EVE SHARE BANGHART admits she didn’t really know what to expect when she decided to throw her lot in with the Hong Kong art scene six years ago.
Coming fresh from London’s Gagosian Gallery, Banghart arrived in the city with a sense of adventure – and she wasn’t disappointed. It has indeed been one wild ride ever since, as her work with Art HK and then with Art Basel has allowed her a front-row seat from which to witness Hong Kong’s emergence as a major player on the international art scene.
And there are plenty more surprises to come, says Banghart, as she prepares to unveil the inaugural Art Central event, on March 14 to 16.
HOW EARLY IN LIFE DO YOU THINK ART STARTED TO INFLUENCE YOU?
Growing up we had a lot of art around us. My mum owned an art gallery when I was little, so when we would travel as a family they would always drag us to the museums or galleries. I thought it was boring and horrible then, but actually some part of it sunk in.
WHEN DID YOU MAKE THE DECISION TO MAKE ART YOUR CAREER?
I went to a career services seminar when I was about to graduate from university and they did this fantasy exercise where we all went around the table and had to say, if we could do anything what would it be? I said I’d like to own a gallery. It just came out and I had never thought about it before. It surprised me as much as anyone and pretty quickly after that I decided to make it happen.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU REACT TO ART?
It’s that feeling you get when you see something that makes you say to yourself, “I never thought of that before.” It gives you a new lens, I think. My big “wow” art moment was walking into the Tate Modern and seeing the Olafur Eliasson installation in the Turbine Hall [The Weather Project]. I get goose bumps even thinking about that now. To think that something can have that kind of impression on someone – it made me feel that I just want to be involved in this, whatever “this” is.
DO YOU COLLECT YOURSELF?
Well, “collect” is a bit of an exaggeration but we do have a few pieces. I have a little Olafur Eliasson watercolour that is my prized possession. I bought it at the last Art HK and it’s there in my dining room.
SO HOW DID THE CONNECTION WITH HONG KONG COME ABOUT?
Family friends knew Magnus Renfrew and his wife Emma and I didn’t really know anyone when I moved here. I sent him an email and said, “Will you be my friend?” and he replied asking for my CV as they were hiring. That’s how it all started here for me.
HOW MUCH HAS THE ART SCENE IN HONG KONG CHANGED SINCE YOU ARRIVED?
It’s been incredible. In August it will be six years here and we’ve seen all these great galleries set up. They came to Art HK and saw what was going on and said to themselves, “We have to commit, not just come back once a year.”
There’s been exciting developments for Hong Kong artists too, like seeing Lee Kit at the Venice Biennale and Tsang Kin-wah coming up there. There’s also been developments in the not-forprofit side, such as the Asia Society, [and there’s] ground being broken at West Kowloon, and I feel really positive about that. And Hong Kong has been named the world’s third largest auction market in the world. It’s become this international arts hub for Asia and I’ve been able to witness that and it’s been amazing.
WHAT NICHE DOES ART CENTRAL FILL?
Having a world-class satellite art fair is something you see in art hubs around the world. Miami, Paris, London, New York. It’s just natural. Everybody is in town and all the attention from the art world is focused on the one place at the one time. For Hong Kong to now have its own world-class satellite event really elevates our Art Week too.
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT THE INAUGURAL STAGING OF THE EVENT?
What’s great about it is the complete picture, not just the content – which obviously we’re excited about. Sixty-five per cent of [exhibitors] are from Asia, with 19 from Hong Kong. So to put our local scene on the world stage is really exciting. There’s also being able to hold an event in a 100,000-square-foot tent on the Central Harbourfront in the heart of Hong Kong, [which] is just incredible. We haven’t had anything like that before.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE SEMINARS YOU HAVE PLANNED?
The Asia Society are our official education partner and they’re putting together a series of panel discussions. The one I can share details about is Contemporary Ink, which will be hosted by Beijingbased curator Tiffany Beres, who will lead a panel discussion with three ink artists. It’s about the tradition and history of ink art and how that applies to them and how they work now.
WHY INK ART?
The seminar is really in response to the market. There really is a lot going on in ink art. So we thought to have an expert in and explain how it is more than ink on paper, it’s a tradition and a philosophy of life, and it’s an art that’s been extended to photographers and sculpture. So there will be a lot of focus on that.
ARE BUYERS IN HONG KONG DIFFERENT THAN IN OTHER MARKETS?
There are trends, definitely. Ink art is one. There have been four or five shows dedicated to ink and also museum attention on ink. There was a big show at the Met about ink and a big show at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. That coincided with an ink artist reaching US$1 million. So the market is interested, there is interest in the curatorial side, so that means collectors are interested. So we’re excited to be looking at that. Southeast Asian art is another one.