Asian art fair aims to bounce back after COVID years
HONG KONG, March 21(Reuters) - The organisers of Art Basel Hong Kong, one of Asia's leading contemporary art fairs, said on Tuesday they are bullish on art market prospects in the region, with China and Hong Kong now having lifted all COVID lockdown restrictions.
The annual fair, which also has iterations in Basel, Paris, and Miami Beach, runs from March 23-25 in Hong Kong.
The number of galleries has increased to 177 this year from 130 in 2022, with 32 countries and territories across Asia, Europe, the Americas and Africa participating.
"Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Asian art market has also remained resilient, with Greater China accounting for 20% of worldwide sales by value and ranking second as the second largest regional art market in the latest edition of the Art Basel," Art Basel CEO Noah Horowitz told reporters.
Hong Kong attracted 56 million visitors in pre-pandemic 2019 but shops now sit vacant and Chinese visitors, who once propelled the city's art market, have yet to return in droves.
Leading international galleries at Art Basel this year include Gagosian, Hauser & Wirth, Lehmann Maupin, Victoria Miro, Pace, Perrotin, White Cube and David Zwirner.
In a mall near the glitzy halls of Hong Kong's harbourfront convention centre where Art Basel, the show has installed a 10-meter-tall inflatable sculpture of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun titled "Gravity" by Los Angeles-based artist Awol Erizku.
Hong Kong's government has welcomed the art fair as it strives to reinvigorate Hong Kong's economy after a nearly three-year slump from factors including tough COVID lockdowns, a closed border with China, and a security crackdown.
Hundreds of thousands of people have left the territory since June 2020, when a sweeping national security law was passed that has been used to curb freedoms and arrest scores of opposition democrats and shutter liberal media outlets.
Some Western governments have criticised the law as a tool of repression, but China asserts it brought stability after pro-democracy protests in 2019.
Art Basel said it had respected creative expression.
"We don't have any censorship process in the show. We haven't really changed the process of the show since 2013," said Angelle Siyang-Le, the director Art Basel Hong Kong.
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