The organizer of the prestigious art fairs Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach has signed an agreement to purchase a majority share in the Hong Kong International Art Fair – a move that many observers say points to Asia’s growing role in the international art world. The Switzerland-based MCH Group is buying a 60% share of Asian Art Fairs Ltd., the group behind the four-year-old Hong Kong fair, also known as Art HK. MCH has the option of acquiring the remaining 40% of the shares in Asian Art Fairs in 2014. The value of the deal wasn’t disclosed.
Art HK will keep its name for the moment. But there is one big change: Next year, the fair will take place Feb. 2-5, a date that gives it more breathing space between the two Basel fairs, but could cause some havoc in the Asian art schedule. Art HK usually occurs in May — this year, for instance, it will take place May 26-29. Art Basel happens in Switzerland in mid-June, while the Miami Beach incarnation takes place in Florida in early December. “It certainly means a more convenient time on the international art calendar for major galleries. Art HK’s proximity to Art Basel and the Venice Biennale opening [in early June] has been something people have been conscious about,” says Magnus Renfrew, Art HK director.
The new 2012 schedule, however, puts the Hong Kong fair just two weeks after Art Stage Singapore (which will happen Jan. 12-15 next year) and Chinese New Year (Jan 23), a long holiday in Asia. There’s also the India Art Fair, scheduled for Jan. 25-29 in New Delhi. “There is never a clear moment on the international calendar though because there is always something going on,” says Mr. Renfrew, who will stay on to run next year’s fair. “But we think February will be a very good time for major galleries, and we’ve had positive feedback from them and Asian galleries.” The February date also separates Art HK from the dozen or so spring auctions that have become a highlight in the Asian art business world and a magnet for collectors from all over.