Arts & Culture
9 of the Best Things We Saw During Art Basel Hong Kong
Including some very important handbags in an installation by London-based Filipino artist Pio Abad at the Silverlens booth.
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1. "Twenty-Five Minutes Older," By Kingsley Ng


One of the most talked-about exhibitions at the fair was Ng’s “Twenty-Five Minutes Older,” which took over three of Hong Kong’s famous tram-trains and outfitted them to work as moving camera obscuras. Each train moved around the city, its darkened upper level filled with dreamy, hazy projections of the urban neon (moving backward while the tram moves forward; a comment on passing time) while passengers were outfitted with headphones to take in an audio version of author Liu Yichang’s novella Tête-Bêche. Hong Kong native Ng outdid himself, creating a captivating and unforgettable experience that, while it was a presentation of Art Basel Hong Kong, felt very far away from what you might see at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where the massive main fair was held.

2. A Magazine Curated by Alessandro Michele featuring Petra Collins


In the coming months, Gucci creative director Michele, in collaboration with A Magazine, will curate exhibitions in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Taipei. The first collection of works—video, photos, and various other works all in a site-specific installation—debuted during Art Basel and features prominently the work of photographer Petra Collins, who photographed her Hungarian family for the project. The big, enthralling exhibition is held at PMQ, a former policeman’s housing block that’s now a home to pop-up shops and studios of young designers, and while it’s off the beaten Art Basel path, was the highlight of a trip to the city’s Central district.

3. "725 days / no. 3, 2014-2016," by Conrad Ventur


The New York-based artist showed in the booth of the Rokeby Gallery as part of Art Basel’s Discoveries” program, which highlights the work of emerging contemporary artists. His cyanotypes—camera-less photographs of flowers given to the artist Kathleen White shortly before her death—were on display alongside traditional photos of flowers and other items in White’s Manhattan apartment, where Ventur would live for a number of years. All of his work is eye-catching, but it was the cyanotypes that brought us back to the booth multiple times and had us seriously thinking about whether there was room in our carry-on bag for a piece of fine art.

4. “Not a shield, but a weapon,” by Pio Abad


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In 2011, the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s signature Asprey handbag was sold at auction for £25,000. Here, the London-based artist Abad recreated the infamous bag in a captivating edition of 180 meticulous replicas—calling to mind knockoffs sold on streets worldwide and bringing up questions of consumerism, gender roles, and power—and displayed them, out of context, on the floor of the fair in a way that reminds a viewer of a body lying in state. Convenient, really, as it sits nearby Shen Shaomin’s “Summit,” which showcases just that.

5. “Complimentary Colours,” by CJ Hendry


For her collaboration with Christian Louboutin, which premiered during Art Basel at Hong Kong’s Fringe Club, CJ Hendry not only made her first foray into using color, but she also let visitors in on the action by creating a series of crayons in the shape of Louboutin’s famous shoes. Fans who visited the gallery could check out the New York-based artist’s super saturated drawings and also use one of the wax heels she created to make their own mark on the gallery’s walls. Most of the pieces at the fair weren’t quite so interactive, which made this fashion-art collaboration one of the more fun, collaborative pieces on display during the fair.

6. “The Bathers” by Sanné Mestrom


This collection of four sculptures, which was on display at the Hong Kong Convention Center, was a rethinking of Cézanne’s painting of the same name by the Australian artist known for rethinking famous images. Rendered here in three glorious dimensions, Mestrom’s work brings the familiar images to life in a thoughtful, delightful new way that gives them an entirely new way of being. All those folks with Richard Serras on their front lawns might think about staking out the next outdoor spot for a Mestrom.

7.“Summit,” by Shen Shaomin


Perhaps the most Instagrammable moment at Art Basel Hong Kong, Shen Shaomin’s “Summit” is an assemblage of life-sized sculptures of dictators shown either dead (Vladimir Lenin, Kim Il Sung, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh) or dying (Fidel Castro). The artist is no stranger to political works, but this collection of corpses was an especially affecting piece of work—if you could get past the selfie-shooting crowds to take it in.

8. “Second Nature” by Sebastian Errazuriz

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Some of Art Basel’s most interesting works weren’t on the fair floor but in the lounges at the Convention Center—we’re talking specifically about this year’s Audemars Piguet booth, titled “Second Nature,” which featured work by the witty Errazuriz (you know him because he just hung a piano over the Armory Show) inspired by the trees of the Vallée de Joux region of the Jura mountains, where the storied brand comes from. Not only was it a place for collectors to take a break from the bustle of the main fair, but also a great opportunity to peek at Errazuriz’s work (which will travel to Switzerland and Miami next).

9. Art Central


What’s an art fair without satellites? In this case, Art Basel was supplemented by the nearby Art Central, which had a decidedly more laid-back vibe—hipsters; tacos; in a pop-up tent on the waterfront—but also some lovely work. We were especially impressed by photo-realistic paintings by the Israeli artist Yigal Ozeri (shown by Tel Aviv’s Zemack Contemporary Art), but couldn’t deny the charm of other carefree works including painted skateboards and works from nearly 100 international galleries.

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Adam Rathe
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