Will Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 Sales Reflect the Decline in Chinese Economy?

March 24, 2016

All eyes are on Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 right now, as the world’s biggest fair opens for public today for the final take on the state of the market in China and beyond. As the event gets underway through Saturday, March 26th, participating galleries, artists and investors are holding their breath, hoping that the sales will remain strong and not drop as per reflection of the country’s slowing economy. The first reports are also coming in from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) as the VIP previews took place in the last two days, attracting fewer dealers collectors and less enthusiasm than last year. With the Chinese stock market still struggling to recover from recent meltdowns, the question remains: can Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 resist?

art basel hong kong 2016
Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 to testify to the current state of the Chinese art market. Image via Art Basel

In Focus: Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 vs Uncertain Chinese Market

After the Chinese stock market went down in summer 2015, many art collectors from mainland China were affected by it. According to the report by The European Fine Art Foundation, the total sales in the Chinese market have dropped 23% to $11.8 billion in 2015, now placing Great Britain at the no. 2 spot on the largest market for art sales, right behind the United States. This, as well as the 45% of the ArtTactic survey participants who believe sales of Chinese contemporary art will come down in 2016, caused the collectors to reconsider their spendings and the galleries to take less risks. With collectors most likely going for either big names or the up-and-coming artists, the sellers expect to take the biggest hit in the middle price range, between $50,000 and $150,000. The reports from the two previews at Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 state that some of the best works are still available, although some galleries have already announced strong sales, the organisers announced on March 23rd.

Art Basel Hong Kong 2016
Some galleries report strong sales, giving hope to the worried art sellers and dealers. Image via Art Basel

What Sold So Far?

Although the economic slowdown has had the greatest impact on auction houses, the closing arguments on the stability of the art market in Asia will certainly be presented by Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 and its 239 participating galleries. Some of the exhibitors, naturally the world’s most prominent art spaces, can already boast with successful sales. This year, the Chinese collectors went for a Ryan Gander for $30,000-$40,000 at Lisson Gallery, and Eddie Martinez, sold for $80,000 by Mitchell-Innes & Nash. Asian collectors also bought almost all works on view at David Kordansky Gallery, including works by Jonas Wood, Mary Weatherford and Rashid Johnson, ranging from $12,000 to $145,000. All five Michaël Borremans paintings offered by David Zwirner were all sold, for prices between $250,000 and $1.6 million, also the price of a Luc Tuymans oil on canvas, while two Oscar Murillo paintings went for $250,000. Speaking of sales over $1 million, Galerie Gmurzynska, for instance, sold a Fernando Botero at approximately $1.3 million. A collection based in Asia acquired a new painting by George Condo from Sprüth Magers, at the asking price of $400,000. At Blum & Poe, the priciest sale was Julian Schnabel’s $350,000 print.

The first out of the gate with sales at Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 were certainly Lehmann Maupin, with their artists like Tracey Emin and Do Ho Suh reaching remarkable numbers. Emin’s Waiting to be with you gouache on paper went for somewhere in between £15,000 and £25,000, while In Solitude embroidery sold in the range of £150,000 and £250,000. For Do Ho Suh, the most successful piece was the 2013 Stove, Apartment A, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, in the range of $150,000 and $200,000.

While we wait for the final sales report, do you think Art Basel will manage to stand its ground? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page!

  Editors’ Tip: Between State and Market: Chinese Contemporary Art in the Post-Mao Era (Modern Asian Art and Visual Culture)

The Chinese contemporary art market is an incredible one. In recent year, it has faced hard times with the meltdown of the stock market, after which many collectors lost their investments and are now in a bad position to buy art. Between State and Market: Chinese Contemporary Art in the Post-Mao Era examines the shift in the system of support for contemporary art in China between 1979 and 1993, from state patronage to the art market and the creative space in between. Could this period reflect the one we're experiencing now? Find out by buying this esteemed volume written by Jane Debevoise, Chair of the Board of Directors of Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong and New York.

Featured images: Art Basel Hong Kong 2016, General Impressions. Photos by Jessica Hromas via artbasel.com. All images used for illustrative purposes only.

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