ART HK Scores Record Attendance, But the Asian Market Still Proves Tough to Crack

21 May 2012

ART HK 12 wrapped yesterday having scored record attendance and brought the most prestigious slate of participants of any Asian art fair to date.

It also proved, however, that the region’s market is by no means easy to crack.

A number of Western galleries invested heavily in ART HK this year, bringing high value works and splashing out on large booths, only to make very modest sales. There were unconfirmed reports of a handful of high-profile players making no sales at the fair at all. Still, marquee participants such as White Cube, Hauser & Wirth, and David Zwirner did report good results, while local players like Platform China and de Sarthe Gallery — who draw on long experience in Asia — also did well.

Notable sales over the course of the fair included Alighiero Boetti’s “Mappa” (1984) for €1 million by Tornabuoni Art; Robert Motherwell’s “Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 45” (1960) for $1 million by Bernard Jacobson Gallery; George Baselitz’s “Stalin und Woroschilov pissen von der Kremlmover” by White Cube to an Asian collector for €500,000 and Hans Hartung’s “T1966-H32” (1966) by de Sarthe to a Singaporean collector for $400,000.

For many participants, the most disappointing feature of this year’s edition of ART HK was the relatively low number of major collectors in attendance. Various theories for their absence were mooted, the most convincing of these being the misjudgement in scheduling that un-coupled the fair this year from the main spring auctions. In previous years ART HK has benefited from an overlap with the Christie’s Hong Kong auction season which brings a host of prominent Asian collectors to the city. This year there was a week-long gap between the fair and the auctions, thereby robbing the former of its synergy with the latter.

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