painting a picture of asia
Returning for its third edition, Art Central in Hong Kong is expanding its footprint in both numbers and influence. Ambitious in its scope and pirouetting on the cutting edge of contemporary, this year’s edition of the art fair will not only showcase the next generation luminaries of the Asian and global art scene, but also underscore Hong Kong’s position as the art hub of east of the Suez.
Running for five days (21-25 March, with a VIP Preview on 20 March), Art Central 2017 houses a hundred contemporary galleries within a purpose-built structure at Central Harbourfront, with a dynamic five-day programme of interactive installations, experimental film and panel discussions to fill the space in between peering and perusing art.
“The selection (we have) this year is the strongest we have presented, and the diverse range of artists, mediums and geographies represented is testament to the fact that Art Central is truly Asia’s most dynamic art fair," says Charles Ross, Managing Director of Art Central. That geography mentioned is truly global, straddling the coasts of the Pacific (Art Atrium in Sydney to Isabel Croxatto Galería in Santiago) and the Atlantic (Anastasia Photo in New York to In The Gallery in Copenhagen). The main focus, however, is squarely on Asia. “(Ours) is an international platform strongly rooted in the region, with 75% of the participating galleries from Asia Pacific," according to Ross.
That focus is the DNA of Art Central; a double helix structure that defines its ambition. Curated by a selection committee comprised of Angela Li (Hong Kong), Cho Jeong Yeol (South Korea), Christa Schübbe (Germany) and Richard Koh (Malaysia), all of whom are represented at the fair, the list of galleries to keep an eye on include Galerie Gaia (Seoul), Line Gallery (Beijing), Sakurado Fine Arts (Tokyo) and Vinyl on Vinyl (Manila). Participating galleries are divided into two spaces: Central, for established and emerging galleries, and Rise, which zooms in galleries specifically launched within the past six years and showcasing eight tightly curated solo presentations by early career artists.
A dedicated performance programme, devised in partnership with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art from Sydney, promises a deeper level of immersion for guests, while emerging Hong Kong curator Jims Lam Chi Hang has selected a series of thought-provoking large installations for the riveting Projects sector. This being Hong Kong, stomachs will not be ignored. Ross promises a bevy of pop-up outlets at the Street Food Central, including Aloha, Little Bao and Beef & Liberty. “We have also invited Hong Kong’s leading French chef Philippe Orrico to create a bespoke restaurant especially for the Fair."
That all sounds like a fantastic visual and sensorial experience, but there’s also an undercurrent to all of this. Art Central is part of a trifecta of major art events descending on Hong Kong including the Asian Contemporary Art Show (March17-20) and Art Basel Hong Kong (23-25 March). North America has New York, Europe has London and Paris, and Hong Kong acts as their counterpart in the East, the central node for the Asian art scene.
“The demand for interesting and exceptional artworks in Asia is robust," according to Ross, “and we have definitely seen a very rich progress in Hong Kong in the ten years I have been here." Between 2007 and 2017, ArtBasel arrived in Hong Kong, while international blue chip galleries have proliferated, including White Cube and Gagosian. The ley lines of artistic power have converged on the territory, cementing Hong Kong’s position as the main arts hub in Asia and one of the few global hubs.
So private museums may be flourishing in China and contemporary events inspiring art from Thailand and Myanmar to the Philippines and Taiwan, and Hong Kong is where all those currents are coming to coalesce. There is a reason why the main Asian outposts of auction houses Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams are all in Hong Kong, which acts as a lighthouse to spot and illuminates the trends and developments across the continent, with the liquidity to back up collections and purchases. So as Art Central 2017 prepares to open its doors, think of it not just an art fair, but a beacon of where Asian art is heading to.