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‘New Ways of Seeing’: Art World Forum Hong Kong report 2017

‘New Ways of Seeing’: Art World Forum Hong Kong report 2017
April 20, 2017 Art World Forum
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A report highlighting a few key findings from the Art World Forum event, ‘New Ways of Seeing’, at the Liang Yi Museum.

To download the PDF report please click here.

The Art World Forum Hong Kong debut, ‘New Ways of Seeing’, held at the Liang Yi Museum on Friday 17th March welcomed an estimated 60 international guests from several countries including Singapore, Spain, Malaysia, Philippines, USA, and the UK. The proud sponsors of the event included insurance giant and major corporate art patron AXA Art, the bespoke antique furniture and collectibles private museum of Hollywood Road, Liang Yi Museum, and Newby Tea for their niche involvement in the arts and support. The event also welcomed Cobo Social, a leading platform for collectors in Asia, as the exclusive media partner.

The half-day agenda welcomed the expertise of ten art business guest speakers who shared their diverse experience and understanding of the art marketplace while bringing clarity to recent activity within the industry and contributing fresh thoughts on the shifts currently defining the international art market. The range of panels, interviews and our only presentation picked at hot debates, future predictions, emerging platforms, services and ideas. Despite the varying directions that conversations took, they all sought to address the digital paradigm, the global need for collectors and the massification process that the arts have adopted.  As stated by Dr Dominique Bouchard, Head of Education and Public Programs at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, “The market is healthier when there are more people in it.”

As predicted by the theme of the forum ‘New Ways of Seeing’, the day launched with rather opposing perspectives. While picking at the collaborative potential of the art market and its current business models, the tone of the conversation shifted as one side of the debate argued that quality control should be imposed and a certain level of criteria should be duly noted before artworks are highly prized, as opposed to art being available to all, with an open mind.

With an extensive art hype in circulation during the financial boom in the early 2000’s, art gained momentum and support in Singapore, Southeast Asia and greater Asia to include China. “There are private collectors, many of whom may be corrupt with less spending power these days, but regardless, you have to see how the political and geopolitical developments affect the art market in Asia and elsewhere” stated  Dr. Jolita Pons, Head of the Political, Press and Information section at the European Union Delegation of Hong Kong and Macao.

Despite the slowing economy and diverted route for art sales, the persistence for visual literacy and perhaps a visual dynasty, continues to encourage key players to stay informed and use the foundational market principles to their advantage. As well as the typical monetary value which the market dictates, institutional structures and evaluations are still trying to recover from the fetishising of the artist as a genius and instead, cope with change.

With significantly more private museums and an estimated 43,000 museums to be built in China in the next few years, the institutional wing of the market is in need of collectors. A converging rate and willingness of collectors to broaden the type of their collectibles, irrespective of genre or category, helps indicate that not only are initiatives taking flight more readily, but that information, and its availability online, is blurring boundaries.

Art World Forum-NewWaysOfSeeing report - IMGP0450 - ‘New Ways of Seeing’: Art World Forum Hong Kong report 2017

Natasha Kaye Whiffin, Asia-Pacific Business Development Director of Paddle8 mentions “by nature, technology makes trade faster. The way it may be disrupting galleries for instance is simply that they cannot keep up with the pace. It’s proven that we can acquire customers, we can build new audiences using technology, but what do we do next?”

As argued by most players in the arts, collectors are key in that they “take the risk and help to define taste and connoisseurship” mentioned Dr. Bouchard. With taste adopting universality online, initiatives being presented on the curatorial front, and testing grounds on the fraudulent activity, technology is a continuum of trends. The internet is broadening the audience for all parties whether it be supportive of conservatism or innovation.

But even with information at our fingertips, and transparency inherently encouraged online, reliable data which support due diligence is still hard to come by. Listing the art market as the second most unregulated market (after illicit drugs) with an estimated $10-20 billion a year in fraudulent activity out of the recently calculated $50 billion art market (published in the TEFAF report), Robert Norton, CEO and founder of Verisart, continues to add “I can’t think of any other market where the annual fraudulent activity, even at a conservative estimate, is 3x that of the online market. The market itself has inherent problems of trust.”

With trust embedded in interaction, technology broadens the art experience and is able to connect users. The question is not concerned with art and technology existing in opposition, or the digital replacing the physical. Much rather Jennifer Pratt, Gallery Partnerships Manager and Head of Asia and Oceania at Artsy mentions “the intention or the ambition is to commit yourself to something online you feel comfortable with whether it be an online purchase or simply cultivating the interest to see it in person. The user’s side is comfortable because it’s easy. The real question is how will galleries adapt and match this.”

With more being seemingly more, and predictions that the market will eventually reach a certain point of saturation, it is also helping shape public taste, whether it be online, in virtual situ or the physical space.