Art Central is a big tent in many ways besides the obvious. The art and the galleries are an eclectic mix, frequently more focussed on design, kitsch and decoration than engaging the competitive collecting of Art Basel acolytes and the art intelligentsia (real or pretentious). There is a smattering of serious secondary market works (Whitestone‘s Yoshitomo Nara and Yayoi Kusama works were notable) and there are established and emerging galleries from Europe, North America and across Asia with interesting works that often are more affordable than at Art Basel Hong Kong. Plenty of galleries were happy with sales and the tent itself works very well. The Art Central team are now very experienced with the logistics of setting up on the harbour shore and their take on the art fair machine definitely works —a supportive secondary fair, a place that can take the overflow from Art Basel. However, the galleries that fall out of Art Basel do not necessarily then apply to Art Central. There is a feeling, right or wrong, that it could impede their return one day. It is understandable but not always sensible. Plenty of serious dealers do take part in Art Central, including established galleries such as Schuebbe Inc. from Cologne, Gallery Hyundai from Seoul and Richard Koh Fine Art from Kuala Lumpur, as well as developing young galleries, such as Yeo Workshop from Singapore, and there are vey good sales. There is also strong participation from a number of established non-profits, such as 4a Contemporary Art Centre from Sydney. The trouble is that there is still a deficit of quality galleries (and, whisper it, audience) and so the nether regions of the tented corridors can get a bit wild and not in a good way. We have to hope for the best for next year. A good Gilbert & Sullivan show is necessary to play off against Basel’s Aïda, and I am not being flippant. The market in Hong Kong is still very narrow —the really serious regional collectors, with few exceptions, come from the Mainland, Korea, and Indonesia —not Hong Kong. So we are not yet quite at the point of Miami, with its dozens of subsidiary fairs. Step by step though it is coming. Art Central is a great concept. It needs to be embraced by more serious galleries. The collectors go and that is more than half the battle.
Some special projects were about protest – in a light, friendly way. Given the legislative vote in Hong Kong, that was a curious choice.
Getting There: Art Central put’s its tent up on the edge of Hong Kong harbour, right beside a ferry terminal and ferris wheel and just a few hundred meters from the Hong Kong Convention Centre, home of Art Basel. It should be an easy stroll but walking between the two means skirting a large and enduring construction site. Actually the jigsaw of barriers looks worse than it actually is. In truth, walking is much faster than getting and taking a cab —all-in-all about 10 minutes.