Art Basel Director Marc Spiegler said in a phone interview today that despite the impending departure of Art Basel’s Director Asia, Magnus Renfrew (who started the fair as Art HK in 2008), Art Basel Hong Kong attendees can expect better editions, if only due to its new March dates.
In recent years, the fair’s May dates made it tricky for dealers who wanted to be at the New York auctions, Frieze New York or the Venice Biennale, to say nothing of Hong Kong’s brutal weather at that time, he said. “We just closed applications for next year,” he said. “And we had many new galleries who have never done the show before, or who did it once or twice in the early years and are now doing it again, because we have the March dates.”
As for Renfrew’s replacement, Spiegler said that instead of looking for a specific background—”I was a freelance journalist before I came to this job!”—his top concern is that the new Asia director be first and foremost an expert in the region, and its diverse artistic scenes. “For example, the Japanese and Korean scenes are close to each other, but as a rule the scenes in Asia are not interwoven,” he said. “It’s not a continent you can speed read.”
“Magnus was the one whose vision built a fair that was relatively easily transformed into an Art Basel show and it was a result first of his vision working alone and then his vision working with us, but in comparison with his vision three years ago, his departure doesn’t leave the same void his departure would have three years ago,” Spiegler said. Though Basel is sorry to see him go, the organization’s infrastructure should make the transition for Renfrew’s replacement relatively seamless, he said.
“It’s a very young fair,” he added. “It’s only been under the Art Basel name for two years and Art HK started in 2008 so this is not a fair with the same long history that Miami Beach and Basel have. Given that, I think it’s very quickly defined itself as the premier fair in the region, a world-class fair that balances its diverse cultures.”