Art Market

5 Key Sales from Art Basel in Hong Kong 2022

Brian P. Kelly
Jun 1, 2022 1:18PM
Alec Egan
Fruit Bowl with Bird, 2021
Anat Ebgi

Glenn Kaino, Baton #384 (Team Unity), 2021. © 2021 Glenn Kaino Studio. Courtesy Pace Gallery.

This year’s Art Basel in Hong Kong, which closed on Sunday, hosted 130 galleries, including 75 exhibitors participating with a satellite booth, in a hybrid format for the second time. The remote showings—and the lighter attendance that was reported on the ground—are doubtlessly the result of strict containment and quarantine policies that made visiting, whether as a collector, gallery, or journalist, difficult. These realities point to ongoing questions about how fairs will operate in a world where COVID-19 is very much an issue, even if it has largely migrated off newspaper front pages.

However, the fair’s organizers did their best to offer dynamic programming. Ellen Pau’s site-specific moving-image work The Shape of Light (2022), a project co-commissioned with M+—the recently opened museum in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District—emphasized the local focus of this year’s edition. That localism was also underscored by Art Basel’s co-presentation with the Hong Kong Tourism Board of projections onto the city’s trams by Cherie Cheuk Ka-wai, Stephen Wong Chun-hei, and Shum Kwan-yi. And while collectors may not be as acquisition-hungry as they have been—perhaps due to the recent New York Art Week, Frieze New York, record auction sales in Manhattan, and the looming flagship Art Basel in Switzerland—there were still notable sales throughout the fair’s run. Below are five key sales and takeaways from Art Basel in Hong Kong 2022.

Lin Jingjing, Beautifully Unreachable (2022)

Sold for $30,000 by de Sarthe


Hong Kong–based de Sarthe nearly sold out its booth in the first few hours of the fair. While many have begun to talk about a “post globalized” art world—increasingly inward looking, siloed art scenes that turn away from the internationalism of the past several decades—Lin Jingjing’s Beautifully Unreachable (2022) is particularly indicative of the ways that regionalism and globalization can symbiotically work together in the future.

The Shanghai-born Lin was educated in Fujian and Beijing before receiving her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York; she now calls both Beijing and New York home. While she’s primarily shown in mainland China and Hong Kong, her work has also been exhibited across the U.S., Europe, and in several South American shows. A conceptual artist who works across a variety of media, Lin explains in her artist statement that she’s particularly focused on “how individuals define themselves amongst the effects of the outside world, vis-à-vis culture, politics, history, and the economy.” While this diptych—a flying saucer floating above a vintage car—acquired by a Taiwanese collector, may be less overtly political than some of her other work, its sale nonetheless reveals a growing appetite for her art.

Glenn Kaino, #4414 (Team Strength) (2021)

Sold for $1,000 by Pace Gallery

Glenn Kaino, Baton #4414 (Team Strength) , 2021. © 2021 Glenn Kaino Studio. Courtesy Pace Gallery.

Glenn Kaino has long integrated activist ideas and digital technology into his conceptual practice. For the NFT project “Pass the Baton,” he does both, teaming up with Olympic track and field star Tommie Smith, who became iconic in the fight for equality when he raised the Black power fist on the podium after winning gold and setting a world record in the 200m sprint in the 1968 Olympics.

Per Pace, these “NFTs facilitate a generative crypto-giving structure that directly funds social justice efforts and nonprofit organizations in the US,” using smart contracts to ensure that groups receive ongoing capital through the project. Not only does Kaino’s project illustrate yet another use case for NFTs, the sales at the fair also reveal that even at a particularly difficult financial point for NFTs (and crypto more broadly), there’s still an appetite for artists and projects pushing the bounds of the technology, and that they’re unlikely to disappear from the art world anytime soon.

More broadly, Kaino is having a moment, with shows at MASS MoCA and Pace’s 25th Street location in New York; a presentation by Superblue and The Atlantic in Los Angeles; and will be included in a forthcoming show at Los Angeles’s Japanese American National Museum.

Paintings by Natee Utarit and Wah Nu

Natee Utarit: Sold in the range of $100,000–160,000; Wah Nu: Sold in the range of $4,000–6,000, by Richard Koh Fine Art

Natee Utarit
Body and Soul, 2021
Richard Koh Fine Art
Wah Nu
Cloud and The Sea #021-123, 2020
Richard Koh Fine Art

East Asia has established beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s a leading region in the world of contemporary art. Powerhouse collectors from mainland China, the much-anticipated Frieze Seoul, and, yes, Art Basel in Hong Kong itself have cemented that legacy. But attention has recently been turning to points farther south. The sales from Richard Koh Fine Art—which has spaces in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Singapore—suggest that Southeast Asia will be a region to watch in the coming years, as new fairs open there, local galleries exhibit more widely, and talent from the area is brought to the attention of international collectors.

Case in point: the works from Thai artist Natee Utarit and Burmese artist Wah Nu. Utarit’s art borrows from Surrealist and Western traditions to deploy a postcolonial narrative, while Wah Nu’s cloud paintings are cotton-candy flavored bits of joy. While exhibitors from the region were scarce at this year’s fair, the strong showings from Koh and Gajah Gallery, another space from the region with locations in Singapore, Jakarta, and Yogyakarta, promise an exciting future.

Alec Egan, Fruit Bowl with Bird (2021)

Sold for $45,000 by Anat Ebgi

Alec Egan
Out Building, 2021
Anat Ebgi
Alec Egan
Bird on branch, 2022
Anat Ebgi

“‘Of course, we'd rather be there in person, but our presentation was especially fitting as a satellite booth this year,” Anat Ebgi, owner of the eponymous gallery Los Angeles wrote of Art Basel in Hong Kong. But despite having to conduct business remotely, her entire booth of Alec Egan’s colorful paintings sold.

The works—quiet interiors, flowers, birds—were part of the fair’s Discoveries section, which included 18 galleries this year and focuses on solo presentations of emerging artists. These sorts of fair sections remain an important discovery point for collectors, but most notable here is that a fully remote booth exhibiting an emerging artist is able to sell out. Part of this speaks to how enjoyable Egan’s paintings are—lush and colorful, imminently approachable—but it also indicates that even after so many OVRs and screen-mediated transactions during the COVID-19 pandemic, buyers are still happy to collect over the internet. While the in-person fair is certainly back, digital buying is also here to stay.

Yoshitomo Nara, Broken Heart Bench (New Castle Version) (2008)

Sold above $4 million by Kwai Fung Hin

Yoshitomo Nara is one of those artists whose imagery has become so widely popularized that even those uninterested in the art world will recognize the big-eyed, mischievous characters who populate his works. Such fame is unsurprisingly accompanied by high price tags—Nara became the most expensive Japanese artist with a HK$195.7 million ($25 million) Sotheby’s sale in 2019. What is surprising though, is that the seven-figure sale at Art Basel in Hong Kong from the Hong Kong–based Kwai Fung Hin isn’t what one might call a “classic” Nara.

The acrylic-on-wood piece (an atypical surface for the artist) was created as part of the “A-Z Project,” a collaboration with Japanese design group graf. It shows a black-and-white figure with a shaggy haircut sitting on a bench. In terms of both palette and style, the painting sits outside the heart of Nara’s most recognizable look, but it indicates that collectors remain willing to pay for big names, even after a whirlwind season of spring fairs and auctions, and even if the works they’re acquiring might not represent a particular artist’s most iconic style.

Brian P. Kelly