Solid start to Hong Kong art fair despite downturn

Fri May 15, 2009 11:17pm EDT
 
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By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - A burgeoning international art fair in Hong Kong aimed at tapping Asia's growing pool of contemporary art collectors, has shown positive signs of shrugging off the global economic downturn.

The event -- the Hong Kong International Art Fair or ART HK 09 -- is seen as Asia's answer to major international art fairs such as Art Basel in Switzerland and Frieze in London.

Hong Kong has been trying to position itself as Asia's cultural capital, and is now the world's third most important auction hub for Asian artwork, behind New York and London.

Spread throughout a cavernous hall in Hong Kong's convention center overlooking the city's sweeping harbor, a slew of big-hitting art dealers have been lured out this year including New York's Gagosian Gallery and London's White Cube.

Sprinkled among the 110 galleries from 24 countries are an array of works including "walking" minimalist LED nude sculptures by Julian Opie; raw, whorled, wood carvings by David Nash; lurid Chinese contemporary oil paintings by the likes of Yang Shaobin, haunting plastic dolls by Korea's Jin Young Yu, and a silver sculpture by Damien Hirst with a price-tag of 1.5 million pounds.

Despite recent signs of weakness in the global art market amid the financial downturn, there were a number of notable sales at ART HK 09 including a large Gilbert & George "Gingko" picture bought by an Asian collector for 325,000 pounds

($492,800).

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<p>A visitor to the Hong Kong International Art Fair views a sculpture titled "Nude No. 2" by Chinese artist Mu Boyan in Hong Kong May 13, 2009. The fair brings together over 110 of the world's most celebrated international galleries from 24 countries. REUTERS/Bobby Yip</p>