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Pioneering salon gears up for Art Central

Sharlane Foo

Paris-headquartered Opera Gallery, with 13 exhibition spaces worldwide, was one of the first international galleries to enter Hong Kong in 2004. Sharlane Foo, Gallery Director of Opera Gallery Hong Kong, is preparing to host one of the largest exhibitions at Art Central, a fair to be held in March, the “art month” of Hong Kong.

What drew Opera Gallery to Hong Kong back in 2004?
We are always keeping track of global and market trends in order to pre-empt the next big art hub, and try to ensure that we have a presence. It is important to be able to identify these locations, to recognise what the local market responds to, and to encourage and introduce new and emerging artists, some of whom are exclusive to Opera Gallery.

What’s happened since?
When Opera Gallery started in Hong Kong there were a few local galleries but over time the international art scene has really flourished here, along with Art Basel inaugurating in Hong Kong in 2013. Since then, we have been seeing more and more fascinating galleries come in and set up here alongside us.

Our gallery has always had a strong focus on masterpieces which is something that will never change – there is always  and will always  be a market for these artists – but the way in which the Hong Kong market is growing currently, there is an equal interest in the contemporary market.

The global art scene has been changing quite rapidly and there are now many international fairs which help expose local markets to international galleries and artists. With the presence in Hong Kong of Art Central and Art Basel, the level and quality of art in the region has really improved.

To further enhance the art culture within this international hub, we are happy to see non-profit arts organisations such as HKwalls help introduce public and street art into the urban landscape.

Given the many competitors now, how do you keep a gallery relevant?
In Hong Kong, Opera Gallery holds multiple events from exclusive dinners to private gallery tours. For example, for one of the events, we incorporated the local popular belief of feng shui and its relevance to art, which was very well received. Even as a global organisation with three galleries in Asia, it is important to pay attention to the nuances of each individual Asian city.

Opera Gallery takes great pride in every one of our galleries. The local teams are well-versed in each location’s culture and for Hong Kong, being a multicultural city, this means that each of our well-travelled team members speak at least three languages.  

What role do the high-level art fairs play?
The number of art fairs held in the city is definitely a reflection of Hong Kong’s growing prominence on the global art scene. Although Art Basel has made global cutbacks over the last few years, Hong Kong still remains a force to be reckoned with due to the overflowing and continuous support from collectors in the region.

Tell us about your upcoming exhibitions
Opera Gallery has exclusive artists that we work with on a long-term basis and Art Central serves as a great chance to showcase the talents which may never have been seen before. Taking up the largest booth in Art Central this year, we will exclusively showcase the enthralling work of participating artists like Andy Denzler, David Kim Whittaker, Manolo Valdés and Cho Sung-hee, along with Joe Black bringing in his never- seen-before six-metre Mao Zedong installation.

Art Central is a fair dedicated to showcasing the future talents alongside some of the most recognised international galleries from all over the world. We believe in the fair’s vision in developing younger collectors whilst keeping seasoned art collectors in touch with current trends.

Other than exhibiting in Art Central, we are excited to showcase an additional 12 paintings by Whittaker on the first floor of our gallery from 25 March. Whittaker is a self-taught artist who has a personal struggle with gender dysphoria. Aged 40, Whittaker began the journey of transitioning from male to female and the condition has reinforced the artist’s works which showcase the duality of being. The paintings give viewers a glimpse of what the artist has learnt to live through and to endeavour the expression of something bigger than oneself.

A final word?
Both international and local art lovers and collectors will rejoice in the month of March, which is considered Hong Kong’s art month due to the many art events and renowned art shows, such as Art Central and Art Basel,  being held. This has also encouraged all the galleries to bring out their best. You are guaranteed to see some of the finest art in the world during this period.   

Related links

Art Basel
Art Central
Opera Gallery

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