2014.05.27 Tue, by
The Informer: ABHK 2014

Next year, Art Basel Hong Kong will happen in mid-March—a sartorial and navigational godsend for all involved. Those who attempted to fly in early in the week were stymied by the storms, some finding themselves stuck in Guilin, or even on a train from Beijing after flights were cancelled. There were rumors that one Angelina Jolie flew in on Sunday—but these turned out to be just rumors. Buoyed by recent acquisitions, perhaps she was blown off course.

At the fair, the mood among the booths (on walls and wardrobes) was noticeably conservative—a tendency that began last year. Despite the caliber of collectors at the private view, there seemed to have been a slight downturn in glamor for those walking round. Fortunate, perhaps, to save a few fancy togs from the bright red ink that bled off the Art Basel catalog bags onto people’s clothes. A prevalence of European and American Modernist art available (including Picasso and de Chirico), suggests that gallerists are playing it somewhat safe by aiming at less sophisticated collectors from the Asian region. A wonderful exhibition of drawings, painting and sculpture by Giacometti at Gagosian in the Pedder Building cemented this atmosphere. Reports say that the galleries did sell, and weekend sales were pulled up by Indonesian and Singaporean collectors who flew themselves in. Also present were a newly conspicuous cast of rather glib art recruiters, making the 2014 edition also a job-fair, of sorts.

Hairstyles, however, were spectacular. Following the opening, a low fence had been erected beneath the canopy of Gu Wenda’s Encounter project. “United Nations Human Space” (1999–2000)—188 flags fashioned from human hair—was quite some greeting, draped from the ceiling like something monstrous gathered from an enormous drain. The mind boggles at the thought of unsuspecting VIPs, walking scenically beneath, quashed suddenly by fallen mats of dirty follicles. A symbol of “cultural colonialism” (as the artist intended) it would surely have been. It might also have given the art conservators—apparently bored by a want of damaged works – something to do.

Gu Wenda’s Encounters project, “United Nations Human Space” (1999–2000)

Lee Wen’s ping pong table (iPreciation Gallery)

Ping pong was a sure sign of fun both inside and beyond the fair. The installation of a circle of blue table-tennis tables by Singaporean performance artist Lee Wen, brought by iPreciation gallery, was seldom empty of players. Unfortunately, it sounds as if Lee’s anti-China remarks went down less well on Saturday night. The unrelated Ping Pong bar, in Sai Ying Pun, was the site of the longest parties for those still with legs to dance on after many miles covered along the exhibition aisles.

Most talked about was probably the Absolut Art Bar and Ming Wong’s Lady Gaga performance there, as well as the sheer difficulty of getting in. Queues stretched down the street and zig-zagged into the foyer split into VIP, less-VIP and everybody else. The Informer witnessed a noted institutional director from Beijing trying to argue his way into the bar, having exited the lift into a wall of waiting bouncers. Thwarted, he gave up (inadvertently saving himself from another round of bad cocktails). Not content with waiting in the queue or trying their diplomacy skills with Sutton PR-Suffragettes in the foyer, MAP Office were seen trying to enter through a building under construction down the street. Having got in, one found a decent spread of techno noise throughout the week, ecstatic dancing from Adrian Wong and décor composed of sandbags, weevils (sadly only printed) and video screens, with blood bags of beetroot cocktails to suck on. On the last night, clearly fed up with so much artsy experimentalism, the final DJ opened his laptop at 1am and delighted everyone with a jelly-shaking’‘90s mix.

Elsewhere, Beijing bands propped up the parties, as usual; Carsick Cars invaded Kee Club, and Pet Conspiracy rocked out before hundreds of perspiring revelers and Hong Kong art-lites in a giant, oven-like warehouse in Chai Wan on Friday. The Informer retired to the fish market for beers on a plastic tablecloth with a jovial Li Zhenhua, who should be congratulated for such a successful first Film program alongside the fair, trumping the Conversations and Salon series. Modern Media’s Vernissage after-party was a bust (yet again)—no match for Carsten Nicolai’s Alpha Pulse display and rooftop event on Thursday. The 2014 party trophy must go, however, to Art Basel Executive Director Marc Spiegler who, come 7am on Sunday morning, was still dancing in Club Volar on Lan Kwai Fong.

Absolut Art Bar in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Designed by Nadim Abbas (photo courtesy of Absolut; credit: Roberto Chamorroa)

Absolut Art Bar in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Designed by Nadim Abbas (photo courtesy of Absolut; credit: Roberto Chamorroa)

Absolut Art Bar in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. Designed by Nadim Abbas (photo courtesy of Absolut; credit: Roberto Chamorroa)

Carsten Nicolai performing Alpha | Pulse in front of the Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong (Photo by Jessica Hromas / Art Basel)

Art Basel on May 15, 2014 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong, China. (Photo by Xaume Olleros / Art Basel)

Zhan Wang’s work at Eslite Gallery booth