Billionaires flock to Hong Kong for the hottest artworks by emerging artists at Art Basel Hong Kong. Inside Art Basel Hong Kong at the city's convention center there's a booth where guests can apply for instant citizenship to the Republic of Jing Bang. For $10,000 you can obtain a passport, an aluminum "Citizenship Box" briefcase and national flag from Jing Bang, an ephemeral state created for the fair by Chinese artist Sun Xun, whose installation is a satirical comment on art, commerce and nationhood.
The art world elite, including billionaire Indonesian collector Budi Tek, New World Group scion Adrian Cheng and Canyon Capital Advisors co-chairman Mitchell Julis, won't need any fictional travel documents to converge on Hong Kong, where more than $1 billion worth of art is for sale, according to fair insurer AXA ART.
Wealthy collectors can snap up a $10,000 painting by emerging Chinese artist Yuan Yuan or pay $75,500 for a fish in formaldehyde work by Damien Hirst. Anchoring what is informally known as Hong Kong art week, Art Basel opened to the public on Thursday. VIPs got a chance to preview the 245 galleries from 39 countries exhibiting on Wednesday, featuring primarily contemporary art.
Every year in the Spring Hong Kong's social life begins to take off with a whirlwind of more than 25 gallery openings, charity art auctions, debates and sophisticated parties held on rooftops, chic poolsides and parking garages. "It's like the Rugby Sevens for the Hong Kong arts and cultural set," says Alice Mong, executive director of Asia Society Hong Kong, which hosted a gala dinner for 400 people on Monday night honoring Asian artists Zhang Xiaogang, Bharti Kher, Takashi Murakami and Liu Guosong.
Launched as Art HK in 2008, the fair was re-branded Art Basel Hong Kong last year after the owners of Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach purchased a majority stake in 2012 and it is now a major stop on the international art circuit. About half the exhibitors have space in Asia and the Asia-Pacific, a intentional decision to keep the fair's original regional flavor.
Collectors on more modest budgets can head over to the Conrad Hotel for the Asia Contemporary Art Show where five floors of guest rooms are transformed into temporary gallery spaces featuring emerging artists from 18 countries from May 16 to 18.
Blindspot Gallery, located in the burgeoning art district of Wong Chuk Hang overlooking the city's Aberdeen harbor, is showing London-based photographer Nadav Kander's latest works that feature nudes of sitters covered in marble dust that evoke Michelangelo and Lucien Freud. Pace Gallery opens its Hong Kong space with oil-on-paper works by Zhang Xiaogang in the heart of downtown on the 15th floor of the Entertainment Building. Next door Antwerp, Belgium-based Axel Vervoordt Gallery is also having its inaugural show with Ghanian artist El Anatsui, who employs youths to weave work with discarded liquor caps and fastenings to create tapestries selling for $1 million a piece.