Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Oh Yeah BTW I Moved To China (Art Basel HK)

Art Basel Hong Kong Recap

I thought this was a Koons, but nope!
This is the second year of the Art Basel HK, prior to that it was simply called Art HK. It’s not quite as big as Art Basel in Miami or the Armory Show week in New York, but in a year or two in very well could be. Hong Kong is a major sea port with lots of money, a highly educated population, major collectors, major museums, and major galleries like  White Cube, Gagosian, and Lehman Maupin all have outposts here. There is a vibrant art scene in the city limits with opportunities just outside the city in areas as well. Hong Kong reminds me a great deal of New York in that it is diverse, extremely competitive, pricey, and densely populated. I’ve been looking forward to this art fair for over six months now. But surprisingly, I didn’t plan as well as I should have. My hotel wasn’t as close to the convention center as I initially thought. 

Calrton Guest House is where I started.

When I booked my hotel I thought was only a few blocks away from where the fair was taking place. In reality, it was on the other side of the city, across the bay.

Ah fuck!

When I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to walk to the convention center, that I would have to take a ferry or a taxi or the subway, I felt really stupid.  But then I thought, “ You’re in Hong Kong! Just go with it. It will be an adventure. Next time, plan ahead.”

Wrong ferry view #1

So I crossed the bay and realized I took the wrong ferry!

Wrong ferry view #2

“More adventure,” I thought and got a cab.
“ Wait the cab driver doesn’t understand me? Oh shit, that’s right, they speak CANTONESE HERE IN HK!”
More Adventure.
“Damn it! No internet on my phone so I can’t use my translation app!”
More adventure.
Wait ten minutes for a new cab.
More adventure.
Nature calls. Time to find a public restroom in the mall.
More adventure!
After a twenty minute search, relief was found in the bathroom of an upscale KFC. Yes, here in HK there is such a thing as an upscale KFC. This KCF had waiters, wine, and prices equivalent to a three star restaurant. Upon leaving I found a cab driver who spoke English and just told him where I needed to go.

My cabbie.
There were some benefits to wrong ferry. Like this H&M ad.
The building in the bottom left is where I needed to be.
Almost there!

You're Not Good Enough

I remember being very excited when I took this picture. Back home, I always had the desire to visit Miami in December and explore or better yet, take part in the fair. I always told myself that I didn’t have the time or the money to attend the fair.

But the real reason, was fear. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to talk about my work if someone asked. Fear that I didn’t know anyone, and people wouldn’t be interested in talking with me. Fear that my work wasn’t good enough, and if my work wasn’t good enough, then there must be something flawed about my character. Because if I had it together, then it would show in my work, and people would take notice.  I also avoided fairs because I felt like a failure. I felt like I should have done something more with my life by now. I felt like I should have “figured it out” or “found my voice/style by now.” 

“Why can’t I be like them? Why can’t my work be good like theirs? Why can’t I be smart like them? So and so is a huge star and is represented by so and so gallery and just had a show at so and so museum. AND they are only 29?”

Yo, I got this Picassso, Pre-War! Great price, just for you!
I don’t know if other artists deal with this issue, but it has plagued me for years, and has stripped me of valuable time.  Only within the last two years have I been able to overcome this ridiculous notion. It still happens now and then, but I hold onto the self pity less and less each time.  As I stepped inside the convention center, I thought to myself, “ You didn’t come all this way to fail. You know how many people would be envious of you right now? No need to be afraid…it’s just art. And most gallery people are glorified used car salesman anyway!" After attending Art Basel Hong Kong, I can sum it up in one word: 
Meh. I know that doesn’t really count as a word, it’s more of a sound, but picture in your mind the gesture you make when you’re not impressed by something. Got it? 

I could also sum up the fair with, “Overwhelmed by amount of art, Underwhelmed with the quality.” This is what I was afraid of all these years? Really?

"Cunt Face" by Urs Fischer. I think the title is fitting

These people aren’t better than me, they are just older or better connected!

Use all the fancy art speak, fake intellectual terms you want, Tracey Emin is BS and YOU KNOW IT!

But there were a few works that stopped me cold. 


Gu Wenda’s “United Nations Human Space,” made of 188 flags made of human hair, greeted you when they entered one of the exhibition floors.

Rebecca Baumann’s rolodex/flipboard piece “Automated Colourfield (Variation V)” was slow-changing and hypnotic. Every few seconds one of the flipboards would change, introducing a new color scheme into the deck.

Although this is a shitty picture, Chuck Close at PACE is always a show stopper.

Zhu Jushi at Pearl Lam Gallery was also a show stopper.

Gallery owner Pearl Lam in front of a Zhu Jushi painting.

Although technically sloppy at times, I still enjoyed the large scale, narrative figure paintings of Hernan Bas at Lehman Maupin.

Robert Rauschenberg at Richard Gray Gallery.

Nam Jun Paik at James Cohen Gallery.  

Never found out who this artist was.

Who doesn't love large, public ping-pong tables?

Crowd shots:

Never found out who did this lamp sculpture.

Faces by Wu Jian’ an

If you have $4 million you don't know what to do with, you could have this Richter. But considering how hot he's been, this is probably spoken for now. Or you could pay A LOT LESS and I will make an imitation one for you ;)

Just what the world needs, a Roy Lichtenstein inspired BMW.

As far as sales go, it’s tough to believe the talk from dealers. No one wants to say sales are down or non existent because of the perception it will create. Some galleries place red “sold” dots on the wall, some don’t. Some galleries will broadcast sales, like Pearl Lam Galleries reported strong sales of new LED works in Chinese by the artist Jenny Holzer in the range of US $180,000–300,000. Others, like the girl I talked to from Gagosian, kept it low key with “We placed a few works in very prominent collections over the weekend.” Others I talked to were more forth coming. A few galleries told me that collectors in Asia behave differently from those in the West when it comes to purchasing work. Say for example a certain artist is on fire at Art Basel Miami or Frieze in NYC, and a mega collector like Eli Broad acquires a few works by that artist. After the Broad-Midas touch has been applied, dealers wouldn’t be able to sell that artist fast enough!

At the end of the fair, that artist would have multiple shows lined up for years, possibly a museum show somewhere important. From what I have been told, Asian collectors are more cautious, and don’t really get caught up in a buying frenzy. They wait. They think. They get all Zen and shit about it. Or they just ask for a 20% discount up front. 

Party Time

These are pictures I took after the fair in the party central district. By the time 6am Sunday morning rolled around, I was covered in sweat, dehydrated, and I smelled atrocious. I excluded a lot of pictures and details because they are not appropriate for this blog. Just know that no one was injured or arrested. :)

Took the subway all by myself!

Starts off normal
Gets a little blurry

Gucci Ice Cream! 

The "lobby" of my hotel.


The tiniest hotel room ever!

So much happened during that weekend, I can say I maybe saw 10% of what was going on. I missed out on some great parties and the smaller of the beaten path, hidden gem  galleries. But what happened on the last day of the fair, when I was passed out in my hotel room, was just terrifying. It was a nice little reminder of how lucky I am to be a westerner, but also that China, especially the “Old School, We Lock You Up For Even THINKING CERTAIN THINGS” is still alive and well.

by Ellen Pearlman on May 20, 2014