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Culture & Style

An insider’s guide to Hong Kong Art Basel 2019

Cofounder of Museum 2050 and Hong Kong member Nicole Ching shares her top picks, from her must-see booths inside the fair to offsite talks and exhibitions to parties and dining hot spots
By Chloe Sachdev

Despite the name, Museum 2050 isn’t a museum in the traditional sense. It works more as a platform for the investigation of the future of cultural institutions in China. Cofounded by Hong Kong member Nicole Ching, it hosts workshops and symposiums and promotes conversation and the sharing of ideas with the aim of creating a more vibrant museum community in China. Her finger firmly on the pulse, Ching is a keen advocate of the growing crosscultural art scene evolving between East and West.


“Hong Kong Art Basel not only puts the spotlight on the already vibrant scene in Hong Kong and South East Asia, but it also serves as an artistic gateway between China and the West,” says Ching. The fair rolls into town from 29–31 March, with a line-up of 248 international and regional galleries and offsite shows – plus parallel Art Central (27–31 March) has its own roster of 107 galleries from 22 countries. An impressive roll call of people fly in from all over the globe, and the already pulsating city gets an extra shot of high jinks.


Here, Ching shares her insider guide to the not-to-be-missed booths, talks and offsite shows at this year’s Hong Kong Art Basel. 


The Wan Chai Convention Centre on the waterfront of Hong Kong.

Highlights inside the Fair


‘Kick off the three days of Art Basel by visiting the galleries and their booths inside the fair’s convention centre in Wan Chai. I’m particularly excited to see the following:


Peres Projects, a Berlin-based gallery showing off an international group of young artists including Rebecca Ackroyd, Steffen Bunte, Donna Huanca, Austin Lee and Beth Letain. They’re all having major museum shows later this year, so it’s your chance to be ahead.


Thomas Dane Gallery is showing a large-scale historical work by Turner Prize nominee Hurvin Anderson and also lots of paper works by feminist icon Lynda Benglis. 


‘The Hauser & Wirth booth is focusing on women artists such as Maria Lassnig, Jenny Holzer and Louise Bourgeois, plus a selection dedicated to Gutai works, the radical Japanese post-war art movement.


Galerie Emanuel Layr, a young and exciting Austrian gallery, is returning with works by artist Lena Henke, presenting new works that incorporate leather, sculpture and painting that play on the multiple capacities of the artist’s work in sculpture as architecture.


Ben Brown Fine Arts will be unveiling new works from the artist Vik Muniz that blur the viewer’s perception between reality and photography.’ 

Art by Austin Lee, Rebecca Ackroyd and Beth Letain exhibited by Peres Projects gallery.

Pop-ups and exhibitions outside the Fair


‘For his second year, Lawrence Van Hagen’s pop up show “What’s up Hong Kong” will be on the fifth floor of the historic Pedder Building. He’ll be bringing his signature mix of young cool artists and more established names like Brâncuși, Calder, Condo, Katharina Grosse and David Hockney, so it’s sure to be a blockbuster. 


‘Over at the old Victoria Barracks, the Asia Society Hong Kong Center has a series of interesting exhibitions, including an installation called “Yukaloo” by American artist James Turrell, alongside another exhibition, “A Story Of Light”, by Hong Kong artist Hon Chi-fun. Both artists use light as their material and subject, so both exhibitions will interact as a conversation between the works. 


‘Make sure to visit Mine Project Gallery, a new space in Hong Kong. Its inaugural exhibition is curated by Michael Xufu Huang and features up-and-coming Beijing artist Zhang Zi Piao.’

The interior and food served by Madame Fu in Hong Kong.

Where to eat, drink and party


‘For dim sum, book a table at newly opened Madame Fù on the top floor of the recently refurbished Tai Kwun Barrack Blocks. Ask for the pink room for an opulent 1930s Shanghai experience and check out The Performing Society: The Violence of Gender exhibition while you’re in the building. 


‘When you’re tired of the Art Basel madness and crave fun times and good food, head to North Point Wet Market and dine at seafood restaurant Tung Po. It feels like a big party with loud and crazy waiters, round sharing tables and Chinese rock music that blasts after 8.30pm. 


‘There’s always the ritzy black-tie AmfAR Gala on the Monday night (25 March), but the It party is the annual Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA), annual bash (28 March). This year, it’s joining forces with Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), making it a party celebrating two incredible institutions, so make sure to get on the list.’

Hong Kong Art Basel is open 29–31 March. Nicole Ching is the cofounder of Museum 2050, which is hosting a one-day conference at the University of Hong Kong on 24 March in collaboration with ARTinD where speakers, including William Lim and Duncan Pescod, discuss the relationships between art, architecture and museums.


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