from March to May due to the spike of Covid cases in Hong Kong, the fair embraced the “new normal” in a hybrid format.
The socially distanced setup in the physical venue provided more space for visitors to enjoy art, while those who could not attend in person could join the fair’s online viewing rooms, live-streamed videos, and virtual tours. Dealers reported strong sales throughout the day.
“It is inspiring to see the amazing commitment and surging number of galleries participating in our Hong Kong show, despite the current challenges and uncertainties,” Art Basel’s global director Marc Spiegler said in a statement. “This stands as testament to the show’s continued role as a vital platform for cultural exchange in the region.”
Below is a look at some of the best booths at Art Basel Hong Kong, which runs through Sunday, May 29.
Danh Vo at White Cube
Among the 40 artworks by various artists at White Cube’s booth, Vietnamese-born Danish artist Danh Vo’s installation stands out. Untitled (2020), made from 17th-century Portuguese polychrome and gilded wood and photogravure on paper, examines the historical narratives that we take for granted. Through reassembling artifacts and religious imageries, the artist explores how meaning is made across cultures. Vo’s artistic practice is connected to his own personal history of growing up in Europe after his family fled Vietnam as refugees in 1979.
Katherine Bernhardt and Dan Flavin at David Zwirner
At David Zwirner’s booth, the artworks of young artists are juxtaposed against that of established artists, creating a dialogue among them. For instance, the 1964 pink-and-blue fluorescent light installation, untitled (for Charlotte and Jim Brooks) 1, by Minimalist artist Dan Flavin, is placed near the paintings of American artist Katherine Bernhardt. Flavin, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, was known for his innovative use of non-traditional materials. The urban aesthetics of the glowing light source in the installation echoes the playful references to pop culture in Bernhardt’s paintings nearby. Bernhardt’s Crescent Lunge and Warrior II (both 2021), paintings made from acrylic and spray paint on canvas, feature the cartoon character Pink Panther attempting various yoga poses.
Zeng Fanzhi and Takashi Murakami at Gagosian
Japanese artist Takashi Murakami’s Korpokkur in the Forest (2019), a gigantic work created in the artist’s signature Superflat style, is so large that Gagosian had to extend the temporary wall of the booth upwards. The smiling flowers, arranged in a crowded, circular pattern in the painting are inspired by both the Japanese manga aesthetics and art traditions. Nearby, Chinese artist Zeng Fanzhi’s painting, Untitled (2022), shows the dynamic, gestural approach of the artist toward his abstract, nonrepresentational art. The vivid works on display elevate the energy of the booth. Other international artists are also featured in this booth, including those on Gagosian’s roster.
Roni Horn at Hauser & Wirth
American artist Roni Horn’s mesmerizing cast-glass sculptures, first begun in the mid-’90s, are so glossy that viewers can see their reflection on the surface of the work. If you feel like you’re staring into a body of water, you’re not alone. It takes several minutes to ponder what you’re actually looking at. The work, made between 2010–12, has an enigmatic name as well: Untitled (“Sometimes I think I resemble myself too much. I have always been someone else…”). When juxtaposed against other works on view at the booth, this work, with its ever-changing appearance, makes visitors linger for a while.
Joel Mesler and Tracey Emin at LGDR
At LGDR (the new partnership established by dealers Dominique Lévy, Brett Gorvy, Amalia Dayan and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn), visitors line up in front of a neon light installation to take photos and selfies. The Instagram-worthy piece, titled I promise to love you (2007/08), comes courtesy Tracey Emin, who rose to fame in the ’90s, as one of the Young British Artists (YBAs). At the group booth, another artist who uses text in their artistic practice is American artist Joel Mesler. The tropical flora and fauna of his paintings give the booth a cheerful and casual vibe. Other notable artists on view here include Banksy, Keith Haring, and George Condo.
Tom Friedman at Lehmann Maupin
At Lehmann Maupin’s group booth, American artist Tom Friedman’s large-scale sculpture Looking Up (2020) mimics the gesture of viewers as they look at this soaring sculpture. Its metallic exterior gives it a sci-fi aura, hinting at the futuristic, technological connectivity that transforms human existence. Using the QR code on display, viewers can use augmented reality (AR) technology to view a nearly 33-foot-high moving sculpture through their phone screens and place the animation next to the physical sculpture. Coinciding with Art Basel Hong Kong, this interactive experience is also expanded across different sites in Hong Kong, Seoul, and New York simultaneously.
Hajime Sorayama at Nanzuka
Speaking of sci-fi, Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama’s installation at Nanzuka makes us wonder if we are staring at a creature from outer space. Untitled_Sexy Robot type II floating (2022) is an installation made from UV-curable resin, plexiglass, silver plating, light-emitting diode, stainless steel, and steel. The female humanoid figure with cyborgian features is the artist’s signature style. The reflective surface of the metal, coupled with the light reflecting from transparent surfaces, makes the installation look surreal. Reminiscent of scientific specimen in a vitrine, the female robot, objectified by male gaze, reveals the way we approach how we visually consume images.
Rirkrit Tiravanija and Thomas Bayrle at neugerriemschneider
A ping pong table printed with Chinese characters, an installation by Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, occupies the center of neugerriemschneider’s booth. Above it is German artist Thomas Bayrle’s UV-print-on-canvas work depicting table tennis players mid-match, formed by smaller patterns grouped together. The social interaction and ephemeral movements inherent in the act of playing table tennis makes us contemplate the dynamics in the formation of human relationships. During uncertain times amid the pandemic, the light-hearted presentation stirs up nostalgia as people yearn for the resumption of normalcy no matter how mundane such activities may seem.
Stephen Thorpe and Juri Markkula at Ora-Ora
At Ora-Ora, each work in Swedish artist Juri Markkula’s “Heaven” series looks different depending on the perspective of the viewer. They defy color categorization. To create this ethereal effect, the artist uses interference pigment and polyurethane on each piece, which can appear green, blue, pink, or gold. This creates a sense of spirituality and awe. The philosophical exploration continues in the oil painting of U.S.-based British artist Stephen Thorpe, Imagination and Reverie (2022), inspired by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard’s publication “On Poetic Imagination and Reverie,” from 1971. The painting depicts an arcade machine in nature, surrounded by birds and plants, combining imageries which transcend temporal and spatial boundaries.
Lam Tung Pang at Blindspot Gallery
Hong Kong artist Lam Tung Pang’s latest series, “Potted City,” is displayed against a wall painted dark blue. The calm feeling given off by the wall is amplified by the bonsai images on plywood. In a sly move, however, skyscraper imageries are embedded among the mountains and plants, symbols typically seen in Chinese ink paintings. The exploration of the rural and urban landscape re-examines our relationship with the environment. Elsewhere at Blindspot Gallery’s booth, the art of several artists from this region is featured, including that of Angela Su, who represents Hong Kong at Venice Biennale 2022.
Nortse at Fine Art Asia Pavilion
Within this year’s Art Basel Hong Kong is the Fine Art Asia Pavilion, a booth version of the Fine Art Asia art fair, known for exploring experimental ways of appreciating antiques and contemporary art. The booth brings together 20 artists from 6 galleries. The Golden Earth (2021–22) by Tibetan artist Nortse, represented by Rossi & Rossi, is a mixed-media work on canvas located at one end of the booth. The golden hue of the background catches the eye, and the found objects pasted onto the surface surprises. Elsewhere, a blank wall space for video projections has been place near antique furniture. Videos include introductions of two original characters created with traditional Chinese aesthetics in the Sandbox metaverse. These digital works are inspired by a bronze lamp in the shape of a mythical bird from Han Dynasty and a zitan wood lamp base in a bear shape from Qing Dynasty in the early 18th century.
Ryan Bell at TZ APAC
NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are everywhere nowadays, and of course they are at Art Basel Hong Kong as well. There’s a booth presented by TZ APAC dedicated to generative and NFT art from around the world including Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and South Korea. The booth, lit with purple light, shows projections of digital art on its walls. It is the first Tezos exhibition at Art Basel Hong Kong. (Tezos is a proof of stake blockchain which becomes an ecosystem for technology and art.) Visitors can mint their own NFT artwork on-site. Among these artists is American artist Ryan Bell, who loves fractal mathematics and recursive functions. His work, Microgravity, is randomly generated using code and calculations.