In a move that could boost South Florida’s reach in the international art world, the company that owns Art Basel Miami Beach is expanding into Asia.
Soon, there will not only be Art Basel Switzerland and Art Basel Miami Beach, but also Art Basel Hong Kong -- an addition that was welcomed warmly in Miami’s art scene.
MCH Swiss Exhibition (Basel) Ltd., which owns and organizes the Basel fairs, announced Friday it has signed a purchase agreement with Asian Art Fairs Ltd, the owners of ART HK – Hong Kong International Art Fair, the leading art fair in Asia since 2008.
The MCH Group will take a majority ownership stake in Asian Art Fairs Ltd. as of July 1. But the name change will wait awhile.
The Hong Kong show will retain its current name for 2012, but will move from its current late-May time slot to early February, staggering the show between Art Basel’s June fair in Switzerland and its December show in Miami Beach.
In future years, organizers plan to rebrand the Asian show with the Art Basel name. The Basel Switzerland show, dubbed “Basel, Basel” by locals, is considered the largest and most prestigious contemporary art fair in the world.
In an interview with The Miami Herald, co-directors Annette Schönholzer and Marc Spiegler stressed that the Basel presence in Hong Kong was an expansion and that Art Basel planned to stay in Miami Beach.
“We are totally committed to Art Basel Miami Beach,” Schönholzer said. “If anything, we are hoping that the Art Basel brand would strengthen and that we would see more people coming to Miami Beach to see the fair.”
Art Basel organizers have been attentive to the exploding Asian art market for more than 10 years, and have been engaging Asian collectors, galleries and artists, often times bringing them to Art Basel Miami Beach with success.
Fair directors and the selection committees have been traveling frequently to explore the diverse Asian art scenes, including China’s explosive role in the world economy.
South Florida art dealers with connections to Basel celebrated the expansion. The Hong Kong show is likely to open new market doors for artists and art dealers in terms of sales and exposure, they said.
“It’s a brilliant move because the Asian market has been gaining importance and sales volume gigantically in the last few years,” said Ramon Cernuda, whose Coral Gables-based Cernuda Arte first exhibited last December at Art Basel Miami Beach and sold a $3 million Wifredo Lam painting, among other Cuban works. “The Basel presence in the Asian market is really going to take the brand further.”
He added: “We live in a very interconnected art world, and this is going to be good not only for the Basel the brand, but the other European and North American Basels. The clientele that identifies with a Basel venue in a way becomes familiarized with the Basel organization, which is in a class all by itself from other fair companies in terms of the level of organization.”
“It’s a great thing,” said Miami art dealer Fredric Snitzer, whose Wynwood gallery is the only one to have exhibited in Art Basel Miami Beach every year. “Miami gains all the time by our affiliations outside of here.”
Coincidentally, Snitzer said, he is participating this year for the first time in the Hong Kong International Art Fair. His booth will feature a solo show by Miami-based Cuban artist Jose Bedia, who won first prize in the Beijing Biennial last fall. He also plans to sell works by other prominent Miami artists such as Hernan Bas.
“We heard the buzz that this was good fair,” Snitzer said of ART HK . “We thought about going to Hong Kong in September and we applied in October, but we didn’t know anything about this (the Basel takeover),” Snitzer said. “We just knew this would be becoming an interesting fair.”