A week ahead of Fine Art Asia’s opening, we catch up with Co-Chairman and Director, Mr. Calvin Hui, to get the low-down on this year’s edition.
Founded over a decade ago, Fine Art Asia has become a staple in fine art enthusiasts’ calendars around the world. Every year, it impresses collectors old and new with its exceptional range of collectibles, from antiques and jewellery to art, as well as its unwavering standards. Leading galleries from the East and the West share the exhibition floor to present masterpieces that date as far back as 5,000 years, a refreshing occurrence in a city whose art scene is heavily focused on the contemporary. Just a week before the 12th edition’s opening, Fine Art Asia’s Co-Chairman and Director, Mr. Calvin Hui, shares his tips and insights with us.
It’s been ten years since the first Fine Art Asia exhibition: what is the most important lesson you have learnt?
The art market has been developing at a very fast pace in the past decade, and art fairs have become one of the most popular destinations for art collecting. Working consistently, diligently and honestly enabled us to build up our reputation and trust among dealers and collectors. In the fine art world, quality is more important than quantity. Our collectors and dealers are very selective and specific, therefore we need to travel a lot, see a lot and learn a lot in order to stand at the frontline of market trends. It’s important to take risks by being a pioneer in the market.
Fine Art Asia showcases an eclectic mix of artworks. Where should an unseasoned visitor start?
It all depends on the visitor’s interest and passion. Instead of grouping similar art forms in one area, we try to mix and match to create an exciting and unique experience. Many visitors comment that walking in our fair is like visiting a museum because there are so many fascinating artworks on display. So we aim to create a “memorable journey” for our guests as well as a functional space for our collectors to observe and purchase pieces in privacy.
In comparison to the rest of Asia, where does Hong Kong’s fine art scene lie in terms of interest and knowledge?
Collectors in Hong Kong are worldly. They have seen many different beautiful objects in their life, including fine art. More and more corporate and private collectors, especially the younger generations, are keen to place artwork collections in their living and working spaces for decoration. So there is still a lot of potential in terms of the fine art market here. We began to introduce art pieces and fine decorative artworks created by designers five years ago, which have been well received by our collectors. We’ve since brought in fine art jewellery, designer furniture and decorative objects, and now we are introducing a photography section in the fair.
What should a potential buyer look out for when purchasing fine art?
First, it’s about the buyer’s own interest and appetite. Collecting art is a very personal passion. To start, many people will go for “big names” but it is imperative to learn about the provenance, history and academic references of an artwork, which will ensure its authenticity. So at Fine Art Asia, collectors can talk to the dealers, learn more and cross check through online research or speaking with the experts directly. Finally, affordability is also a key word because you need to set a budget to make art collecting enjoyable.
What do you expect will be the most sought-after piece this year?
I think photographs will be attractive as this year we have a new section devoted to photography, bringing together a group of selected Hong Kong and overseas galleries. This is in response to the growing interest in artistic photographic prints among collectors. Festivals, museums and galleries are also increasingly promoting photographic works. Visitors will be able to view a rare display of remarkable vintage prints by Japanese artist Araki Nobuyoshi, presented by Zen Foto Gallery (Tokyo); the work of award-winning Taiwanese photographer Chou Ching-Hui, presented by La Galerie Paris 1839 (Hong Kong); “i Eye ?”, an iPhone photo series by Alan Chan, exhibited by Gallery 27 (Hong Kong) and the “Hiding in the City” series by one of the best known Chinese artists, Liu Bolin, exhibited by Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery (Beijing and Hangzhou).
Which pieces do you personally consider the most interesting?
A pair of life-size ducks created by master goldsmith Mario Buccellati (1935-1945) at Silver & Silver, an Italian gallery specialised in antique silver objects, is a personal favourite. Another is Open Space No. 28 (2014) by Chinese contemporary artist Liu Guofu, presented at the VIP Lounge by 3812 Gallery in collaboration with Martell. A prime example of the painter’s skilful use of the colour blue to express mystical spirit, this work also serves as a preview to Liu Guofu’s upcoming solo show in Hong Kong, “Phantom Brushstrokes”. Finally, Joseph’s Coat of Many Colours bracelet (2015) by D’Joya, composed of 313 rose cut white and golden diamonds mounted in 18-carat yellow gold, is undeniably a magnificent piece.
What satellite events, talks, programmes or local galleries should visitors check out during the first week of October for a full experience of Hong Kong’s fine art scene?
Fine Art Asia 2016 is collaborating with the Hong Kong Sculpture Society to exhibit the “Hong Kong Sculpture Biennial 2016” at the fair, showcasing the work of Hong Kong’s most talented sculptors. Themed “World & Heaven”, the exhibition is organised by experienced Hong Kong curator and scholar Eric Leung Shiu Kee and well-known sculptor and Senior Lecturer at the Hong Kong Art School, Jaffa Lam Laam. In addition, our Academic Programme will feature lectures and seminars by leading art experts from Hong Kong and overseas. The programme will give visitors a unique opportunity to expand their interest in and knowledge of a wide variety of topics related to exhibition categories in the fair. One of the highlights is “Romancing Nepal” by renowned Asian art historian, curator and teacher, Dr Pratapaditya Pal, joined by Dr. Jan van Alphen, former Senior Curator at Rubin Museum of Art, New York and Mr Edward Wilkinson, Executive Director, Bonhams Asia and Global Head of Indian Himalayan & Southeast Asian Art. Several talks will also be presented by the Hong Kong Art School and the Hong Kong Antique and Art Galleries Association.
What are greatest challenges for art fairs and Fine Art Asia today?
There are many art fairs in the world nowadays, and the art fair scene, especially the contemporary one, is quite saturated. In Asia, there is more than one contemporary art fair in every major city; and the formats and contents of each one are pretty much the same. But Fine Art Asia’s positioning and profile are unique in Asia. We were the first and have been running for over 11 years. We have built a solid reputation and established confidence with our collectors who know and trust us. Due to different cultural backgrounds and appetites, one of the biggest challenges is to open new sections and introduce some rarely seen art forms and objects to the market. We may need patience to nurture the collectors. It takes time, especially when appreciating the aesthetic and historic values of exhibits from different cultural backgrounds. But we have been working hard to develop the market, enhancing our collector’s experience in art appreciation and acquisition.
What are your goals for this year’s fair and how do you measure your success?
Feedback is an important element for us to evaluate the fair. We conduct an annual survey to receive feedback from our participating galleries. Our galleries and collectors dislike too many people crowding the fair. They prefer a quieter environment to appreciate the exhibits and make deals in a more subtle way. So usually an exhibition or show would be counting their success based on footfall, but we want to bring in foot traffic that adds to the atmosphere and really appreciates the art, not just a tally on a score card.
Do you have any short- or long-term expansion plans on your radar?
We want to continue to be the best fine art fair in Asia, and we want the fair to become bigger and better in the next five years. We are in discussion with various organisations from overseas to expand the fair’s content, which would benefit of the exhibitors, the collectors and the general public.
Fine Art Asia will take place from October 2-5 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, with a VIP Preview on October 1. For more information, please visit www.fineartasia.com
Originally published on HongKongTatler.com