Source: Artwallaa, Little Bird, Respective Gallery Websites
Whether you call it the power of the brand or it actually is the case – the first art fair after Art Basel had taken over the Hong Kong Art Fair decidedly looks better. The layout was more fluid rather than straight lined, the first floor hall had a feel of a more curated show rather than the glitziest of pieces getting the centre stage, and the supporting infrastructure around the fair appeared definitely a couple of notches above the previous years.
With Hong Kong becoming the third destination for Art Basel after Basel and Miami, the city has undoubtedly become the international hub for the visual arts in Asia.
Pakistan had a very strong presence at the Art Basel Hong Kong. Gandhara-art (Hong Kong, Karachi) continued to be the unrelenting gallery showcasing Pakistani artists at the fair since its inception in 2008. This year it presented works of Imran Qureshi, Aisha Khalid, Atif Khan, Adeel-ul-Zafar and Khadim Ali.
We also had works from Risham Syed (Project 88, India), Faiza Butt (Vadhera Art Gallery, India), Shazia Sikander (Pillar Corias Gallery, London), Imran Channa (XVA Gallery, Dubai) and Shezad Dawood (Paradise Row, London). Green Cardamom (London), the other regular participant focussing on Pakistan, was missed this year as the gallery had closed down some six months ago.
The focal point of attraction continued to be Imran Qureshi given his recent successes as Deutsche artist of the Year, 2013 and his Roof Garden Commission at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. His work at Art Basel, took a new direction where his Portrait Series reappeared after a space of a few years, combined with his, now trade mark, blood coloured floral motifs. Besides his work, Imran’s monograph was in big demand too and the bookstore had run out of stock on the second day.
Also at Gandhara was Aisha Khalid’s who returned to her tulips with the politically laced works titled ‘West looks East’. While may be too subtle for most visitors, the depth of Aisha’s trademark ‘bullet holes’ in the East and the lifeless and robotic depiction of the tulips and their stems (very different from her previous tulips) are worth noticing and enjoying.
Risham Syed’s ‘Lahore Series’ is one of my favourite works from the artist. Small canvases, the size of a postcard, beautifully depict ordinary Lahore houses and are very nostalgic for non-resident Pakistanis. This is the same series which was shown at Rohtas Lahore a few years ago.
Khadim Ali’s star continues to rise and his work got a lot of attention especially from the Australian visitors (Khadim resides in Sydney). The artist continues to get significant international attention, with Guggenheim recently adding his work to its collection. His ‘Rustam’ series at the Art Fair were an instant hit.
Imran Channa had a whole booth to himself and had works ranging from print, canvas and video. Atif Khan's 'Conference of Birds' got a lot of attention.
While Hong Kongers should be happy that with the success of the Art Basel, the city has now decidedly found a permanent place in the calendar of the closely knit international art fraternity; Pakistanis should be equally happy that Pakistani art and artists are very well represented at the most important art fair in the East.