Home Interior Design At Art Basel, Asian collectors are back in force, while galleries put Asian artists in the spotlight

At Art Basel, Asian collectors are back in force, while galleries put Asian artists in the spotlight

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This year’s Art Basel is the first for Japanese collector Kankuro Ueshima. But he already has a very clear objective: the 44-year-old entrepreneur and investor is determined to buy a work by the artist Sarah Sze. The burgeoning collector has spent $15 million on art since February 2022, amassing a collection of 600 in just over a year. And he is willing to spend.

“I want to buy more art,” Ueshima told Artnet News. He started buying casually about seven years ago, but only started building a collection in earnest last year. That year, Ueshima saw 10 to 20 exhibitions in galleries and museums per week. Last fall he started traveling the world to art fairs and auctions. The fast-learning collector is eager to show off his collection and plans to open his own museum in Tokyo. His visit to Basel is part of the process.

Ueshima is among a group of East Asian collectors visiting Art Basel in his hometown for the first time, as international travel is finally possible for them. China last lifted travel restrictions earlier this year.

“I heard from my peers that Art Basel in Basel showcases the best in art and artists,” Ueshima said. “I’m very excited. I have a lot of walls to fill.

ABB Plan B 2023

A representative from Berlin’s Plan B gallery presents a painting by Romanian artist Cornel Brudascu to Asian clients visiting Art Basel during Tuesday’s VIP day. Photo: Vivienne Chow.

Asian invasion

There was a good presence of Asian faces at Tuesday’s main fair VIP preview. Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean could be heard along the fairways of Messe Basel. The VIPs came mainly from mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, joined by a few from Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Many collectors have stopped Zurich Art Weekend on the way to Basel.

Notable collectors from Asia in Basel this week include a Chinese collector Yanfounder of the Asymmetry Art Foundation, Qiao Zhibing, founder of Tank Shanghai, Alan Lo and Shane Akeroyd from Hong Kong, Timothy Tan from the Philippines, JaeMyung Noh and Mari Hong from South Korea, Rudy Tseng from Taiwan, also a writer and curator, and Jenny Yeh, founder of the Taipei-based Winsing Foundation.

Industry professionals in the region are taking the opportunity to reconnect with the world after the lockdowns. Museum and institution officials, such as Doryun Chong, deputy director of M+ Hong Kong, were seen busy catching up with art patrons and other professionals. Gallery owners not exhibiting in Basel this year, such as Seoul-based P21’s Soo Choi, were seen strolling around the exhibition grounds.

Some Western galleries are eager to reconnect with their Asian clients. Zurich-based gallery Eva Presenhuber, which impressed some collectors and industry players with Doug Aiken’s solo show during Zurich Art Weekend, is expecting more Asian clients at the fair this year.

Liu Wei Lehmann Maupin

Tiffany Xu, China Director of Lehmann Maupin, with Chinese artist Liu Wei Transparency

“We have scheduled meetings with a number of Korean clients in advance,” Andreas Grimm, the gallery’s managing director, told Artnet News. The gallery features larger works by Steven Shearer and Jean-Marie Appriou at the Unlimited sector, as well as Ugo Rondinone’s floating sculpture inspired by Roger Federer at the stand. The gallery is also actively expanding into Asia by holding pop-up exhibitions in Seoul.

“Our Asian customers tend to be in the younger age bracket, well under 50. They are knowledgeable and very active and eager to make new discoveries,” Grimm said. “The price range is very wide, with collectors buying works between €50,000 and €500,000. The main interest that we have observed lately is in paintings or murals. And our painting-oriented young artists have been very popular.

Hong Kong-based Gagosian senior manager Nick Simunovic echoed that sentiment. “We have noticed a pronounced increase in attendance from Asia this year, including major institutional and private collectors as well as emerging collectors, all of whom have actively purchased works at all price points,” he said. he declares.

Cautious optimism

Excitement is certainly in the air. Japanese collector Kazunari Shirai, who returns to Basel for the first time since 2020, told Artnet News he wants to reconnect and explore the global art scene. “The Art Basel vibe in Basel is definitely back,” he said.

Entrepreneur Yuki Hariguchi, an up-and-coming 31-year-old Japanese collector, is eager to see international contemporary art. “It’s harder to see them in Japan,” he told Artnet News. “We don’t have the kind of international market access that we would like to have. I am here to browse and absorb.

Seoul-based JaeMyung Noh said he acquired a small sculpture by Danish artist Anton Munar from Peres Projects at Art Basel on Tuesday. He already has a work by the artist in his growing collection.

Sin Wai Kin

Installation view of Soft Opening’s Art Basel debut in Statements, a solo presentation by Turner Prize-nominated London-based Asian artist Sin Wai Kin. The gallery said works were placed in several museum collections after Sin was awarded the 24th Baloise Art Prize at the June 13 fair. The gallery also had additional sales of works that ranged in price from $7,000 to $29,000. Courtesy of the artist and the gallery.

Enthusiasm aside, the picture is not quite rosy. Several private museums in mainland China were scheduled to bring collectors to the fair, but some were unable to do so due to visa issues, Artnet News has learned. There is also a consensus among Asian collectors that they should be prudent in their spending.

“The mood was good,” said Monique Leong, a collector in her twenties from Macau who is visiting Basel this week for the second time. “So happy to see so many Chinese collectors here. However, she acknowledged that many of the works exhibited at Art Basel had already sold out and some exhibits felt repetitive. In today’s economic environment, “we need to do more research before we pull the trigger rather than get carried away with aesthetics alone.”

Asian collectors aren’t just the younger generation making headlines, according to Rebecca Wei, co-founder and president of LGDR & Wei, the Asian arm of international art gallery LGDR. While Gen Z buyers in their 20s and 30s are savvy communicators and big spenders, established collectors are still key to leading the market in the region, she said.

In terms of art taste, Wei, the former president of Christie’s Asia, said it was inevitable that auctions would play a central role in the Asian art market. “Collectors are looking for primary works by artists who have succeeded at auction. People follow auction results closely,” Wei told Artnet News.

Bouie Choi Hong Kong Basel

Hong Kong artist Bouie Choi’s chess set made with pieces from the British colonial and post-transfer era in 1997 is exhibited at PF25 in Basel. Photo: Vivienne Chow.

Call that transcends geography

Meanwhile, artists of Asian origin are increasingly attracting European collectors. Gagosian, for example, sold works by Japanese artists Tetsuya Ishida and Takashi Murakami on the opening day of the fair. Lehman Maupin has a strong selection of Asian artists, including Liu Wei, Doh Ho Suh and Lee Bul. Singapore’s STPI, which is bringing five Asian artists to the show, sold several works on the first day, including one by Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, which a client in Switzerland picked up via its stand.

Several Asian galleries are also making their Basel debut at List this year.

“Today [Tuesday], we had a lot of interest in Geneviève Chua,” Emi Eu, Executive Director of STPI, told Artnet News. “You have to find the entry point that [western] collectors can relate to, and the visual language of Chua’s abstract art is a universal language,”

Atsuko Ninagawa, founder of Tokyo-based gallery Take Ninagawa, said that in her gallery’s decade of participation at Art Basel in Basel, Western patrons’ knowledge of Japanese art history has grown significantly. Over the years, the gallery has sold at the fair to non-Japanese American, European and Asian collectors. This year the gallery is showing works by Shinro Ohtake, Gozo Yoshimasu and Tsuruko Yamazaki, a founding member of the post-war avant-garde group Gutai Art Association.

“Now they have the context, and they can judge whether a work is good or not. We are able to share more information with western clients, private collectors as well as institutions,” she told Artnet News.

Outside the fair, Asian artists also make their presence known during Basel week. Basel-based nonprofit PF25, founded by Hong Kong curator Angelika Li, presents new works by Hong Kong artists Bouie Choi, an artist residency with the nonprofit, as well as by Ikebana artist Hedy Leung, who recently moved from Hong Kong to London. The group’s exhibition which opens on Tuesday, which is on the list of Art Basel events, has seen a parade of local art lovers and visiting collectors.

“The international crowd’s enthusiasm for our artists’ works and their stories from afar is very encouraging to us,” Li said.

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