Often when we think of art, it is all Picasso, Van Gogh, Warhol, museums and auctions — and aside from us admiring it from afar, it seems like a highbrow world accessible only to the superrich. The Affordable Art Fair aims to change that perception. Now celebrating its fifth year in Hong Kong (one of ten cities home to the fair), the AAF showcases a diverse range of art priced between $1000 HKD to $100,000 HKD, from both emerging and mid-career artists from new and established galleries.
One of the highlights of the fair is the children’s program — complimentary art-inspired workshops such as the Children’s Art Studio, tours and hands-on activities on-site — with the goal of “fostering a new generation of art lovers”, according to its organizers.
Director of the fair is Stephanie Kelly, a Hong Kong Mom of two (with another one on the way!), who has parlayed her passion for art, marketing experience and global background into making the Affordable Art Fair one of the city’s most exciting events. Here, she offers tips for new collectors on how to overcome the intimidation when it comes to art.
What made you fall in love with art?
Museums and art galleries are one of my happy places where I can get lost and as a child one of my fondest memories is seeing my first Picasso, Van Gogh and Renoir at the touring masterpieces of the Guggenheim exhibition. I grew into a culture vulture and always try to see as much theatre, art and dance as I can squeeze into a weekend.
How did you get involved with AAF?
Serendipity. I was organizing our wedding registry and we decided that we wanted art rather than another toaster. I had bought my first piece of art at the London Affordable Art Fair and when I saw the Affordable Art Fair announce they were coming to Hong Kong, I sent an email. I ended up buying art and getting a job to help launch the first fair in Hong Kong.
What advice can you give to first-time shoppers/buyers? Or those interested in starting a collection?
Buy for love! But be careful, collecting art can be addictive.
Be prepared. Take some time to think about what you are looking for — a new local artist, an artwork to celebrate an occasion, or the perfect piece to fill a blank wall. Find out what’s on offer from the galleries and artists exhibiting by browsing our catalogues, website and social media. On arrival, grab a fair guide and enjoy getting lost in the world of art.
Ask questions. Gallerists are there to talk to visitors, so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation! They will want to share the story behind the artwork as well as the artists’ inspiration, their training, their techniques and materials, and not to mention, their accolades!
Snap up a shortlist. With 1,000 artists on display it can feel a little overwhelming. Take photos to create a shortlist of artworks you like, making sure you include the info labels! If you need more time to make a decision, the gallery can reserve the artwork for you.
Trust your instinct. If you find yourself still thinking about a certain piece as you walk through the fair, you know you’ve found your perfect fit! Trust your taste and buy art that makes you happy every time you see it!
What are the trends in Asian art? Any particular local artist or style that we should look out for?
It is an interesting time for Hong Kong art with artists interpreting emotions and changing in the city many of us are not able to articulate. Our cutting-edge Young Talent Hong Kong is always thought provoking and this year to celebrate five years, we are exhibiting five previous young talents alongside five new recent graduates. To also get an understanding of new international trends, our FRESH selection highlights the best new artists at the fair.
What makes the Hong Kong art fairs / art scene unique?
The art market and collecting culture are still developing and in comparison to other international cities there is relatively low art ownership with only half our visitors (54%) owning art vs 90% in London. To help bring art into Hong Kong homes we have a range of activities to help people find their perfect artwork including artist led tours, friendly gallerists and our team will be available to offer personalized suggestions.
One of the main reasons visitors come to fairs is to learn about art. This year our Creative Hub has an array of arty activities for young and old including M+ travelling creative studio, the M+ Rover as well as a print workshop alongside our popular children’s art studio.
How can we get our kids exposed to and interested in art?
As Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. Creativity and thinking like an artist is increasingly important as we move into age of artificial intelligence with computers doing most of the black and white tasks and humans moving more into the grey areas.
Exposure to art in early childhood has a large benefit on social and emotional skills. A cornerstone of art education is integrating looking at art and making art which is why our entire Creative Hub has a range of interactive activities to inspire this younger generation. Our large scale installations also help children experience art from a different perspective and encourage their engagement. We also work with Sovereign Art Foundation for our Children’s Art Studio to support their work with art therapy in lower socio-economic communities as well as exhibit the finalists of their Student Art Prize.
What are some other worthy art galleries or museums in the local area you would recommend visiting?
We were spoilt for choice over the last month with exhibitions. I would encourage everyone to go to Asia Society to see Breathing Space which showcases a range of established and emerging local artists. You’ll also be treated by their beautiful architecture when you visit!
A great way to explore new areas is also gallery hopping, check out Hong Kong Art Gallery Association for recommended routes across the city including South Island, Tuen Wan, Western & Central, Soho, Repulse Bay, Quarry Bay, and Kwun Tong.
Date: Friday, May 19 (12:00 – 9:00pm); Saturday, May 20 (11:00am – 7:00pm); Sunday, May 21 (11:00am – 7:00pm)
Location: Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), Hall 3D & E, 1 Expo Drive, Wan Chai