Discover Hong Kong's newest contemporary art fair – Art Central
Tim Etchells launches Art Central in a bid to cement Hong Kong as a leading player in the international art scene. The new art fair is set to open in Hong Kong tomorrow, just one day before the pre-established Art Basel fair, which opens on Saturday.
The plot thickens, as Etchells, who launched Hong Kong's first art fair – Art HK – in 2008, has already established a successful art fair, Hong Kong's first, which was subsequently sold to Art Basel for a tidy profit (although the exact figures remain undisclosed.) Art Basel is widely considered to be the biggest contemporary art fair in the world with annual gatherings in Basel, Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Art Basel had been looking for a break in the Asian market when they bought up Etchells' Art HK and absorbed it into their brand.
However, the new Art Central is not attempting to rival the bigger fair, insists Etchells. In fact, he asserts that relationships are quite amicable. When he sold Art HK to Art Basel's parent company, MCH, he ensured that there was an agreement to allow him to set up a satellite fair which he says is "compatible, not competitive."
Etchells left school at the young age of 16, and after managing to work his way up a prolific career that began in sales, he then set up his own outfit in events, staging a string of renowned successes such as BBC's Good Food Show (where he is credited as putting a young 'Naked Chef' Jamie Oliver on stage for the first time,) he is also in charge of overseeing British Fashion Week.
He will be the first to admit that he came to the art world late in life, having only really entered the arena at the age of 50. But he refutes suggestions from others in the industry that he is merely a money man, saying: "I may not have had so much direct involvement in the art world as Matthew Slotover (co-founder of the Frieze Art Fair) or Marc Spiegler (director of Art Basel), but I do go to fairs and I buy art. I have works by Peter Blake, Damien Hirst and Andy Warhol as well as several lesser known artists in my collection."
Art Central is set to feature 77 galleries, with a landslide majority of them coming from the Asian continent and many are home grown galleries from Hong Kong itself. Something that sets is apart form Art Basel Hong Kong, which has a far greater western contribution. Although Western galleries will feature, such as Fine Art Society from London and Edinburgh, which this year will be showing work from the artists credited with designing Alexander McQueen's iconic floral skull motif – Jacky Tsai.
Etchells knows the recipe for success and is confident he has every base covered from catering (Swire Hotel's restaurant) to space and location, a 10,000 square meter exhibition fair space which will be quite sufficient. And of course, he has every confidence that Hong Kong is the place to be, with a rapidly growing gallery market and new funding for a contemporary art museum, the city is demonstrating a huge appetite for contemporary art.
"We will lose money to begin with - about half a million dollars in year one, as it takes time to bring sponsors in and to build up ticket sales for a new event," says Etchells. "We don't expect to make a profit until year three, and then it will be re-invested into the fair, as is happening with Art15 (his third year London Olympia art fair)."