Q&A with Mark Sanderson, Director of Asia Contemporary Art Show

By Lau  /  March 22, 2016

It’s fair to say Mark Sanderson knows a thing or two about the art of buying, well, art. As the co-founder and director of Asia Contemporary Art Show, Sanderson has spent over 30 years in Asia. A long-time passionate art collector, he co-founded Fabrik Gallery in 2007 and was a founding board member of the Hong Kong Art Gallery Association.

Between meetings, conferences and exhibitions, he had a chat with ButterBoom about his personal art collection and offer up some handy tips for first-time art buyers. 

Click here to win tickets to the Asia Contemporary Art Show

How did the Asia Contemporary Art Show come about? 
Asia Contemporary Art Show is the longest running fair in Hong Kong. Many of the artists presented at the Show have not been seen in Asia before. When compared to the high-price of premium works of headline artists at Art Basel Hong Kong and newcomer Art Central, the price tags at the Asia Contemporary Art Show are more accessible to the younger collector. We are a market-maker and show up-coming artists from Asia.

Our venue at the Conrad Hong Kong, where artwork is placed in the hotel rooms set against the mountain views of Hong Kong Island, shows how the art pieces will look like in peoples’ homes. This will be our best show ever and the most diverse; we have been working for 12 months to identify some of the brightest young and mid-career talent from the world over.

Mark Sanderson_butterboom

What is the selection criteria for artists and galleries wanting to participate in the Asia Contemporary Show?
For a typical show, we receive applications that are appraised by our selection committee. We also actively reach out interesting and most promising artists from around the world, and invite them to participate. We look at the track record of the artist, their technical skill and, importantly, sustainability, to make sure we have a balance of art that is interesting and also will appeal to first-time buyers as well as seasoned art collectors. Each show is better than the last, and we are especially pleased with the line-up of artists at the show opening March 24.

Read more: the must-visit galleries in Hong Kong.

There seem to be a lot of Korean artists at Asia Contemporary Show, why is that?
Along with Japan and China, Korea enjoys a special place in Asia’s arts history. While a closed market largely until the early eighties, Korea’s national identity has always largely comprised of art. At each edition of the Asia Contemporary Show we regularly feature around 45 Korean artists. Their works usually represent value in that its well priced, from the standpoint of artist career experience, technical skill and their representation by established galleries.

wessel_huisan_butterboomBeginning of March 1963, on a Saturday afternoon by Wessel Huisman, 2016

Which artists you are most excited about in the coming Asia Contemporary Art Show?

  • Hiroyuki Takahashi (Japan), an artist from Mood Shōjo, an art movement from the ’90s and now popular in Asia. Using the Superflat style developed by Murakami and Yoshimoto, Takahashi focuses on females with frozen images and digitalized girls in an urban context
  • Wessel Huisman (Netherlands) is fascinated by the use of light. The artist uses ‘light memories’ to create a sense of space. Known for using mostly black and white to create layer upon layer of shades of grey, Huisman has recently incorporated blue and red shades to specify the “mood” of the light.
  • Stephen Glassburow (Australia), a British-born and now Australian resident sculptor, ideas spring from photographic imagery, fashion and robotics. In his work, Glassborow relies on anatomical observation and manages to temper his respect for figurative precision with a refined elegance and beauty.
  • Mario Gomez (Chile), his works are held in many museum collections across the globe and his vibrant paintings beckon the viewers to reimagine their own childhood, breathing life and joy. 
  • Koso Sato (Japan) works range from his early impressionistic and expressionistic styles to neo-cubist and abstract pieces, and has had a considerable influence on the younger generation of artists in Taiwan. 
  • Yang Yanling (China) currently lives and works in Beijing and specialises in a delicate style of flower paintings. 
  • Minnie Pwerle’s (Australia) is an artist of undeniable significance to the Aboriginal art movement. She began painting on canvas late in life, lasting from 1999 until her death in 2006 and is one of Australia’s top 50 most collectible artists. 
  • Jeff Murray (United Kingdom) draws detailed images that reflect his favourite cities and countries around the world, inspired by his constant travel. 

mario gomez_butterboomFootprint of Memory by Mario Gomez, 2014 

Five of the most promising emerging Asian artists to collect (with works under HKD$20,000)?
As an art fair organiser it is important we present career artists as buyers and collectors are becoming more discerning in Hong Kong often looking for art pieces that will go up in value. Typically works under HK$20,000 are more decorative, with a high level of output, but little chance of appreciating in value. The focus of the Asia Contemporary Art Show is in the HK$35,000 to 150,000 range. We generally offer art works by more established artists whose works are already at a higher price point. This works well for the art collector who has an expectation for value and who come to the show to discover artists ahead of others.

Which art publications do you read to keep up to date with the industry?
For collectors who shop at auctions, sites such as Artnet, Artprice and Mutualart offer good arts pricing databases. Whereas if you are looking for industry news, The Art Newspaper, Blouin Artinfo, Artsy and newcomer Ocula all offer perspective, with numerous other specialist websites.

Can you tell us a little about your own personal art collection?
The first painting I have ever collected is a piece by Andy Warhol’s, the piece is called Mobil Gas. I had my own 15 minutes of fame meeting Warhol back in 1983 here in Hong Kong, we chatted and I was awestruck by his artistic view and take on life. Recently, I just finished cataloging the works I have collected over the years. A favourite is a recent Chapman Brothers work, and I was an early supporter of local artist Simon Birch. I am drawn to art out of interest, for what I see and the artist sees – there’s often a fascinating narrative that adds to the pleasure of patronage and ownership.

Awelye Atnwengerp by Minnie Pwerle_butterboomAwelye Atnwengerp by Minnie Pwerle, 2005

What should someone who is interested to collect art look for if they are looking to buy contemporary art that will appreciate in value not just to put their home? 
Don’t take things at face value, remember the gallery exists to sell you something, so arm yourself with questions about artist career and experience.  Here are 10 simple questions to ask when you are buying art at the art fairs this week:

  • What’s the background of the artist?
  • What’s the focus of the artist’s work, how has it evolved?
  • How well are the thoughts behind the works communicated?
  • Are the ideas visually appealing and broadly interesting?
  • What is the artist’s exhibiting experience?
  • Has the artist been shown at art fairs and biennales?
  • Is there any critical writing or reviews about the work?
  • Who collects the artist’s work?
  • Is there currently a secondary market?
  • Is there public pricing?

What are some of the undiscovered places to find contemporary art talents in Hong Kong?
Our own arts website Asia Contemporary Art Buyer is one of the largest in Asia featuring almost 10,000 works from several hundred artists and is a good starting point to discover new and up-and-coming artists.

And finally, the top cities in Asia to visit for lovers of art ?
There are two principal art hubs in Asia where local and international collectors attend – Hong Kong and Singapore. Both host art weeks, with Singapore kicking off the Asian arts calendar each January. Singapore in particular is expanding its national arts and culture program, which now includes the largest contemporary art museum in the region, the National Gallery Singapore.

Hong Kong will of course with the opening of M+ in the Kowloon Cultural District is not far behind. Art fairs are the primary drivers of the art market in Asia . Bricks and mortar galleries are compelled to evolve to stay relevant alongside art fairs to create a broader and more inclusive market for art. Certainly the market in Asia is younger than Europe and the US, but the arts hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore are claiming an increasingly important share of attention on the international arts scene.

The region has seen well-documented wealth creation with a growing middle class. The inflated price of Chinese contemporary has cooled, and collectors are looking beyond the big names and Chinese art. Hong Kong and Singapore were arts backwaters a generation ago, the future belongs to Asia and these factors are the critical drivers that will make Hong Kong and Singapore art hubs in Asia, alongside the established art centres like New York, Miami, London and Basel.



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