The Asia Contemporary Art Show (ACAS) brings artists and galleries from all over the world to Hong Kong each year. With the twelfth edition taking place in March, we sat down with founder and director Mark Saunderson to learn more about the show, and how it all comes together.
About Asia Contemporary Art Show
Behind the Asia Contemporary Art Show are three art enthusiasts with more than 25 years’ experience in the region – Mark Saunderson, Douwe Cramer and Sarah Benecke – who consider the interest of artists, galleries and buyers are best served by providing vibrant fairs and online content that stimulate discovery, exploration and conversations about art. The Asia Contemporary Art Show is Hong Kong’s only art fair that takes place twice a year.
How far in advance do you start planning each show?
The Asia Contemporary Art Show is a twice-yearly event, and we start planning for the next show as soon as the current one closes. Of course, the show goes on throughout the year on our website, the Asia Contemporary Art Buyer (asiacontemporaryart.com), where our exhibitors and artists get to display their works to potential buyers all year round.
Where did the idea come from to run the show in a hotel?
It’s a unique concept! We’re a pioneer in the hotel art-fair format in Asia. We’ve been doing this for 11 editions and counting, and there is an appeal to the format that resonates with many people – an intimacy that just doesn’t occur in large exhibition halls.
The show is held across four floors of the Conrad Hong Kong in Admiralty. A series of 80 art living spaces provide an intimate setting for viewing a broad selection of artwork, much as you would see art displayed in a new home or office setting. This engaging environment sets us apart from other fairs during Hong Kong Art Week each spring. There’s a relaxing ambience that facilitates sales, dialogue and exchange between galleries and artists, and collectors and art buyers.
In generous 42-square-metre spaces, paintings, limited editions, sculpture, photography and other objects are creatively curated, sometimes neatly spread across a bed or cleverly hung in strategic locations. Many galleries and artists create special exhibits that extend to bathrooms, using the particular light, mirrors and tiled surfaces to imbue a new feel and character to the artwork.
We actively encourage buyer and seller to strike up conversation over a glass of wine or cocktail, with the uneasy and sometimes intimidating gallery experience a memory, replaced by a welcome from the gallery owner or artist. Better still for buyers, exhibitors at the show can price works favourably given the lower costs of exhibiting in a hotel than a big exhibition centre. The format follows in the tradition of other successful hotel art fairs in major art hubs across the world.
How many exhibitors and galleries return to the fair each year?
About half of the galleries and artists attending our shows are returning; the remainder will be new to the show, and some will be exhibiting in Hong Kong for the very first time.
How do you find new exhibitors?
We seek out up-and-coming and emerging artists, mid-career artists, and those who have already achieved recognition in private and public collections, and at auction. Applications for each show are appraised by a selection committee, who decide on the 300 artists, more or less, that end up appearing. But it’s more layered than this; about half the exhibitors are returnees, having participated in previous shows. Of course, that’s a feather in our cap because we understand that these exhibitors trust us, enjoy the experience and find success in selling their works.
Additionally, there are exhibitors who, thanks to our publicity efforts, agree to sign on to upcoming shows. Again, we must be doing something right! Finally, there are other efforts where we reach out directly to international and local galleries and artists. This requires not only lots of travel, but also a good understanding of the Asian art market – to introduce artworks that will be appealing to art buyers here in Asia.
What can we expect to see at the show in March?
The Spring Edition will feature two exciting sections: “Intersections: China” and “Artist Dialogues”. Intersections is a returning series that focuses on the conceptual crossing of artistic ideas between past and present, traditional and modern, and East and West; the spotlight this time is on China and Chinese artists. Visitors will see artists as diverse as Wang Shuhui, who has turned dumplings into sculpture, and Ding Wenqing, a painter whose goal is to change the way Chinese landscapes are perceived.
Unique to ACAS is Artist Dialogues, an entire floor dedicated to artists exhibiting in a solo or joint presentation. This sector allows visitors to interact directly with artists in an intimate environment, and allows artists to articulate their inspirations and artistic practice, transforming their exhibits into a seeing and learning experience.
Did You Know?
- Each twice-yearly Asia Contemporary Art Show is limited to 80 exhibiting galleries. The artists represented come from over 20 countries.
- Over 2,500 artworks from Asia and the world are exhibited, including original paintings, limited editions, sculpture and photography from some of the world’s most interesting and promising artists.
- With more than 12,000 artworks from over 1,600 artists hailing from 60-plus countries, the Asia Contemporary Art Buyer is Asia’s leading art website (asiacontemporaryart.com).
Asia Contemporary Art Show (Spring Edition 2018) 23 to 26 March, Conrad Hong Kong 2-for-1 tickets now available at asiacontemporaryart.com/tickets
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This article first appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.