Finding value in Hong Kong art

Overshadowed in the past decade by the extraordinary rise in prices for certain contemporary Chinese paintings, Hong Kong’s small but active group of young artists have been more or less ignored by big collectors, auction houses, art institutions, commercial galleries and the public.
Blue Rocket by Tsang Kin Wah
Blue Rocket by Tsang Kin Wah

Overshadowed in the past decade by the extraordinary rise in prices for certain contemporary Chinese paintings, Hong Kong’s small but active group of young artists have been more or less ignored by big collectors, auction houses, art institutions, commercial galleries and the public.

“It takes a different kind of collector to buy artworks from Hong Kong artists,” said William Lim, managing director of CL3 Architects. “Several years ago, I really felt that Hong Kong artists needed support. These artists are humble but very talented and someone needed to save the artworks, as the local museums were not collecting them.”

Highly individual, idealistic, humorously wry and exceptionally talented, Hong Kong’s young artists document the times we live in, according to Lim. However, by creating large-scale installations, presenting one-time performances, shooting videos or setting up works in public spaces, Hong Kong’s artists’ works are not easy to collect.

Besides being an artist himself, Lim is also the co-chairman of Para/Site, a non-profit art space in Hong Kong. In addition, he serves on the Asia-Pacific Acquisition Committee for the Tate Museum in London.

His private art collection, which he opened to the public during the inaugural Art Basel Hong Kong 2013 art fair, is now considered one of the city’s cultural highlights, showcasing many local artists in his Aberdeen studio.

Lim launched his new book, No Colors: Living Collection in Hong Kong, at the Hong Kong Arts Centre on May 17 during the second iteration of Art Basel Hong Kong.

“The label ‘No Colors’ is by no means a belittling term,” he said. “I want to define this spirit that these artists have: to pursue one’s belief against the odds, to find their way of artistic expression that expresses our moment.”

Perhaps incidentally, the book also gives Hong Kong and other serious collectors of contemporary art an intelligent guide for those seeking works beyond the marquee names from China.

“Art that is acquired with only appreciation in price in mind might as well be buying a piece of property,” said Lim. “Hong Kong art is not from a production line, like Chinese art has become. It’s unique and takes time to mature. The artists are not working for the money but for themselves, so they are more creative, not repetitive.” 

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