Art Basel Expands its Global Reach with Purchase of ART HK

Art Basel Expands its Global Reach with Purchase of ART HK
MCH Swiss Exhibition, the owner of Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach, has just signed an agreement with Asian Art Fairs to purchase a majority stake in the Hong Kong fair ART HK. Art Basel, which has already been developing relationships with Asian dealers and collectors, now gains a solid foothold in the Asian market with this acquisition, which will go into effect July 1.

The fourth edition of ART HK takes place this month between May 26-29, but in 2012 the fair will shift seasons to occur between February 2-5. The 2012 edition will retain the ART HK name, with Magnus Renfrew staying on as director, but "the mid-term goal is to convert ART HK to the Art Basel brand as the third platform for our leading international art shows," Art Basel directors Annette Schönholzer and Marc Spiegler said in a statement.

One of the longest-running art fairs, Art Basel was established in 1970, with Art Basel Miami Beach following in 2002. With the addition of ART HK to its stable of fairs, Art Basel will have an international reach that surpasses that of any other fair. The Chicago-based Merchandise Mart owns and produces several fairs (the Armory Show, Art Chicago, NEXT, Volta, the Toronto International Art Fair, and Art Platform - Los Angeles, which will debut in October), but they all take place in North America, with the exception of Volta, which has both a Basel and a New York edition. Art Basel will now cater to markets all over the globe, dotting collectors' calendars with Art Basel Miami Beach in December, ART HK in February, and Art Basel in June.

Under the leadership of founding director Magnus Renfrew, Art HK has quickly established itself as a force to be reckoned with, adding such high-powered galleries last year as Pace Beijing, Lehmann Maupin, and Sperone Westwater to a roster that already included Gagosian Gallery, White Cube, Lisson Gallery, Hauser & Wirth, and Blum & Poe. While mainland China taxes imported art at a whopping 34 percent, Hong Kong offers collectors the advantage of no sales tax whatsoever. The coastal city has attracted a growing number of galleries as well, including Larry Gagosian, who launched his new gallery there in January with a Damien Hirst show.