Peter Maloy is a second year Art Business/MBA student at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in Los Angeles. He specializes in Modern and Contemporary art and art market analytics, and recently started an online art magazine with two classmates from Sotheby’s Institute called ArtBlitz LA.
He went on a field trip to Hong Kong with his classmates during the Art Basel fair and shares with us his memorable experience.
HONG KONG - There are few stranger feelings than getting off a fifteen-hour flight, stepping into a 100 degree, 90% humidity Hong Kong night to get on a bus and be greeted by a stranger with a perfect British accent. I felt a moment of disbelief, not immediately placing otherwise familiar sounds. The incredible experience of Art Basel Hong Kong enabled me to take in the truly wonderful bizarreness of a country in perpetual change.
The one consistent and unavoidable feature of Hong Kong is the unrelenting heat. During all hours of the day, walking into the streets of Hong Kong is like stepping into a steam room; an experience I had grown unfamiliar with living in Southern California. The city is like nothing I have ever set eyes on. Every building is a high-rise, with shops and restaurants sometimes up to the tenth floor. The view beyond the high-rises is jungle and mountains and then more buildings. But as dismal as that may sound it is a remarkable city that made me feel both utterly out of place and wholesomely welcome.
SHAO YINONG & MU CHEN, 1942 100 CHINESE NOTE, ART BASEL, CHAI WAN MEI BUILDING.
Most publications resort to commenting on who showed up, beautiful works that are unavailable because they are pre-sold and of course how much the pieces cost. Art Basel was a surreal experience that warped my perception of reality. I met people I had only ever read about and underwent a sense of camaraderie, as it was not bogged down by VIP parties and invitations to tour collectors’ homes. It seamed anyone who was willing to make the 15-hour journey just to go look at art that almost everyone cannot afford was somehow part of the club.
The biggest lesson I learned in Hong Kong was to look up. As one of the densest cities in the world and real estate prices that make New York look like Phoenix, there is surprisingly little on the ground level. In Hong Kong, the main attractions, the real Hong Kong, are above eyesight. The Asia Art Archive is one such place. Perched above one of what looks like an endless array of shopping malls is the Asia Art Archive; a semi-non-profit, managing a vast collection of books and objects from all over Asia. In their efforts to help spread knowledge to Asian countries where information is restricted, Asia Art Archive has protected and conserved some of the most important historical documents and books on Asian culture worldwide.
HERNAN BAS, LEHMANN MAUPIN, HONG KONG.
Despite the recent opening of mass-market stores on the ground floor, the Pedder building is one of the last vestiges from Hong Kong’s Colonial past. Its unique high ceilings house the Hong Kong outposts of some of the world’s premier galleries such as Gagosian HK, Lehmann Maupin, and Han Art. I had the unique experience of getting to meet one of Asia’s biggest collectors during my visit. After introducing myself to the gallery director and explaining the purpose of my trip she promptly fetched the infamous Pearl Lam, an art world figure whose hipster chic meets couture style and charismatic personality undeniably live up to expectations. Like many other people I met in Hong Kong she was open and encouraging and especially interested in hearing about the art world in LA.
I would advise anyone to visit Hong Kong given the chance. It is a city unlike any other: half Western, half Chinese; half old-world, half futuristic. With great food, affection for the British culture that has been maintained after centuries of imperial rule, and an art world different from any other I have experienced. Hong Kong is a unique world of its own and is just starting to realize it. Art Basel certainly made no mistake in choosing this location for its Asian platform: it has energy unlike anywhere I have been.
Read more about Peter’s Hong Kong adventure at ArtBlitzLA.com