Art Basel Asia director optimistic about market
The global art market had an apparently great year in 2015 with several new price records at auctions and private sales. But the prospect for this year is mixed, with the major Western auction houses suffering from low profits despite the record prices and with increasing concerns about China’s economic slowdown.
The fourth Hong Kong edition of the prestigious Art Basel fair, which will take place from March 24 to 26, is one of the key events that will determine the direction of the 2016 global art market.
Korean art experts are also paying attention to the fair, curious whether the recovery of the Korean art market last year, helped by increased foreign interest, will continue.
Adeline Ooi, a Malaysian-born expert in Asian art who has been working as Art Basel’s director for Asia since last year, visited Seoul this week and said that nine Korean galleries will join Art Basel Hong Kong, which is well-known for its strict screening process for participants.
“More than 500 galleries worldwide applied for the fair and less than a half - 239 galleries - have been selected,” Ooi said.
The Korean participants in the main “Galleries” section are Kukje, Hakgojae, Arario, PKM and One and J. In the section, galleries from across the world will present the works of diverse modern and contemporary artists whom they represent.
The “Insights” section will present solo shows or thematic exhibitions of Asian and Oceanian artists by the galleries based on region, including three from Korea: Park Ryu Sook, EM, and Leeahn. The Park Ryu Sook Gallery will present a solo show of famed Korean artist Choi Jeong-hwa.
The Korea JoongAng Daily met with Ooi to discuss her views on the Asian art market and Korean art.
Q. What are your prospects for the 2016 Asian art market? How much impact will China’s economic slowdown have on it?
A. We will have to be vigilant this year. But Asia is bigger than just China, and we have already gone through many different ups and downs. It is not the first time. [From these experiences], we think the true collectors will continue to buy. It is also a good time to separate the people who are buying for the love of art from people who are buying just for speculation.
What are the differences in buyers’ tastes and trends between the Art Basel main edition, Hong Kong edition and Miami Beach edition?
In simple terms, the Hong Kong edition has more Asian artists and more Asian collectors, so someone will say Asian collectors are more interested in Asian art than that from other continents. But, in fact, it is very difficult to define the differences in tastes and trends now, as our world is getting smaller through the Internet. Many collectors easily access information about artists in other regions and buy their works now.
What do you think about the recent boom of Korea’s dansaekhwa (monochrome abstract painting)? Is it just a temporary phenomenon or a long-term change?
I can’t give you a solid answer as you have to wait and see. Looking at what happened to [Japan’s] Gutai movement, which is often compared with dansaekhwa, the interest in Gutai hasn’t waned, even though it is no longer as hot as it used to be.
Dansaekwa recently became noticed and it is a great thing as the interest will spread to other Korean artists including those in subsequent generations. And it is a good thing for us in Asia.
BY MOON SO-YOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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