Cover Eleanor Lam poses at the Tatler booth at Art Basel Hong Kong 2021

At a time when large group gatherings seem like a thing of the past, the opening of Art Basel Hong Kong on May 19 was welcomed with open arms by Hong Kong’s art crowd. 

The ninth edition of the fair was divided into three sectors: Galleries, Insights and Discoveries, each presenting paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, photography and digital art that reflected Asia’s rich history, modern and contemporary art, and emerging art from artists and galleries from around the world. Museum shows by Asia Art Archive, Asia Society Hong Kong Center, the Hong Kong Museum of Art and Tai Kwun Contemporary also opened around town.

A total of 104 leading galleries from 23 countries are participating in Art Basel, including 10 Chancery Lane, Alisan Fine Arts, Blindspot Gallery, and de Sarthe Gallery representing Hong Kong, alongside major international players like Gagosian, David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth. For galleries unable to participate due to travel restrictions, the show featured 56 satellite booths as well as the digital initiative Art Basel Live: Hong Kong, which broadcasts the show to a global audience. 

“It has been truly inspiring to witness the ways the art world has been adapting to the current circumstances. We are deeply grateful to our participating galleries for their commitment to our show here in Hong Kong this year,” said Adeline Ooi, director Asia of Art Basel, at the opening. 

Meanwhile, Suhanya Raffel, museum director of M+, underlined the significance of the event going forward this year: “It’s just wonderful to be here after a year of lockdown. Being out and about and looking at art is absolutely fantastic.” she said. 

The ever-so-cool Kevin Poon and Fiona McLeish arrived bang on time, followed by appearances from Kent Ho, SK Lam, Ming Wai-lau, and Julien-Loïc Garin. Tatler had its own booth at the fair to showcase the May cover featuring Year of the Ox, a work created especially for Tatler by Canadian artist Marcel Dzama. Art collectors clamoured to acquire this special edition of the magazine, limited to just 1,000 copies.

However, the day’s headline moment came when Adrian Cheng, founder of the K11 brands, purchased the largest artwork on site: Andrew Luk’s installation, Haunted, Salvaged, which features giant, suspended masses of rotating, pink extruded polystyrene over a sea of spray foam. And that was just Art Basel Hong Kong getting started.