In just over a decade Hong Kong has become one of the most important art markets in the world, only behind New York and London. The big international auction houses—Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Philips—, exhibit their best works in this Asian hub which go for world record fees. The city continues to enjoy huge advantages over, for example, Shanghai, which suffers from high direct and indirect taxes, slow and complex customs processes and restrictions on freedom of expression.
This growth is largely due to the Art HK fair, created in 2008. Hong Kong was the perfect location to attract important Chinese millionaires, and collectors of Asian art, from both nearby countries (Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Korea) and Western countries. The fair was a success, and in 2013 Art Basel bought Art HK and made it international. It is complemented by another fair—Art Central —which takes place on the same dates, with a more Asian focus. The Affordable Art Fair is aimed at the general public, with more affordable prices.
In recent years the government has been firmly committed to the artistic development of the city, with a budget last year of around HKD 4 billion (around 450 million euros) allocated to art and culture.
One of the most significant projects—still under construction—is the West Kowloon cultural district, featuring the “M +“, a Museum which is something more. Specializing in contemporary visual art, it has, for example, an amazing collection of neon signs, Hong Kong icons that are sadly disappearing from the streets. In 2014 it launched its first online exhibition (neonsigns.hk), inviting the public to include their own photographs of neon signs, as part of a crowdmapping experience. The M+ is already an active part of Hong Kong’s cultural scene: it organizes several exhibitions every year (at the finished Pavilion, or outside its headquarters) and grows its collection through donations and acquisitions.
In 2018, two large artistic spaces opened in the middle of Central, the city’s financial district. The H Queen’s, a private initiative, has eleven floors designed to house contemporary art works: high ceilings, open spaces, structures that support heavy weights, windows that allow people to see the works from the outside. Renowned international galleries—David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, Whitestone Gallery and Pace Gallery —have already opened headquarters in the building, which is also home to other premises (Pearl Lam Galleries, Tang Contemporary Art). It also houses an auction house, the SA+ Seoul Auction.
Nearby, the Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Art, is the result of integrating some buildings from the British colonial era, recently restored (including the iconic Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison), with other more recent buildings. This complex combines art galleries, a non-profit cultural centre and restaurants. It has several spaces dedicated to performing arts (theatre, music, dance, cinema), all of them with an ambitious programme capable of attracting all kinds of audiences.
Hong Kong offers opportunities to Spanish artists and galleries to sell their works, to collectors of Oriental art—contemporary or classic—and also to owners of works of art interested in selling them, with Hong Kong undoubtedly offering a much higher return than the Spanish market.
And Hong Kong can in some way inspire Spain’s different artistic actors—including ADA members—to promote our country’s cultural and artistic scene. It’s not just down to the political authorities, it also depends on us.
More and more Asians are attracted to Spain, its culture, its language and its history, for them still quite unknown: the number of students of Spanish is increasing exponentially, collectors pride themselves on having works by our best artists and many Asian galleries exhibit Spanish and Latin American artists.
And just as Hong Kong has positioned itself as the best gateway to China, Spain can also be the natural bridge between Latin America and Asia, which many galleries are already taking advantage of.