Pull Up to the Bumper

Hong Kong
05.15.14

Left: Artist Zhang Enli, K11 Art Foundation founder Adrian Cheng, and Ullens Center director Philip Tinari. Right: Artist Ming Wong at the Absolut Art Bar.


ART BASEL Miami Basel Hong Kong Basel… Basel Basel Basel.

This year, the third Frieze New York rear-ended the second Art Basel Hong Kong, and like a patchy crossfade some of us went to sleep in one city and woke up two days later in another wondering where on earth we were.

It hardly matters. I’m not yet sure if I love Hong Kong, because I don’t quite know if I’m in Hong Kong or if the “Hong Kong” I’m looking at is just window dressing for another Art Basel. (And it is beautiful, this magic convergence of glass and water and neon and steep ascensions of tropical florae.)

But at least I’m sure we’re at an Art Basel, which I can tell because it’s only Monday and I’m already at a dinner, one hosted by K11 Art Foundation for Zhang Enli at Gaia Ristorante, pondering my seat-fate and the seat-fates of my colleagues at other dinners that night—for Asia Society Hong Kong, for the Burger Collection—and the itinerant alarmus and excursions feels as comforting as a warm glass of sponsored (Ruinart? Pommery?) champagne.

Left: Artist Bharti Kher with dealer Emmanuel Perrotin. Right: Dealer Johnson Chang.


It’s weird how things begin to blend together, even the new things. Is that Bernadette Corporation or K-Hole or upstart conceptual branding strategist Paloma Powers? “Paloma is our alibi,” servant/mastermind Andrea Hill tells me at Duddell’s Monday night, where some of the best and brightest (or at least the thirstiest) have gathered to celebrate Phil Tinari’s flashback show “Aftermath: Post-Sense Sensibility, Fifteen Years On.” “She’s scarier than Reena Spaulings. She’s a real terrorist bitch.” Paloma missed her connecting flight from Singapore, I’m told, but at the next day’s soft launch for her new office—furnishings by Shawn Maximo, Polycon sound track by Justin Simon—iPad proxies advertise her Twitter-friendly aphorisms: “When every surface becomes a screen, what do you want to stare back at you?”

As with many such organizations, I’m not really sure what the Paloma Powers people do, precisely, but their fable has a certain stickiness and that’s maybe all that matters as we slide down the surface of things. From there it’s Stacy Engman’s launch of Art Capsul art-fashion collaborations at Joyce department store and then a circuitous zig-zag through the Pedder Building’s marble corridors from Hanart TZ (Wenda Gu) to Gagosian (Giacometti lithographs) to Lehmann Maupin (Hernan Bas) and Simon Lee (Toby Ziegler), before a short drive to 50 Connaught Road’s marble corridors and White Cube (Mark Bradford) and Galerie Perrotin (Ryan McGinley, Jean-Michel Othoniel). We cross Victoria Harbour en route to Kowloon and the Peninsula Hotel for Pearl Lam’s lustrous “Gala Dinner” at Spring Moon restaurant celebrating Su Xiaobai. The bottom of the invite reads simply HONG KONG GLAMOUR and I’m not sure if this is meant to be the dress code or just an unmoored statement of fact.

“There are only thirteen people who matter in Hong Kong,” I’m told, “and over half of them are here.” So I take comfort knowing that this dinner was right enough as Asia Art Archive founder Claire Hsu and Asia Society director Melissa Chiu mingle in the fray. “Hurry up!” Lam shouts into a microphone. “Everyone sit down! I’m so hungry!”

Left: Dealer Pearl Lam. Right: Dealer Lu Jie of Long March Space.


“I kind of miss my drug addiction days,” says an (art) dealer the next day at the opening of Art Basel Hong Kong. “Back then I was focused. I needed to score by noon.” Now we’re all postaddiction, but also postfocused. Frieze burn kicks in, attention starts to flag, and many of us are forced to admit that jet lag actually exists.

“You know something’s off when I’m in bed by midnight,” says Art Basel director Marc Spiegler, speaking to the collective time cramp overtaking the Convention Center. But of course he’s not off, he’s perfectly on message, seamlessly floating from one scene to the next, another satellite in our jet-lag dream.

Other Frieze=>Baselers—Sadie Coles, Leo Xu, Long March’s Lu Jie and David Tang, Lorcan O’Neill, Sean Kelly, James Cohan, Jay Jopling, and the like—try their best to keep up appearances despite layovers, delays, sixteen-hour flights. “I have a gallery here, I have to be here,” says Jopling, pulling for multiple time zones. “I’ve been up since 6 AM making phone calls, bidding in New York.”

Back there, Christie’s has just unloaded $745 million of postwar and contemporary merch “thanks in large part to the enormous wealth of Asian collectors,” Carol Vogel reports in the New York Times. “ ‘I think they’re Hoover vacuum cleaners—they’re buying everything,’ ” she quotes Bill Bell, who’s sore he lost his Warhol.

“People talk about money and art like it’s a new thing,” says Javier Peres, showing a new fluorescent Alex Israel, who just broke a million with his first painting at auction. “It’s not new, bitches!” clearly on a roll. “Read your history books.”

Left: Dealer Michael Janssen with artist Aiko Tezuka. Right: Dealer Edouard Malingue.


With Hong Kong, “Basel went global,” the fair’s massive new catalogue announces. And yet, “It’s strangely fractured,” says Courtney Plummer at Marian Goodman, as we watch everyone on the lookout for those mythical collectors. With a fair now in every port, maybe there’s less reason to trek to a singular location. “The more global things get, the more local they are.”

Same but different: That night, a rooftop party hosted by dealers Edouard Malingue and Michael Janssen in Wan Chai gets busted by the cops before midnight and the only reason I know it’s not Miami Basel or Basel Basel is that no one seems to put up a fight. Conflict avoidant, we fade-out/fade-in to Tolga’s ubiquitous Fair Club, imported from Basel via Miami via Paris and humbler beginnings at the door to Le Baron circa 2008.

“Welcome to my party!” Tolga yells as we walk out of the elevator and into the Kee Club’s “1950s-inspired sanctuary” and the only reason I know I’m in Hong Kong and not Miami or Basel Basel is that… actually, I do not know this for sure at all, we’re all so global we’ve gone local, or maybe it’s the other way around, as a little Swiss city stretches out for world domination. Just so long as we’re all still having fun. Which Basel will you be?

David Velasco

Left: Promoter Tolga. Right: M+ curator Aric Chen with Art Basel's Luluc Huang.


Left: Modern Media's Shaway Yeh. Right: Paloma Powers's Andrea Hill and Samantha Culp.


Left: Dealer Simon Lee and Ying Yue Li. Right: Dealer James Cohan.


Left: Dealer Lorcan O'Neill. Right: MoMA PS1 curator Christopher Lew with M+ curators Pauline J. Yao, Yung Ma, and Doryun Chong and dealer Atsuko Ninagawa.


Left: Dealer Jay Jopling. Right: Artist Hernan Bas with dealer David Maupin.


Left: Art Basel director Marc Spiegler. Right: SCAI The Bathhouse's Masami Shiraishi.


Left: Dealer Waling Boers. Right: Artist Sun Xun.


Left: Dealer Leo Xu. Right: Dealer Ben Brown.


Left: Curator Jérôme Sans (left) dealer Almine Rech, and artist Alex Israel (right). Right: Armory Show executive director Noah Horowitz.


Left: Artist Jean-Michel Othoniel. Right: Dealer Maria Florut, Markus Rischgasser, and Eva Presenhuber.


Left: Art Capsul curator Stacy Engman. Right: Dealer Javier Peres.


Left: Dealer François Ghebaly and artist Sayre Gomez. Right: Dealer Lorenz Helbling of ShanghART.


Left: Dealer Felipe Dmab at Mendes Wood Gallery. Right: Dealers Sarvia Jasso, Jeff Poe, and Renna Okubo.


Left: Dealer Niklas Svennung. Right: Dealer Courtney Plummer at Marian Goodman Gallery.


Left: Dealer Susanne Vielmetter. Right: Dealers Beat Raeber and Matthias von Stenglin.


Left: Mujin-to Production's Mayumi Wakaguri. Right: Dealer Danae Mossman.


Left: Curator Inti Guerrero. Right: Karma International's Marina Leuenberger.


Left: The Breeder's George Vamvakidis. Right: Pilar Corrias's Silvia Sgualdini.


Left: Absolut Art Bar servers. Right: Dealer Daniele Balice.