It’s the perennial question: how do you start with a blank canvas and end up with a multimillion-pound product? In just over a decade, Hong Kong’s art market has grown to the third-largest in the world, behind only New York and London. Fairs and galleries have blossomed in the city – and the local and street art scenes are thriving alongside them.
Much of Hong Kong’s art market has its origins in the Art HK art fair, set up in 2008 to spark investor interest in Hong Kong – the perfect location for China’s burgeoning art investors, as well as established western investors with a taste for contemporary Chinese art. The fair was a hit, and in 2013 Art Basel bought out Art HK, propelling it to international prominence. The annual show, this year running 9-31 March, is the keystone of the city’s art calendar – and its success has led a host of other art fairs to grace the city: Art Central is timed to coincide with Art Basel, but aims for a more Asian focus; the twice-yearly Asia Contemporary Art Fair is a far more intimate affair set over several floors of the Conrad Hotel; while May’s Affordable Art Fair is aimed squarely at first-time buyers. Auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s have set global records, trading everything from pink diamonds to Warhols and whiskies
Meanwhile, the gallery scene is booming, with international blue chip galleries moving into the Central business district: London’s White Cube and New York’s Gagosian and Lehmann Maupin, to name just a few, all occupy the few hundred square meters that mark the city’s most desirable retail real estate.
The brand new H Queen’s tower in the heart of Central is focused on luxury retail and art, with a prominent ground-floor exhibition space and skyscraping galleries from international names including Hauser & Wirth, Pace and David Zwirner. While you’re in the area, the venerable Pedder Building has long been home to some of the city’s most prestigious galleries, and a trip through its corridors can leave behind a score of happy gallerists.