Art Basel Hong Kong Tips from Three Insiders

The most culturally exciting time in Hong Kong is upon us: Hong Kong Art Week, helmed by Art Basel, in companionship with Art Central, as well as the local galleries and museums. One simply cannot attend every opening, event, panel, and party, therefore we asked three expert friends for their take on the fair. First up, we have Claudia Albertini, the Senior Director at MASSIMODECARLO Hong Kong. She has been running the gallery since the Hong Kong space opened almost a decade ago. Next is LA Consing Lopez. As the Strategic Partnerships & Events Director for Phillips, Asia, his task is to elevate the brand and their highly curated sales through meaningful partnerships and collaborations. LA finds creative, thoughtful ways to bring communities of passionate people together. Art & Architecture Critic and Arts Administrator Alexandra S. Seno rounds out our insider list. Her professional life sees her thinking about culture, and those who create it, currently as the Director of the Asian Cultural Council. Read on for insights and hot tips from these local art world heavyweights.

The Gallerist
1. Claudia Albertini

What first drew you to the art world: My journey to the art world has been very serendipitous or perhaps it was just meant to be! At 19 I decided I had to leave my hometown (you probably think I am mad as it is that wonderful city called Como). Really by chance, one day, visiting Venice on a family trip, I literally stumbled in front of the Department of East Asian Studies at Ca Foscari University. I didn't know then that it was possible to study Chinese and other East Asian languages. After I had my degree, I had a decent knowledge of a language, a deep understanding of different cultures, and a thirst to discover how to turn this into a profession for life - it was clear that somehow art had to be part of it. While I was back in Como visiting, my mom came to me with the newspaper and said "look darling, you always say nothing happens in Como, but there is a pop-up of a Milan art gallery showing photos by a Chinese artist" (I guarantee you that back in the 90's Como is not what is now!).  And that was it: the beginning of a new chapter for me!  I showed up, helped the artist set up his show, met the owner of the gallery, and said yes when I was later offered a position at the gallery's new space in Beijing. That was 2004...I haven't left Asia since, nor have my feet left the art world!

Describe your ABHK schedule: I like good habits, so on Monday we open our new show at the gallery. This year is Yan Pei-Ming's solo exhibition Kung Hei Fat Choi.

Advice for first time ABHK visitors: My best recommendation is to get lost into the realm of art! Saturdays are for Southside and I highly recommend to go and explore all galleries opening in the south part of the island. Check out Current Plans currently hosted by Spring Workshop in Wong Chuk Hang. Monday is Central Galleries Opening between 2-7pm. I hear about an alternative art fair called Supper Club happening at the Fringe Club, I highly recommend to check it out. And so for the exhibitions that just opened or are about to inaugurate at ParaSite, M+ Museum, and K11. There's plenty of food and drink venues around town, and my tip is to go with the flow! You'll be missing something but discovering something else.

What sets Hong Kong's art world apart: Hong Kong is a very unique city, as such it offers a unique experience and so it does through the arts. Historically, Hong Kong is a city of traders, of entrepreneurs, a city that produces and exchanges, primarily money. To many it is unthinkable that in such a money oriented environment art can grow and flourish. And those who think this way are wrong. Just remember that the very first artists in the history of art were supported by patrons, by mercenate who needed to show their power and only artists could have imprint that power in a forever lasting way, such a portrait or a sculpture. Hong Kong wealth has helped to start this process, and the rest is making history now! It is not an easy landscape for an artist to grow, spaces are small and rents are high, nonetheless Hong Kong is made of people who don't give up and in less than two decades we have seen a major international art fair taking off, the most powerful auction houses to reach the second highest sales results globally, and something like 60 art galleries, if not more, opening up their spaces, including the biggest players on the global art scene...I think Hong Kong has a special sparkle, and we know it won't burn out. - Claudia Albertini

La Consing Lopez Phillips Asia
The Events Director
2. LA Consing Lopez

What sets Hong Kong's art world apart: Asia is a melting pot. There’s not one thing that is distinctly Asian, and this is especially true with art from around the region. Hong Kong, as the original Asian global hub, continues to be a nesting ground for originality. Hong Kong is buttoned up and elevated, but with a soul that is endearing and authentic. This is what drives many Hong Kong creatives, tastemakers, and collectors to excel and keep pushing forward.

Describe your ABHK schedule: Last year at Phillips, we celebrated our milestone Asia Headquarters opening in West Kowloon with a big inaugural bash, partnered with the iconic Dragon-i. We had no idea it was going to be the party of that season. And I think there is something truly special about leaving that kind of party in the past as a one off. Isn’t that what luxury really is? A precious moment that can’t be repeated. So this year, for art week we are focusing on jewels, another aspect of the Phillips business—looking at the craftsmanship and artistry of jewellery within the perspective of sustainability and re-purposing creativity. For art week, I like to take a go with the flow attitude. Meaning I go where my friends with attitude go. Which means, I go where I’m dragged to. Lately, art weeks are so packed that it takes the joy and spontaneity out of the revelry. I am very proud of my non-itinerary itinerary.

Advice for first time ABHK visitors: If it’s your first time in Hong Kong during Art Basel, certainly make a point to visit the fair and the different galleries and auction houses. But don’t forget that the city’s pulse is really in the small bastions of culture of everyday like. As global cities like Hong Kong begin to all look the same and evolve from the same influences, it becomes more important than ever to look for authentic nuggets of local culture. I would say, wander. Explore small streets, temples, markets, little galleries, museums, and anything that feels grassroots.

What first drew you to the art world: There is power in creativity. It’s addicting and inspiring. I love the collaborative nature of the industry and the believe that this kind of soft influence can change the world. As a former fashion multi-hyphenate (magazine editor, creative director, fashion buyer, fashion stylist, luxury marketing strategist) I can’t help but be drawn to anything that helps promote and foster the creative industry. I was thrilled to find a place in the auction world that made use of my varied experiences and understanding of luxury, but expressed in new strokes. - LA Consing Lopez

The Arts Critic
3. Alexandra A. Seno

What sets Hong Kong's art world apart: While the evolution of art in Western history is mostly about disruption and breaking away from the past (thinking about Realism then Impressionism then Expressionism etc,), in Asia the art and artists that seem to get the most traction often are about a conversation with tradition, and that is exciting.

Describe your ABHK schedule: This year my day job will have a booth so if anyone needs me I will be “watching the store.”

What events or artists are you most interested in seeing this: EVERYTHING.

Hot tips: Eat breakfast. Wear well-broken-in sneakers. Hydrate. Have a plan so as to avoid sensory overload. Have snacks in your bag. I think an art fair is best approached as an opportunity to discover new things and do a year of global art gallery-going in two-three-four days.

What first drew you to the art world: Art found me—in a past career which had a regional dimension, I was looking for a prism through which to better understand various communities through out Asia. Culture was that for me. I realised you cannot start to understand the politics or economics of a place if you are not also looking at culture. And out of that art (and architecture) grabbed me and never let me go. The two disciplines are different but the same, in their most successful forms they are about creating worlds. - Alexandra S. Seno


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