"The American market loves Condo, and I think the Asian market follows it closely,” said Paul de Froment, the director of Almine Rech’s New York outpost. “Condo can often be sexy, he works form and color in depth and I believe the Asian market likes figurative works. It also has a Picasso connection which Asian collectors appreciate. So it’s the perfect storm, in a way.
The result should reassure the gallery’s owner, Almine Ruiz-Picasso, of her decision to open her first space in Asia, a gallery in Shanghai that will begin hosting exhibitions this year.
“We’ve been actively developing the market for many years, and we felt we needed to get closer—not just sending PDFs or doing fairs and seeing [collectors] for a few times a year, that’s not enough,” said Damien Zhang, a director at Almine Rech who will be doing Shanghai recon for the gallery. “Shanghai is more like an art ecosystem, while Hong Kong, until now, we still feel it’s just the market.”
Almine Rech is just the most recent multinational gallery to expand beyond Europe and America to plant a flag in China. Lisson Gallery opened a space
last week in Shanghai, and on Monday, Lévy Gorvy opened
a space in Hong Kong, its third after New York and London. Those openings follow on the heels of Pace and Hauser & Wirth, which are among the galleries that took up spaces last year in H Queen’s, a high-rise building in the city’s Central District custom-built to host galleries. A year in, such decisions seem like smart bets. Pace sold all of the works in its
show at H Queen’s in the first day, mostly to Asian collectors, at prices between $300,000 and $650,000. Hauser & Wirth’s
exhibition sold out, with prices as high as $4 million (well above most of the work in its fair booth).
“So we do a Bourgeois show, which I thought would be reputationally important—because it’s so on that museum level—but commercially difficult,” Payot, the Hauser & Wirth partner, said. “And we sold everything, a big part of it to this region.”
Successful gallery shows point to a future Hong Kong that could have a true art ecosystem in place, where year-round programming at the spaces will have a dialogue with exhibitions at new institutions—like the recently opened Tai Kwun and the years-in-the-making M+—to create a real cultural economy. Philip Tinari, the director of Beijing’s Ullens Center for Contemporary Art
—which was founded in 2007 by the Belgian collector Guy Ullens—has become not only one of the region’s most prominent museum directors, but also an astute outside observer of the Chinese market’s evolution. He said that in the past three years, there’s been a “really serious uptick” in the status of Art Basel in Hong Kong.