After months of online viewing room (OVR) teasers, the anticipation for the hybrid 2021 edition of Art Basel Hong Kong turned into palpable excitement as fairgoers slowly trickled into the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Wednesday, a local public holiday, for the first of the fair’s VIP entry slots. This time around, after numerous postponements, the fair’s organizers drastically scaled down the physical fair, which runs until May 23, to just 104 exhibitors, down from 242 in 2019, and the number of visitors at any given time was also much more limited than in years past.
Many in attendance described the opening day, in a word, as “surreal,” including the fair’s global director, Marc Spiegler, who was not in attendance due to international travel restrictions. This edition of Art Basel Hong Kong, which moved from its traditional dates in March, feels surprisingly intimate, as well-rested collectors and gallerists with pent up energy give the fair the air of a belated catch-up session with friends. Instead of taking up two floors of the convention center, the physical fair occupies only one floor, with the extra space going to the satellite fair Art Central and the Christie’s Hong Kong spring auctions.