Saturday, September 17, 2011

ART HK Director shares insights on future of ASEAN modern and contemporary art markets

Over the past few years, ART HK: Hong Kong International Art Fair has emerged as one of the premier art fairs in the world. In 2011, the fair achieved significant growth in public attendance (up 38% to 63,000) and gallery representation (260 of the world’s leading galleries). As one expert remarked privately, “The event put the world on notice. In Asia, only Singapore could hope to challenge Hong Kong now.”

Magnus Renfrew, the director of ART HK, has been the tour de force behind the fair’s tremendous success in establishing Hong Kong as the center of the modern and contemporary art market in Asia. Recognized as one of the most influential persons in the art world, he and his staff are now busy ensuring that ART HK 2012 further expands their reach and influence in the global art market.

Looking toward the future, Renfrew sees the Southeast Asian art scene continuing to evolve: “There is a very vibrant artistic scene in Southeast Asia at the moment - particularly in Indonesia and the Philippines. There are more collectors and buyers emerging.”

When asked whether the region’s move to middle income status is the primary driver for this change, Renfrew responds that the region’s increased prosperity is an important factor: “Great wealth is being created in the region and the art market tends to follow the money. Alongside fine wines and luxury goods art is becoming a key way to express wealth and sophistication.”

However, Renfrew points out that the demand for Southeast Asian contemporary art is not purely from indigenous ASEAN member state buyers: “There is an increasing interest internationally for work from Asia in general and a fast-developing interest in the work of artists from Southeast Asia.”

With notable exceptions, Renfrew concedes that one of the challenges that will confront Southeast Asia though is that “there are very few major publicly funded institutions currently in the region either of domestic or international art.” However, he “expects that changing in the next few years.”

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