For the uninitiated the extravaganza could have been a daunting one – with dozens of events, gallery openings, by-invitation only parties and brand showcases to choose from. Insider access and knowledge was therefore the key to successfully navigating this exciting week, with Quintessentially taking a front seat as Art Basel Hong Kong’s official concierge partner.
Now in its sixth year, the partnership saw our team provide expert concierge services to Art Basel’s VIPs, assisting them with all aspects of Art Basel and the surrounding Art Week, from on-site requests and VIP Art Tours, to off-site arrangements from last minute restaurant bookings to after-party recommendations and much more. In short we made sure Art Basel VIP’s get the most out of their experience at the fair, as well as the best out of Hong Kong during the most exciting of weeks!
Fully on the front line over the course of the show and Art Week, Quintessentially tallied key moments, favourite parties, art pieces, artists and events. Read on to find out what these were.
Discover our highlights, top moments and more..
Though Art Basel was the headline act as the city’s largest international art fair, the newer and perhaps livelier Art Central, now in its fourth year, got the crowd warmed up in its grand pop-up tents on Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront. Opening on the Monday night before Art Basel’s private previews the following day, Art Central celebrated the vibrancy and diversity of Asia’s contemporary art scene. Of the 100 international galleries displaying works this year, 75 per cent hailed from the region, giving it a distinct Asian flavour.
While we couldn’t get a consensus from all 40,000 visitors attending the fair on their favourite work, one piece stood out as garnering a lot of attention over the six day period. Legendary Chinese symbolist and surrealist painter Zhang Xiaogang’s first ever sculpture in bronze – although he doesn’t like to refer to the pieces as sculpture, but rather as 3D painting.
The next day we watched as Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam declared the city’s sixth edition of Art Basel’s show open. Over its five days, 80,000 people descended on the show to see what the 248 premier galleries from 32 countries and territories had on offer: modern masterpieces and contemporary works, historical material and cutting-edge pieces by established and emerging artists.
Many of those visitors were private collectors, as well as representatives from over 100 leading international museums and institutions, including Centre Pompidou, Paris; Serpentine Galleries, London; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Strong sales were recorded, including the impressive reported sale of Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XII for US$35 million by Levy Gorvy Gallery, within the show’s first two hours.
Crowd pleasers included a large scale installation from Taiwanese artist Chou Yu-Cheng – part sculpture, part performance and part recital, as well as Hong Kong icon Frog King’s performance art piece Frog King Kwok Calligraphy Shop. Popular too was heavy-hitting gallerist David Zwirner’s much-anticipated exhibit of Jeff Koons’ works, to name a few of our favourites.
Just as significant as the fair itself were the parallel Art Basel events that took place throughout the city. From exhibition openings at H Queen’s, the first building in Hong Kong built specifically for art exhibitions, to other galleries across the city such as Para Site’s presentation A Beast, a God, and a Line. Hong Kong artist Samson Young’s exhibition at M+ Pavilion was also a must visit as well as art and design tours of the South Island District, Tai Kwun and the newly opened Center for Heritage, Art and Textiles (CHAT).
Asia Art Archive also hosted Women Make Art History, which brought the controversial Guerrilla Girls to Asia for the first time, encouraging timely discussions about gender bias in the art world. The Quintessentially team were lucky to meet them as well as other artists including the delightful Astha Butail from Gurgaon in India, winner of last year’s BMW Art Journey prize. There she shared with us a personal preview of her installation 3+1 (Cabinets), expressing her experience of finding commonalities and connections between cultures through sounds, materials and cultural practice.
British street artist Remi Rough, who was commissioned by Swire Properties in partnership with architecture and design firm Aedas, to create one of his signature geometric murals at the Quarry Bay MTR station, met us at the Artists’ After Party at The Continental restaurant, Pacific Place. Two days later he spoke in the Swire Lounge at Art Basel, as part of a discussion on whether graffiti art can be a positive force in communities.
This was only one of the many invitation-only events Quintessentially was able to access. Highlights from Hong Kong’s hottest new art and lifestyle venue, H Queen’s, were Loro Piana’s The Gift of Kings party and the Audemars Piguet After Dinner Party.
Bottle-popping revelry expectedly ensued at the Media x Mumm Harbour Party, and equally at Art Basel’s official champagne sponsor Ruinart’s party at PMQ’s Aberdeen Street Social, where Maison Ruinart revealed an exclusive collaboration with artist Liu Bolin.
The Lady Dior As Seen By exhibition and cocktail reception was a stunning merger of fashion, art and champagne, with Dior having enlisted a group of international artists including Ren Hwang, Liu Chih-hung and Olympia Scarry to reinterpret the bag made iconic by Princess Diana in 1995, exclusively for this exhibition.
Hong Kong Tatler and The Artling’s annual Art Basel party, sponsored by Hublot, afforded us another chance to preview the soon-to-be opened restaurant on the rooftop of the city’s newest luxury lodgings, The Murray Hotel, as it took over the space with a celebrity DJ and tattoo artists.
But the most hotly anticipated (and most requested) party we attended, was the annual Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) soiree. Organised by London-based art patron Princess Alia Al Senussi, Hong Kong based Dino Sadhwani and LACMA’s Michael Govan, the bash at the Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant in Aberdeen was equal parts intrigue and fabulousness. Themed The Story of the Elusive Scarlett Li, the odyssey enticingly promised old Hollywood glamour juxtaposed with Hong Kong heritage (think Suzie Wong dancing with Dean Martin). And that’s exactly what it delivered.
For those with any dance left in them, Sadhwani and Dragon-i’s Gilbert Yeung hosted an after-party at Cassio on Wyndham St that went into the early hours of the morning.
By the end of the week, we had no dance left in us, but Quintessentially will be well rested to do it all again for the spectacular light festival Lumieres this November 2018, of which Quintessentially has been appointed official production and event co-ordinator.