A new boutique art fair featuring solo presentations from 12 galleries will take place in mid-June in Hong Kong in an attempt to reboot the city’s art scene as it begins to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the coronavirus pandemic.
While most art fairs around the world have been either postponed or cancelled, the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association has taken a different tack, by launching a new fair, Unscheduled, which will take place at Tai Kwun, an art and heritage centre located at the former Central Police Station compound (17-27 June). Participating galleries were picked by a selection team made up of Hong Kong-based artists and curators including Ying Kwok and Sara Wong.
Willem Molesworth, the director of de Sarthe gallery and a board member of the association, says that local galleries have suffered from the cancellation of Art Basel in Hong Kong in March due to the spread of Covid-19. He hopes the new fair will not only bring art back to people’s lives but also to shift people’s focus back to Asian art.
Molesworth, who sits on the fair’s organising committee, says some galleries have been able to continue selling works in the past months, “but there is a big difference without Art Basel as it brings an international audience and synergy to the local art scene, which cannot be replicated via online sales”.
Molesworth says that Asian collectors have always had a strong interest in Western art, but the past three years have seen a shift toward more international art. “We also hope that the presentations can retrain people’s focus.”
Hong Kong was among the locations to first control the spread of the coronavirus. The virus hit the city in January but the strong community response, which included widespread use of face masks and more intensive hygiene procedures, have helped contain the disease while saving the city from a total lockdown; many local galleries remained open for business throughout the pandemic. As of 19 May, the city, which has a population of 7.5 million, recorded just 1,055 infections and four deaths. Social distancing rules have now been relaxed, but the ban on groups of more than eight people gathering has been extended to 4 June.
The curator Ying Kwok says that the new fair will reflect the concept of social distancing by dividing solo exhibitions of 13 artists into three groups.
“Distance is a keyword for us and can be interpreted in different ways. Is it a conceptual distance or an emotional distance?” Kwok asks. “Visitors will be seeing a dialogue and connection among the artists, even though they are separated. It connects with our real-life experience and responds to our social distancing situation.”
Ticket to Unscheduled will cost HK$80 ($10). Proceeds will go to a local charity’s relief efforts for those impacted by the pandemic.