Why London’s Simon Lee Gallery is at Home in Hong Kong

In 2002, Australian gallerist Simon Lee opened his eponymous space in a former car showroom in London—a decade later, he’s built a roster of A-list artists including George Condo, Christopher Wool, and Hans-Peter Feldmann, and expanded his operations to include outposts in New York City and Hong Kong. The latter move was sparked when Katherine Schaefer, who he worked closely with at his London gallery, moved to the Chinese city. This relocation proved especially timely as Schaefer found herself in the midst of a burgeoning art scene; she soon spearheaded the gallery’s expansion to Asia as director of Simon Lee in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong has always straddled the East and West,” Schaefer told Artsy. “For our gallery, it is a wonderful platform and channel to the greater Asian region where we have seen growth in many markets.” Her sentiment is not alone: the gallery’s Hong Kong location shares real estate with galleries including Gagosian, Pearl Lam, Lehmann Maupin, and Ben Brown Fine Arts in the city’s iconic Pedder Building. Although the neo-classical dwelling has been around for 90-plus years, only recently—as an exodus of galleries expand into the East—has it blossomed as an arts hub and pied-à-terre to some of the world’s top dealers.

Last May, the art world took note when the celebrated Swiss art fair Art Basel found its third market in the Far East, re-branding Hong Kong’s existing international fair, Art HK. It became clear that Hong Kong had developed a commercial art scene to watch (though it’s worth noting that Simon Lee, in the company of London’s White Cube and Paris’s Galerie Perrotin, had made their move the year before). “There’s an increase in the number of art galleries focusing on contemporary art, and greater initiatives to promote artists at a globally visible level,” Schaefer says. “It is an exciting time as the city continues to re-define its identity as an art destination.”

For the second iteration of Art Basel in Hong Kong, the gallery will bring a selection of works Schaefer says are meant to show the diversity of its program while drawing connections within it. Side-by-side, you’ll find the art history-meets-pop culture paintings by British artist Dexter Dalwood, a work from Arte Povera stalwart Michelangelo Pistoletto’s best known “mirror painting” series, and a metal cabinet from Norwegian artist Matias Faldbakken

And for those in town for the fair, Schaefer offers tips on local haunts not to be missed:

- dragon-i: a hip nightclub by night that has a delicious spread and array of dim sum for 200HKD all you can eat during the day.

- China Club: a beautiful, retro-chic member’s club with Art Deco furnishings and Chinese modern art. It serves some of the best Hong Kong Chinese food.

- Ping Pong: my friend’s great bar which is an old ping pong training studio and is decorated with contemporary works from his collection.

- Duddell’s is always great for an after-work drink and dinner. 

- Para Site is a nonprofit space in Sheung Wan. 

Tazmania Ballroom: is always fun and a popular spot for after-parties.

- Police Married Quarters (PMQ): a number of amazing little shops showcasing local design and cool art. Includes Alan Lo’s new Jason Atherton restaurant, Aberdeen Street Social.

Visit Simon Lee Gallery at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2014, Galleries, Booth 1D38, May 15th – 18th.

Explore Art Basel in Hong Kong on Artsy.