Art Basel – Hong Kong 2015 – The Stars and The Trends

This year’s Art Basel – Hong Kong at the Wanchai Conventer Center took place from March 15 to March 17th. It was a three-day exhibition that pulsed with creativity, vibrancy and, best of all, variety.

Here are some of the art trends and themes that captured our attention and won the crowd.


ANYTHING JAPANESE – Whether displaying the older works of Hajime Sorayama and Tiger Tateishi or highlighting modern day masters such as Nobuyoshi Araki, Kei Imazu, Koichi Enomoto and Yoshitomo Nara, gallery owners made no bones about it… for collectors, Japanese art is where it’s at.


MR.‘s “See You At School” is a comic acrylic delight from afar. Up close, the piece reveals a ragged exterior of cotton and burnt linen (Galerie Perrotin). A nice, biting touch.


Yoshimoto Nara’s fibre-reinforced plastic 2006 piece, “The Mini-Puff Marshies,” may seem light, but it holds its own as a pumpkin-shaped pop art piece (Johnen Galerie).


While dated, Hajime Sorayama’s untitled 1986 work nets the trappings, strangeness and wonder of a bygone era (Nanzuka). Kind of reminds us of the work done by the late 80s illustrator Patrick Nagel (whom we adore). The cover of Duran Duran’s Rio, anyone? 


SCULPTURE – Interest in standing pieces is on the rise as of late and this year’s Art Basel was packed with some thrilling pieces for both collectors and bystanders.


Xiang Jing‘s “The Woman in the Mirror” is a dizzying triumph of fiberglass and paint (Lehmann Maupin). 


Daniel Arsham‘s “Seated Figure” is no slouch, coming to life with a mixture of resin and broken glass (Galerie Perrotin).


Stunning, swirling and elegant, Mariko Mori’s “Cycloid I” is quite the statement piece (Sean Kelly). One we wish we could own.


Zheng Lu’s “Water in Dropping – Dance” is sublime in stainless steel (Shanghai Gallery of Art).


Yang Maoyuan’s “Aristophanes,” bronzed in 2007, is ready for its close-up (Platform China).


WHIMSY – We’re all in on the joke this year as many artists depicted the lighter side of life.


While a hoot, we don’t know if Hans-Peter Feldmann is making a statement about the viewer, the art world or the upper class… or if he’s just clowning around (Simon Lee Gallery). We found these two untitled canvases outwitted much of the competition.


Would we ever purchase one? Not so sure. But as a collection, Brendan Huntley’s untitled 2014 pottery pieces are light on the eyes and very charming (Tolarno Galleries).


In its full, non-threatening form, we found Carsten Holler’s 2013 “Snake” to be a slithering success (Air de Paris). 


Liu Shiyuan‘s work is wonderful. A simple chair that rocks back and forth with the assistance of two balloons (Andersen*s). The genius is that you can look, but never sit. And it really is the ballsiest call of the entire art fair. While some may consider this a dud (a chair with two balloons), we’re glad to see an artist and  a gallery go out on a limb and summon some Dada-ist spirit. Bravo!


THICK BRUSH STROKES – Many painters are attacking the canvas with passion and confidence, and we like it.


Probably our new favorite artist, Laura Lancaster outshines many of her colleagues with her cinematic “Montage” paintings (WORKPLACE Gallery).


We never thought we’d ever cheer for an oil painting of an ice skater, but Zhou Yilun‘s joyous strokes — and choice of intriguing colors — have us clamoring for more (Platform China).


Manly, hue-filled and bold, Ben Quilty’s self-portraits are one part Van Gogh and…  yup, we’re going to say it… many parts Ben Quilty (Tolarno Galleries).


ENORMITY – For the most part small pieces were shelved. For gallery owners, it was the bigger, the better.


A scroll that runs from ceiling to floor? It’s no wonder why Xu Longsen‘s 2008-2009 aptly-titled piece “Beholding the Mountain with Awe No. 1” was a crowd hit (Hanart TZ Gallery).


Huang Yong Ping’s ceramic pillars “Walking Up Language” were odd, large and mesmerizing (kamel mennour).


Using a substantially-sized  118″ x 108″ canvas, Georg Baselitz’s “Nanner manner acktem,” expertly contrasted red and blue streaks with fragile black lines and drips (Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac).


INDUSTRIAL – Where are the paintings of haystacks? Not here. This year it’s all about mechanization, engineering and city dwelling.


We thought Damien Hirst had his day. (Honestly how many images of skull, pills, dots and butterflies can you take?) But Mssr. Hirst may have some punch and relevance left in him. His aerial view of Singapore is a cool composition of scalpel blades, skin graft blades, zippers, stitching needles, aluminum filings, pins, stainless steel studs, safety pins, and glass paint… all on a wall-mounted canvas (WHITE CUBE). Well done.


Erik Schmidt’s “Isn’t it Occupy?” mixes the humor of pop with the briskness of impressionism to create this contemporary gem (Galerie Krinzinger Vienna). Vroom, vroom!


Hans Op De Beeck’s watercolor of an “Amusement Park Skyline” is one hell of a thrill ride, both dark and enchanting (Galleria Continua).


Yang Yongliang’s print “From the New World” is a complex stunner. What seems like a traditional Asian landscape painting (above) is actually an intricate web of cityscapes and factories (below; Shanghai Gallery of Art).



TAXIDERMY – Frankly, my deer, there are only two things in life to be sure about: death and taxidermy.


Kohei Nawa affixed glass marbles to a stuffed deer-head for a mixed-media masterpiece (SCAI The Bathhouse). 


And Myeong Beom Kim elevated this buck into an extraordinary work of art with the help of some well-placed branches and leaves (GALLERY IHN).


VIBRANT COLORS/LIGHT – Will neon reign once more? We don’t know, but plenty of artists weren’t shy about their use of color or mastery of electricity.


A year-long in the making Yuree Kensaku’s “When Two Elephants Fight, the Grass Gets Trampled” was a colorful and comic success (100 Tonson Gallery).


Spencer Finch created his “Aldebaran” — named after a star in the Taurus constellation — with florescent tubing and powder-coated steel (James Cohan Gallery).


While not inside the convention, this illuminative work was featured as part of the Art Basel festivities in PMQ, an art and shopping center in the SoHo neighborhood of Hong Kong. The “Ignite The Light” installation was created by fashion designer/creative designer Nicola Formichetti in partnership with Pepsi and the Liter of Light project, which assists communities in need of electricity and other light-related resources. The Liter of Light is a good cause doing progressive work. Check ’em out.


LACK OF NUDES – There was little titillation at this year’s exhibition. For those who like their art a bit more baring and daring, here are the standouts:


It’s “Party Time” for artist Ashley Bickerton (Gajah Gallery).


A pair of 2011 photos from Thomas Ruff play peek-a-boo with a steady stream of viewers (Johnen Galerie).


We now end our journey with the first piece that caught our eye, a pair of 1974 photos from Marina Abramovic‘s performance piece”Rhythm 4″ (Lisson Gallery). Can you fall for the work of a performance artist? Yes, you can.


All images snapped by NewsWhistle except where otherwise noted. Lead-In image (MR.’s “See You At School” photographed by NewsWhistle, courtesy of Galerie Perrotin and Art Basel; “Ignite The Light” image courtesy of PRNewsFoto/PepsiCo