May 25, 2021
Unlike the 220 exhibitors of its 2019 edition, this year’s Art Basel in Hong Kong had 104 participating galleries; it shared its venue, the sprawling Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre, with the concurrent Art Central fair. Due to travel restrictions, fewer international collectors are in town, and most galleries without spaces in Hong Kong are participating via the fair's Online Viewing Rooms and satellite booths — less kindly described by some as zombie booths — attended by staff appointed by Art Basel. Despite these limitations, Hauser & Wirth's Iwan Wirth described an 'electric atmosphere' at the fair.
12 Hawks at 3 O’Clock was one of the star lots offered just three years ago in November 2018. . The piece last sold in November 2018, when Christie's auctioned it in New York for US$14.6 million, including the buyer's premium.
In an interview, Brett Gorvy, cofounder of Lévy Gorvy, said the decision to approach the American collector to consign the Mitchell painting for the Hong Kong fair, which had a $19.5 million asking price, was driven by bullish demand in the region for masterpiece-level paintings. To tap that excitement, the gallery has been mounting one-work exhibitions in cities like Hong Kong as part of a broader strategy to reel in potential buyers. “There’s a strong interest in Mitchell in Asia,” he said. “It is a territory where you’ve got incredibly hungry avid collectors, who have been collecting in other fields and now who have been moving very quickly into major Western art.”
Lévy Gorvy booth installation at Art Basel Hong Kong, May 2021. COURTESY LÉVY GORVY
David Zwirner's Leo Xu was more circumspect about the voltage of the fair's atmosphere, saying, 'there are certainly not as many visitors this year as before, but there was still a surging crowd on the first day.' He said this year's Art Basel in Hong Kong 'attracted many local collectors, whether they tend to collect contemporary, modern or traditional Chinese art.'
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