Interview with the HK 08 Fair Director Magnus Renfrew
Source:Artintern Author:Magnus Renfrew, Zhang Shuo Date: 2008-04-10 Size:
ART HK 08 will be unique in Asia as it will be the only fair dedicated to the very best of both Modern and Contemporary Art.


1 With the development of Chinese art market, more and more fairs and exposition opens in China. And the world began to focus its attention on China now. Are there any advantages for HK 08 to stand out in the group of art fairs?

ART HK 08 will be unique in Asia as it will be the only fair dedicated to the very best of both Modern and Contemporary Art. Visitors will be able to see top level work from Picasso through to Damien Hirst and Zhang Xiaogang. Collectors will not have to pay the exorbitant level of tax that they would in mainland China. ART HK 08 has a stringent application process ensuring that only the very best galleries will be accepted to exhibit. With our considerable experience at organizing major international exhibitions ART HK 08 will be presented to the very highest of international standards.

2 One aim of HK 08 is to introducing Asian collectors to blue-chip and emerging art from the West. With your seven years’ experiences working in Bonhams, what do you think of the potential Asian collectors has in the following years?

The potential for increasing interest in art among Asian collectors in the next few years is huge. The major auction houses are reporting dramatic increases in annual turnover of more than 25% for their Hong Kong sales and higher for their sales of contemporary Asian art in Hong Kong. Asian buyers are playing an ever more important role on the international art market. Asian collectors are not only buying Asian art but are becoming increasingly active in the Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary fields at the very highest levels.

3 Will the auction houses participate in this fair as exhibitors?

Auction Houses play a very important role in the art market in Asia and have excellent access to collectors in the region. I am delighted to say that we have received considerable support from them in Hong Kong and we will be working together to promote Hong Kong as the cultural and commercial hub for art in Asia.

At the same time we must respect the fact that galleries particularly from the West are still very sensitive to the involvement of auction houses in art fairs and so unlike some of our competitors auction houses will not be taking stands at the fair.

4 Why chose Hongkong to hold the fair?

We looked at numerous locations around Asia and after careful analysis of the pros and cons of each location decided firmly on Hong Kong. Hong Kong has all the fundamentals needed for a successful international art fair – no tax on the import and export of art (unlike mainland China which levies 34% tax on the sale of any imported artwork), easy access from the important collector groups from Taiwan (direct flights in under 2hrs unlike to the mainland which takes between 6 and 7hrs to Shanghai or Beijing via HK), Korea and Hong Kong. Hong Kong has long been recognized as a gateway between the cultures from the east and the west and has been the financial hub of Asia for a considerable time. More recently Hong Kong has become a hub for the art trade and is now the third largest art market in the world after New York and London by auction turnover – we saw that there was a real need for a hub fair in Asia and many of the people we have spoken to have said that with the context of the art trade in Hong Kong how surprised they were that there was not a major international art fair here already. Christie’s autumn sale of Contemporary Asian Art was the highest total anywhere in the world in that category to date asserting Hong Kong’s position as the place to trade in art from the region.

All the art fairs that take place within Asia are very much rooted in the countries in which they take place: KIAF is very Korean, Tokyo is very Japanese, Art Beijing and CIGE are very Chinese, Taipei mainly attracts a local crowd as does Singapore. We strongly believe that to sustain a fair of this scale that it requires collectors to come from all over Asia. Hong Kong has the benefit of at once being part of China yet it is regarded as neutral territory by other Asian nationalities. All wealthy Asians have significant financial holdings in Hong Kong, and the shared history with the UK means that it is an easy place to navigate for Western visitors, with English commonly spoken, great restaurants and hotels. In addition to the Asian collectors there is a strong and affluent expat community who are highly educated and international in outlook. No other city in Asia has all these factors in its favour.

5 The no duties or taxes on the import and export of art policy is one of the most attractive points for collectors as well as exhibitors, would you please have a brief introduce towards this policy?

There is no tax on the import and export of art in Hong Kong which makes it an excellent location to buy and sell works of art. This is one of the reasons that we chose to make the fair cover the fields of both contemporary and modern art. One of the reasons that major galleries showing blue chip Modern work have been wary of exhibiting at art fairs in mainland China is because of the tax of 34% that is levied on the sale of any imported art work which makes it very expensive to sell high value items there. This gives Hong Kong a clear advantage.

6 Beside the galleries and Art Magazines that we always seen in art fairs, HK 08 also invites a number of the world's leading print publishers to take part in this fair, what do you think of it ?

Editioned work is a very important collecting area and one that is often overlooked at art fairs. Prints by well-known artists can often be secured relatively inexpensively and this gives buyers the opportunity to own works by some of the best known artists working today.

7 Criteria for participated galleries is always an important point. As the first year of HK International Art Fair, what criteria will the board use to choose galleries?

ART HK 08 has a selection committee of art experts who are reviewing all applications to ensure that the fair presents the very best galleries from Asia and around the world. They will be looking at the artists represented by the gallery, the curatorial program of the gallery, and the exhibition proposal for the gallery’s stand at ART HK 08.

8 How many galleries have you fixed? Would you like to list some of them to us?

We have had extremely strong interest from around the world. We have top level galleries from all over Asia, UK, Europe and the USA. We will be publishing a list of galleries shortly.

1 You have a strong advisory group, could you please have a brief introduction about them? How can you communicate with each other?

We have an excellent and active advisory group of art world luminaries led by Dr Charles Merewether who was curator and creative director of the Biennale of Sydney in 2006. Members of the advisory committee include Elaine Ng – editor of ArtAsiaPacific magazine, Howard Rutkowski – former Vice President of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art department in New York, Mary Dinaburg – Founder of Fortune Cookie Projects, Philip Dodd – former director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and Jean-Marc Decrop – a pioneer in recognizing the importance of Chinese Contemporary Art.

The important thing about the advisory committee is that in addition to a detailed understanding of Asian Culture and the Asian contemporary art, every member has significant experience on the international art stage, are internationally recognized as experts in their fields, and have an incredible breadth of experience from auction - to art fair - to gallery - to magazine publishing - to cultural branding and large scale cultural project management. All of this will help ART HK 08 to put Hong Kong firmly on the map not just as a destination for Asian Art, but also as an important art hub in an international context.

Thank you so much!

[Editor] Mark Lee