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Why You Should Visit Art Basel HK and Art Fair Philippines At Least Once in Your Life (But We Bet You'd Go Back for More)

A dear friend of mine, who owns one of the top art galleries in Asia, once told me that the three best art fairs in the world are (in no particular order, as they are all spectacular) the Frieze (London and New York), the Armory (NY), and Art Basel (Basel, Miami, and Hong Kong). As the art market has exploded worldwide, the shows have become increasingly more fun—it is as if the world comes to you—a very chic, very rich, and very cosmopolitan world. It is fascinating to watch how these shows bring together the wealthy, the banks, and luxury brands. For instance, Art Basel HK’s sponsors included UBS, Gucci, Audemars Piguet, and Ruinart. I guess the common denominator is rich people….

So when I was sent VIP tickets to the recent Art Basel in HK (photo below), what could I do? I hopped on a plane, of course. It is vital to have VIP passes because you get to see everything for a couple of days before the public is admitted—then it gets very crowded. Plus, on the VIP days, everyone gets dressed up. I have not seen so many Birkins in quite a while. And all exotic skins too. It was also very nice to see groups of school children come in on the public days. Best to get interested in art at an early age.

I have long believed that art is best enjoyed in your home, where it can be appreciated and loved by you, so the nice thing about fairs like this is you can buy anything up on the walls just as long as you can afford it. Unlike at, say, the Met. And all the best galleries in the world come—from Gagosian to the Pace, you name it. The art was simply wondrous. And in many cases, you get to meet the artists too. I met the amazing Abdul Abdullah for instance, who is represented by the Yavuz Gallery from Singapore (you must meet the owner, Can, who is a former banker and just tons of fun). Abdul’s family is originally Malaysian. They moved to Australia and you must see his art. The fact that he is also very easy on the eyes makes it so much easier to buy. Seriously though, you must see his art.

And then there are the dinners and the parties as galleries (and the banks and luxury stores too) have to entertain their clients who have flown in, and who want to mingle with the artists and each other. You know how rich people love hanging out with other rich people. Which brings me to Ho Lee Fook. It is on Elgin Street in Central and it is hip and happening and only open at night. The vibe was amazing and the food! The fried chicken and the ribs…. Lemme tell ya, the quality of the food was most certainly not sacrificed for the ambiance.

Which brings me to tourism. I am certain Art Basel gave a huge boost to the Hong Kong economy. After all, you’ve got to stay somewhere (all the luxury hotels were booked), the restaurants were packed, and I noticed that all the boutiques were doing a brisk business with many open for bespoke and special orders while the fair was going on. Just the sort of tourists everyone wants—the ones who spend—shop, eat well, and live well. You could smell the commerce going on. In the Philippines we have our own Art Fair, to which foreign galleries are starting to come (several of them have told me that they have the best fun here) as our artists have gone global (or at least Asian) and it even has the great Swiss private bank, Julius Baer, as a major sponsor. It was nice to see so many students and young professionals wandering through during the last iteration. I think this is just the sort of hip, young, chic thing that our Tourism Department should be providing major support for—everyone loves art, after all. So if you haven’t gone, you must try and attend both our Art Fair and Art Basel HK very soon so you can see for yourself (and the Frieze in London too, which is amazing—and the other shows).

And buy.


Article originally published in Metro Society's April 2017 issue