Art Basel Hong Kong Returns Bigger Than Ever

In Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor, an odd vision floats among the passing ships: a massive gray body gone belly up with arms outstretched, and a pair of Xs for eyes. This is Holiday, a 121-foot inflatable sculpture by Brooklyn-based artist KAWS that will remain floating here through March 31. (Safely tethered to a steel pontoon, it’s no cause for alarm.)

There’s a perfect view of the buoyant installation from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, where Art Basel Hong Kong is open to the public March 29 through 31. The Asian edition of the Swiss art fair is back for its seventh edition, and in no small way—this year it has 242 galleries from 35 countries in tow, with the region’s collectors forming a line at the entrances on Wednesday, impatient for the VIP preview to begin.

View of Julio Le Parc’s solo exhibition “LIGHT – MIRROR” at Perrotin Hong Kong, 2019.

Photo: © Julio Le Parc / ADAGP, Paris & SACK, Seoul 2019

From above, the VIPs were greeted by Willing to Be Vulnerable – Metalized Balloon, a glossy 33-foot-long replica of the infamous Hindenburg disaster zeppelin by Lee Bul, “one of South Korea’s most preeminent contemporary artists,” according to Alexie Glass-Kantor, the Art Basel curator who worked with galleries on three different continents—Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Europe, Lehmann Maupin in North America, and PKM Gallery in Asia—to bring Bul’s work to the fair. Before the doors to the fair officially opened, she lauded the artist, “for her incredible work that expose technology science, fiction, and utopias.” On the convention center floor, the array of international powerhouse galleries had all manner of blue-chip artists in their booths: luminous hanging sculptures by Olafur Eliasson brought by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, for example, or Yayoi Kusama tentacles clad in gold and silver mosaics brought by Tokyo gallery Ota Fine Arts.

“Everyone sort of brings the best,” says New Delhi–based gallerist Roshini Vadehra, whose gallery specializes in Indian artists. Having participated in every edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, she has seen its growth, “and this year it’s just exploding.”

Willing to Be Vulnerable – Metalized Balloon, by Lee Bul.

Photo: Courtesy of Art Basel Hong Kong

For technophiles, HTC’s VIVE Arts program, the fair’s official virtual reality partner, presents an interstellar experience: “To The Moon,” a collaborative VR piece by artists Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang. The 15-minute piece commemorates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by virtually launching fairgoers into outer space—so realistically, in fact, this reporter experienced motion sickness. “It’s a living art form,” Anderson says of VR. “You’re changing it and it’s changing you.”

Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang, still from To The Moon, 2018.

Photo: Courtesy the artists and HTC VIVE Arts

The day of the preview, not only were the hallways of the convention center packed, the rest of the city bustled with energy. Over the years, an international art hub has been steadily growing around the fair, attracting new galleries from around the world. This week, the London– and New York–based gallery Lévy Gorvy opened the doors to its new Hong Kong location with a group exhibition including works by Wassily Kandinsky, Wu Dayu, Claude Monet, and Agnes Martin. The Chinese art space K11 inaugurated its exhibition space in the newly completed luxury towers of Victoria Dockside with “Glow Like That,” a group show of artists concerned with light. Existing galleries mounted exhibitions of major artists, among them an immersive new installation of mirrors and stripes by Argentinian artist Julio Le Parc at Galerie Perrotin, and “KAWS: Along the Way,” a career survey of the artist at PMQ that coincides with its floating companion in the harbor.

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