What is the best way to visit the art fairs?

With the onset of spring in Hong Kong comes art madness — in a good way. It’s culture galore with the glitzy Art Basel glamming up the Convention Centre, funky and fun Art Central in a tent on the waterfront and the Asia Contemporary Art Show filling the rooms at the Conrad Hotel. Not to mention all the galleries loaded with special exhibitions. Yes, the art season is upon us. But for most of us laymen, the art scene can be a bit overwhelming. Do I have to actually buy a painting? Can I bring my kids? What is the best way to enjoy these exciting events? We break it down for you.

Dolly Parton by Andy Warhol
Dolly Parton by Andy Warhol

Art Basel

This extravaganza brings in the heavy hitters — think Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Jeff Koons and the like. Featuring 242 galleries, the exhibition showcases the best art, new and old, from around the world. Don’t expect to do more than take in the sights (keep a keen eye out for Leo) unless you have serious cash to spend.

When: Thursday, March 23 (1pm to 8pm); Friday, March 24 (1pm to 9pm); Saturday, March 25 (11am to 6pm). Previews start Tuesday, March 21.

Where: Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai

How: Ticket prices vary from $850 HKD for the Wednesday night “Vernissage” to $150 HKD one-day, advance purchase. Click here for more options and information.

Kid-Friendly Factor: Children age five and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. And all children 16 and under must be accompanied by and adult. There is a complimentary “Junior Arts Hub” for inspired tykes with various activities, like paper  weaving, interactive drama games and spin painting.

Eats: There are seven restaurants set up around the site serving up everything from sandwiches to sushi. If you can score a VIP pass, the champagne lounges are always fun for some post-art bubbly. The convention center is a hop-skip-and-jump from Queens Road East and the Star Street area if you want to make a lunch or dinner date out of it.

Keep in Mind: The show is huge and you can spend a long time meandering through the multiple floors of the stunning art — it may be worth getting a two day pass and going twice. While there are kids’ activities, it is a challenge to conquer the space with children in tow as everything begs to be touched! However, with the art’s multi-million dollar price tags, it is best to keep little hands at bay (or keep the “runners” at home!).


A sculpture at Art Basel
A sculpture at Art Basel

Art Central

Marking its third year on the Hong Kong scene, Art Central is a smaller, hipper take on the exhibition fair. It is packed with a cool mix of emerging artists, more affordable works and big names (a la Chuck Close, Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama), plus, workshops, good food and lots of champagne. There is a lot on offer to satisfy every culture vulture.

When: Tuesday, March 21 (12pm – 5pm); Wednesday, March 22 (12pm – 5pm); Thursday, March 23 (12pm – 9pm); Friday, March 24 (12pm – 7pm); Saturday, March 25 (11am – 7pm). Previews start Monday, March 20.

Where: Central Harbourfront, 9 Lung Wo Road (five-minute walk from the Star Ferry Pier)

How: Ticket prices range from $500 HKD for the “First Night” on Monday to $110 HKD for a general weekday ticket. Click here for more options and information.

Kid-Friendly Factor: Art Central offers a drop-in, hands-on kids’ workshop, where the little ones can have a try at making their own creation (free but donations expected). IN years past, J.Crew hosted a pop-up with a DIY children’s painting program that kept the tykes busy for a bit. Children’s tours are also available.

Eats: One of the highlights of Art Central is the picnic-style food court — complete with stalls of Hong Kong’s favorite dining spots. You can grab burgers from Beef & Liberty, tacos from Brickhouse, sandwiches from Bread & Beast and ice cream cones from XTC, and more!

Keep in Mind: While it is about a ten minute walk from Art Central to Art Basel, it is a lot to do both in one day with kids.

Chicken 1 by Cho Soon Nam
Chicken 1 by Cho Soon Nam

Asia Contemporary Art Show

In its tenth year, this show features more than 80 galleries from around the world at reasonably accessible prices. The exhibition will focus on pre-cold-war themes in its “China Perspectives” section and will give emerging artists a more intimate space to unveil their work in its “Artist Projects” area.

When: Friday, March 17 (4pm – 9pm), VIP Preview; Saturday, March 18 (5pm – 9pm); Sunday, March 19 (12pm – 8pm); Monday, March 20 (12pm – 6pm)

Where: Conrad Hotel, Pacific Place (88 Queensway, Admiralty), Floors 40 – 43

How: Ticket price is $220 HKD on-site but 2-for-1 if you buy online before the show. Click here for more options and information.

Kid-Friendly Factor: Though children under 16 years old are free (must be accompanied by an adult), the show’s layout across hotel rooms makes it logistically challenging for a family outing. There are no specific kids’ activities.

Eats: The Conrad has six restaurants to choose from. And as the location is right in Pacific Place, there are endless options. Go for a fancy drink with a view at the Upper House, snack on innovative Chinese at the new Dim Sum Library in the mall or go casual at Le Pain Quotidien.

Keep in Mind: If you miss the Asia Contemporary Art Show this time around, they hold one in September as well.

A Sculpture at Art Basel
A Sculpture at Art Basel

Affordable Art Fair

Just when you think you can’t get enough, the Affordable Art Fair rolls into town in mid-May. If you’ve found an aesthetic to suits your fancy at the shows in March, the AAF is your chance to shop — all the works shown here are priced between $1000 HKD and $100,000 HKD. It’s a great way to start your collection or stock up on emerging artists.

When: Friday, May 19 (12:00 – 9:00pm); Saturday, May 20 (11:00am – 7:00pm); Sunday, May 21 (11:00am – 7:00pm)

Where: Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai

How: Tickets are $160 for adults; $90 for students and seniors; free for children under 16. Click here for more information.

Kid-Friendly Factor: This fair is not quite as big as Art Basel and is more manageable with tots in tow. The organizers aim to make it engaging for all ages and there will be kids’ workshops and activities on site.

Eats: Dining will be set in up around the site. If you are looking for more atmosphere, it may be worth heading a few blocks over to the Queens Road East area for better restaurants.

Keep in Mind: There are many learning opportunities at the AAF. Be sure to take advantage of the various speakers, live performances and new talent exhibitions.

Kids getting art-y at the Affordable Art Fair
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