HONG KONGArt Basel Hong Kong may be the third largest of the Art Basel family, but every year the number of programme and event offerings in and around the Hong Kong fair just keeps on multiplying. The city’s cultural scene is so invigorated by this annual event that everyone from wealthy art patrons and independent designers to luxury and streetwear brands are hosting Basel parties and dinners to keep everyone on their toes. It’s a good thing that Hong Kong is famous for its foot massages! This year the annual art fair, which runs from Thursday 15 May to Sunday 18 May, will feature 245 premier galleries from 39 countries. Half of the galleries participating have a presence in Asia and the Asian-Pacific region, 24 of which come from Hong Kong. 

The scene at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013. © JJ.Acuna / Wanderlister.com 2013.

The 2014 fair is subdivided into five sectors. Galleries is the main sector, presenting 171 exhibitors showcasing modern and contemporary art. Asian and Asian-Pacific exhibitors will be highlighted within the Insights sector, with curatorial exhibitions specificially tailor-made for Art Basel. The Discoveries sector will feature artwork from 27 emerging artists from around the world, and one of the works will be awarded a USD$25,000 prize. Throughout the fair 17 special large-scale exhibits will be featured as a part of the Encounters sector, curated by Yuko Hasegawa of the Museum Contemporary Art in Tokyo. And finally the Film sector, located across the street at the agnes b. Cinema, will feature short films from various galleries, curated by Li Zhenhua, the founder of the Beijing Art Lab. In addition, several talks, lectures and panel discussions will be on offer under the Conversations and Salon programmes.

But instead of telling you what to do and where to go for the next four days, we asked a handful of the city’s most connected art fans for their thoughts on what they’re most excited about during this year’s festivities.

An installation at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013. © JJ.Acuna / Wanderlister.com 2013.

Magnus RenfrewDirector Asia / Member of the Executive Committee at Art Basel
“I am excited to see α (alpha) pulse, a work that we commissioned for Hong Kong from Berlin-based artist Carsten Nicolai. The work is an ambitious project on a scale that we have not been able to achieve before in the city. The light component will use the 490-metre-high facade of the ICC and has the potential to be visible to hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong.”

Dee PoonChief Executive Officer / Chief Brand Officer at PYE
“The art world is full of fascinating and fun people and having them here makes Hong Kong all the more fun. I’m very excited to be able to co-host Chinese Artist Ran Huang’s party with Richard Chang of the Domus Collection. Huang is amazing and is going to Cannes this year.”

Yana PeelChief Executive Officer at Intelligence Squared Group and Co-Chair of the Para Site Art Space
“I’m excited about attending the Intelligence Squared debate at Art Basel, entitled Asia Should House Its Poor Before it Houses Its Art. The sixth annual cultural event in Hong Kong promises to be a fiery one for moderator Michael Lynch, CEO of the West Kowloon Cultural District, with four leading international voices espousing their passionate views on the funding of culture in our region.”

Artwork at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013, featuring Andy Warhol. © JJ.Acuna / Wanderlister.com 2013.

Natasha Kaye Whiffin, Development at Asia Art Archive
“I am most looking forward to the large scale mass of human hair arranged in the formation of international flags that makes up Gu Wenda's United Nations: man and space installation. It’s an important ongoing work by the artist, who has been collecting strands from people's heads since 1999. Steer clear if you have a even the mildest case of chaetophobia (the fear of hair).

“Outside the fair, I wait in much anticipation to watch Ryan McNamara's performance at Chai Wan Mei. Commissioned by Yana and Stephen Peel, this is the New York-based artist's Asian debut, and it will undoubtedly be the most talked about Art Basel happening.”

Alan LoCo-Founder at Duddell's
“I'm very excited about our next show at Duddell'sAftermath: Post Sense Sensibility, Fifteen Years On curated by Phil Tinari, director of the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in Beijing.  

“Artist Nadim Abbas and curator Xue Tan will also be creating Apocalypse Postponed, a pop-up bar for the Absolut Art Bureau project, which i'm sure will be amazing. Adrian Cheng of K11 Art Foundation will also be commissioning a project by Chinese artist Zhang Enli which is creating quite a lot of buzz already.”

Art Basel Hong Kong from 2013. © JJ.Acuna / Wanderlister.com 2013.

Alexandra Seno, Managing Partner at AXS Asia Partners and Culture Writer
“I cannot wait to check out Para Site's very exciting new exhibit Ten Million Rooms of Yearning. Sex in Hong Kong, which takes place in five locations including Para Site and an actual sex shop on Cochrane Street. It is going to be like a mini-art biennale on sex in Hong Kong, and it will be provocative and evocative. Para Site curator Cosmin Costinas, in collaboration with AAA's Chantal Wong, has been working very hard to create an exhibit that everyone (over age of 18 years old, of course) will have to see during Art Basel. I think we can expect commentary about the current Hong Kong condition, a good dose of playfulness and a well-curated mix of work by Hong Kong and international artists alike.

“I love finding new artists to love and hope that there will be love that week. Among the artists whose work I already really like, I am looking forward to seeing the art of Sun Xun (Edouard Malingue), Hernan Bas (Lehman Maupin), Idris Khan (Sean Kelly), Shao Yinong & Munchen (10 Chancery Lane), among others, at galleries and at the fair. These are the artists who have so far piqued my curiosity, based on the thousands of art jpegs that I get sent by galleries.”

Simon BirchPainter and Artist
“Art fairs are always a traumatic one for artists. It's so acutely commercial and the work so jumbled up it can be a nerve-racking experience. At the same time you really want to be in it! I tend to just submit to the circus of it all and I enjoy seeing what work can stand up amongst so much competition. But even more enjoyable is probably the people watching. Clowns, ringmasters, tigers and the audience itself, it's overwhelming yet entertaining.”

An installation at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2013. © JJ.Acuna / Wanderlister.com 2013.

Coinciding with the Art Basel festivities, Sotheby's Gallery in Hong Kong is also hosting an exhibition by Beijing-based artist Song Yige. From now until 18 May, you can check out her solo show, Another Dimension, which features oil on canvas works depicting surreal compositions based on the artist's personal childhood experiences.

JJ. Acuna is a Hong Kong-based architect, interior designer and blogger who writes about Asia, travel, art, design and style. Follow him on Twitter @thewanderlister.