I am wowed, therefore I am sophisticated. The South China Morning Post says so…
At least it quotes art gallery owners, who attribute record sales at this year’s Art Basel HK to the exquisitely refined tastes of their customers. And who among us, in all honesty, would not do the same? “We made more money this time because more idiots came along to buy stuff” doesn’t sound quite right.
The most discerning of the attendees come not to see the extraordinary variety of artworks, but to watch the people. Perhaps the most interesting are the art gallery reps. The females are cool, slinky eat-men-for-breakfast Anglo types who sit at desks and almost meld into the paintings; the males are lanky Europeans in floppy Italian suits and floppy hair getting really intense with prospective clients. There are no plump art gallery reps.
Then there are the great Hong Kong public, plus no doubt dealers and other visitors who come into town specifically to peruse over 200 galleries’ offerings from around the world. You have to remember this is a trade fair, just like those for toys and electronics, except the items on display are one-offs and thus – in theory – not commodities. Also, they admit anyone who buys a ticket (perhaps because there are no free samples to be had, or maybe because the organizers genuinely want the masses to share the culture). The number of people coming these days is staggering: by late Saturday afternoon, the halls at the Convention and Exhibition Centre were as crowded as Victoria Park at Lunar New Year. Many people bring kids.
The variety of paintings, photos, sculptures, video installations and other works is so wide that you are stretched to identify a category that’s missing. Portraits with no faces? Take your pick from half a dozen selections. Works using human hair as a medium? Loads. Old tea bags? One, at least (it looked like a huge old doormat from a distance).
Fundamentalist Christians took their kids on a march over the weekend against trans-sexual marriage. Parents who wanted something less perplexing to explain to the little ones could opt for Art Basel HK as a fun day out for all the family. What child would not be thrilled by the absurdly lifelike girl with hairy legs holding a mutant hand-foot thing?
(Unless she was a visitor’s child who had stolen an exhibit – hard to say.)
And what could be more wholesome for the little ones than the dead guy in a suit?
Beats the hell out of Disneyland.