Fine Art Asia 2016: Great varieties, strong sales

 Hong Kong  |  20 October 2016  |  AMA  |  Tweet  |  LinkedIn

With an array of 6,000 pieces of art and antiques worth HK$3 billion presented by world-renowned galleries, Fine Art Asia 2016 was held on 2-5 October – as usual, Fine Art Asia 2016 was staged at the peak of the October art season in Hong Kong, coinciding with Sotheby’s auctions in the same venue.

Gathering 85 exhibitors from around the world showcasing a wide range of museum-quality artworks and antiques, the 12th edition of the fair has welcomed 22,500 visitors, according to the organizer. Andy Hei, Co-Chairman and Director of Fine Art Asia claimed, in the post-fair press release, that there was “a real buzz at this year’s fair with an encouraging number of new and younger collectors as well as many loyal old friends”; and that the attendance and sales exceeded theirexpectations “due to the very high quality of the exhibitors who are all experts in their fields”.  The organizer was delighted that to receive positive responsefrom Hong Kong and international galleries, in terms of both visitors’ interest in their works of art and in sales.

From antiques to contemporary art

Fine Art Asia is probably one of the few art fairs in the region that brings both antiques and contemporary art together in one fair. It showcases artworks spanning 5,000 years of cultural history included Oriental and Western antiques; classical and contemporary Chinese ink paintings; Impressionist, modern and contemporary art from Pissarro, Monet, Sisley and Picasso through to Damien Hirst; fine jewellery, antique silver and timepieces; and photography. Therefore, it provides a well-facilitated and convenient platform for both art dealers of different specializations and collectors with various interests to meet.

International exhibitors including Vanderven Oriental Art (The Netherlands), Robert Hall (London), Priestley & Ferraro Chinese Art (London), Gallery Lamy (Brussels), Nicholas Grindley (London), Susan Ollemans Oriental Art (London), Ateliers Brugier and Galerie Luohan(Paris), presented a wide range of rare Chinese antiques and works of art. Kaikodo (New York) presentedclassical Chinese paintings while Koopman Rare Art (London), and Somlo Antiques (London), returning to the fair with exquisite antique silver and timepieces respectively, alongside new exhibitors Silver & Silver (Bologna) and Top Time Musa (Milan); Boghossian(Geneva, Hong Kong and London), D’Joya(Birmingham) and 88-Gallery (Paris/Hong Kong) with fine art jewellery and decorative arts.

Gladwell & Patterson (London), Galerie Dumonteil(Paris, Shanghai and New York) and Whitestone Gallery (Tokyo and Hong Kong), showcasing Impressionist, modern and contemporary art and sculpture. After a successful debut at Fine Art Asia 2015, Shibunkaku(Kyoto) is returning with two new exhibitors, Shukado(Tokyo) and Sokyo Gallery (Kyoto), to present exciting Japanese contemporary ink paintings and ceramic artworks.

Strong sales despite Chinese economic slowdown

Ever Arts, Hong Kong and MD Flacks, London, both antique Chinese furniture specialists, this year collaborated on a joint booth that combined traditional Chinese furniture with some contemporary sculpture and scholar’s objects, with great success. They were delighted to sell one of their major pieces, a large luohandaybed with solid railings, of rare shape and style, dating from the late Ming Dynasty and in unusually good condition; as well as a set of contemporary scholar’s objects by famous British pop artist Clive Barker.

London art dealers Gladwell and Patterson, specialisingin European Impressionist paintings and modern art, has participated in the fair since 2011. Less than two hours before Fine Art Asia 2016 came to an end, gallery manager Graham Magee reported good sales in their booth this year. There was strong interest in Monet’s “Aiguille d’Etretat, Marée Basse” which had been featured widely in the media. Preview night saw some good sales, mostly for French landscape artists Georges Robin and Alexandre Jacob. Further sales included a painting of the Doge’s Palace by Auguste Bouvardevoking the timeless wonder of Venice. According to director Glenn Fuller, “Since we first started coming, the type of paintings that we have brought has evolved over the years. People are becoming much more sophisticated these days in Asia and understanding Western art far more.” Magee told Art Media Agency (AMA) that the slowdown of the Chinese economy did not affect their sales and the gallery had a “steady growth of Chinese customers”. Magee also observed that there seemed to be more and more contemporary art at the fair, and he was happy to see a greater diversity blended at the fair while being confident that the gallery would maintain its stronghold in its specialization among other exhibitors.

Galerie Dumonteil (Paris, Shanghai and New York),specialising in modern and contemporary art in particular on animal themes, were happy to sell a large bronze “Horse Table” by French sculptor Jean-Marie Fiori (b. 1952); and two works by the French artist André Maire(1898-1984) who lived for 13 years in Indochina, “Angkor” and “Buddhas”, both pencil, charcoal and sanguine on paper.

A new photography section

A new section of the fair was devoted to photography, featuring a group of selected Hong Kong and overseas galleries. This was in response to the growing interest in artistic photographic prints among collectors, with festivals, museums and galleries increasingly promoting photographic works, the organizer explained. This new section of the fair is put together by Boogie WoogiePhotography, a Hong Kong-based consulting agency which aims to promote photography. The mutual objective of Fine Art Asia and Boogie WoogiePhotography is to showcase quality photography as a collectible art form.

Four galleries joined the photography section by invitation. One of the highlights in the section was a rare display of remarkable vintage prints by Japanese artist Araki Nobuyoshi, presented by Zen Foto Gallery (Tokyo). La Galerie Paris 1839 (Hong Kong) presented photographic works by Chinese artist, Wang Wushengalongside award-winning Taiwanese photographer Chou Ching-Hui, whose “Animal Farm #6” was sold. Gallery 27 (Hong Kong) showcased an iPhone photo series by gallery owner and artist Alan Chan.

The representative at La Galerie Paris 1839, which also participated in Art Central – another annual Asia-based art fair coinciding with Art Basel Hong Kong, spoke to AMA about Fine Art Asia. He pointed out that it was not always easy to approach Chinese collectors, and they believe that joining Fine Art Asia would help to expand their customer base. Having enjoyed some sales at their booth, the gallerist went on to remark that it was a great timing coinciding with Sotheby’s auctions, which might help to bring visitors.

A special exhibition displaying private collections

In the middle of the 8,000-square-metre exhibition hall, aspecial exhibition called “Private Treasures: Experts Share Their Personal View” is presented by founding members of the Hong Kong Antiques and Art Galleries Association (HKAAGA), which was established in 2015with the aim of promoting the appreciation of fine arts through knowledge, experience and interaction with experts in the field. Many members of the HKAAGA belong to the second generation of prominent dealers in Hong Kong, who have grown up in the world of antiques and art. Especially for this occasion at Fine Art Asia, these members have chosen pieces from their private collections that are special to them in certain ways, making some of them literally priceless. It is a rare privilege to view such “private treasures” which are seldom displayed in public. Spotlights go to a second-century grey-schist sculpture “Atlas”, a zitan carved cloud-shaped pillow and a rare large sancai-glazed pottery figure of a Ferghana.

Undeniably, the breadth and scope of art and antiqueslined-up at Fine Art Asia 2016 is exceptional in the region, attracting local, mainland Chinese and international collectors. The scale of the fair is just a right balance in providing a platform of sufficient varieties for dealers and collectors to engage while maintaining an exclusive and elegant ambiance, differentiated from the overwhelming crowds in other major international art fairs. Good sales at the fair could be a positive sign to repel recent worries in the art market about the slowdown of the Chinese economy. The new photography section signifies a potential transformation of the fair to embrace a stronger contemporary presence, which might match up better with the taste of the growing class of young Chinese collectors.

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