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Sassy’s Guide to Art Basel Hong Kong: How to see 2,000 artists in one day!

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The Affordable Art Fair. The Asia Contemporary Art Show. Fine Art Asia. Never has the art world been more fair-driven than it is today, nor has the prospect of keeping them all straight been more frightful. But before you wash your hands of the entire enterprise, consider this: in its 44th year, Art Basel is the grand dame of art fairs, a venerable powerhouse fair now hosted in what is arguably the most dynamic art scene on the globe, our very own Hong Kong.

Sure, it includes more than 35,000 square metres of exhibition space and yes, you’ll be contending with crowds numbering in the tens of thousands. But don’t be intimidated: Art Basel in Hong Kong isn’t just for deep-pocketed fine art aficionados trolling booths for big-ticket masterpieces. It’s also an opportunity for Hong Kongers to see and support all that our vibrant arts scene has to offer.

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No fewer than 125 galleries from Asia and Asia-Pacific have beat out fierce competition to earn booths at the fair alongside more than 100 others from around the globe. The rest of the gang will be there, too: Asia Art Archive (AAA), the Asia Society, Para/Site Art Space, Spring Workshop, and even museums-to-be like M+ (Hong Kong’s future museum for visual culture) are all participating.

Aside from picking up your ticket, there’s no requirement that you open your wallet; and we promise, you won’t be quizzed afterwards. Simply put, you have no excuse to be anywhere else next weekend.

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App-ly yourself
The My Art Guide Hong Kong smart phone app includes a 3D floor plan as well as tools to identify favourite galleries and works of art, access gallery contact information, locate the nearest bar, bathroom, and more. No brainer.

Travel Light
That gorgeous new oversize satchel you picked up last month? Leave it at home: bags larger than 30 x 30 cm are required to be checked, and the line can be lengthy. And don’t think about bringing Fido, either – no pets allowed.

Verni-what?
If splashy opening night festivity is your cup of tea – or, rather, your flute of champagne – pick up a ticket to the Vernissage, the preview party on Wednesday 14 May. Why not swill some bubbly while catching an early glimpse of what’s on offer this year? You always were a multi-tasker! 

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Bigger is better
You can’t miss “Encounters”, the large-scale sculptural and installation pieces organised by returning star Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. Really, you can’t miss it: these buzzed-about works are up to 9 metres in height and 60 metres square, situated at the public entrances on both levels. They’re also interactive: at Chinese artist Sun Xun’s faux immigration office, you can apply for entry to the imaginary nation of Jing Bang. Or show off your ping-pong skills at Singaporean artist Lee Wen’s ‘Ping Pong Go-Round’ ring-shaped table (see all works here).

Discover emerging talent
Ready to ditch A-list artists in favour of rising stars? Head to “Discoveries” on the rear wall of Level 1, where 27 galleries will dedicate their booths to just one or two emerging talents – the luckiest of whom will win the USD$25,000 Discoveries Prize. Root on underdogs like James Capper (Hannah Barry Gallery) and his four-legged walking machine, or Qingtai Hu, who will use the 55 gallery (Shanghai) booth as a working studio.

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Insights for sore eyes
Show some love for your local gallery at the “Insights” section of the fair, featuring 47 Asia and Asia Pacific-based galleries. You’ll find them prominently featured in the centre of both levels, showcasing both solo and group exhibitions of artists from Australia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Iraq, Mainland China, New Zealand, and more. Keep eyes peeled for the highly-anticipated presentation of ink artists – in particular, Galerie du Monde’s solo exhibition of Liu Kuo-Sung (a Chinese artist based in Shanghai and Taiwan) and Hong Kong’s own Galerie Ora-Ora solo show of Chinese artist Peng Wei.

Calling all film buffs
For the first time, Art Basel in Hong Kong will feature a Film sector, hosted in collaboration with the Hong Kong Arts Centre. Catch one of several films on offer at the twice-daily screenings at the agnès b. CINEMA.

Hand over the reins
Don’t have the energy to plot your course? Hong Kong’s very own contemporary art space Para/Site will offer daily official guided tours in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. Contact jims@para-site.org.hk or visit the Para Site show booth to sign up.

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The fair from afar
If a trip to the HKCEC isn’t in the cards, you can still get in on the Art Basel fun. Head over to the Mandarin Oriental – Official Hotel Partner – where you can sample the scrumptious art-inspired menu in the Mandarin Grill + Bar through 18 May, or sip an arty fair-inspired cocktail at M Bar. Or, use your smart phone to participate in Berlin-based artist Carsten Nicolai’s light installation, “α (alpha) pulse”. Download the eponymous app to influence the installation’s flashes across the façade of the International Commerce Centre (ICC) each night of the fair. Now you, too, are an artiste!

All the details…

When: 14-18 May, 2014. Vernissage on Wednesday 14 May, 5-9pm. See all opening times here!
Where: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC)
How much: Vernissage Ticket – $850, One Day Ticket – $300, One Weekday Ticket -$250, One Weekend Day Ticket – $300, Two Weekday Tickets – $450, Two Weekend Day Tickets – $550, Four Day Tickets – $750, concessions apply for all.

Art Basel is open to the public and, as a visitor, you do not need to register beforehand. Tickets can be purchased at the show venues, or in advance through hkticketing.com, 31 288 288.

www.artbasel.com/en/hong-kong

Siobhan is an art/design/travel/book lover recently relocated from New York City. Follow her on Instagram @siobhanbent.

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