Hauser & Wirth’s New Gallery in Hong Kong Proves the Art Capital Isn’t Going Anywhere

Despite recent speculation about Hong Kong’s primacy waning as a major player in the art world over the past few years, mainly due to domestic political protests and Covid-19 restrictions, mega galleries and global auction houses continue to double down on the city. idncash

This week, Hauser & Wirth opened a new street-level gallery space in Hong Kong’s central business district with an inaugural exhibition featuring stunning new works by Chinese artist Zhang Enli.

The blue-chip gallery, which first opened in the city in 2018, moved down the road, from their original premises on the 15th and 16th floors in the famed art gallery cluster at H Queen’s to a three-floor, 10,000-square-foot space designed by Selldorf Architects on 8 Queen’s Road Central, at the main road’s junction with the historic Ice House Street, and Duddell Street.

The gallery’s new space is definitely a sight to behold even for pedestrians going by, with Enli’s incandescently colorful gestural paintings displayed throughout the ground floor. The works were specifically chosen for the show to reflect the artist’s progression to looser and more liberated brushwork that has been a hallmark of his practice as of late.

“We deliberately sought out a space that maximizes the exposure to the public through ground-floor access, so the gallery is welcoming for the highly engaged audience for art in the city,” Hauser & Wirth president Iwan Wirth told ARTnews during the gallery’s opening week. “The location in Hong Kong was very carefully selected and is ideal because it allows us to remain closely connected to the community of galleries and institutions in Central.”

Nearby street-level galleries in the vicinity include WOAW Gallery, Opera Gallery, and Lévy Gorvy Dayan, as well as David Zwirner and Tang Contemporary Art, both of which are still located in the H Queen’s building.

The trend to street-level galleries is recent, as such prime real estate has historically been rare for art commercial galleries in Hong Kong. “To have street level art gallery space—especially on the scale of Hauser & Wirth’s new premises—is something most other international art hubs take for granted, but it’s a big deal in Hong Kong,” said Rosanna Herries, a Hong Kong–based cultural communications consultant who attended the gallery’s crowded opening on Wednesday. “For art appreciating audiences in the city, it is exciting to have a gallery with such sophisticated exhibition programming committing so firmly to accessibility to, and visibility for, their artists.” idncash

Dozens of holding champagne talk in an art gallery with abstract paintings on the wall.
The opening reception for Zhang Enli’s exhibition in Hauser & Wirth’s new Hong Kong location.COURTESY HAUSER & WIRTH

Yet the question remains why Hong Kong now? In addition to expanding their respective Asia teams, Christie’s is moving its Asia-Pacific headquarters into a 50,000-square-foot, four-story space in the Henderson building in the central district later this year; Phillips moved into new, expanded premises next to the new M+ museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District in March 2023, coinciding with the first travel restrictions-free Art Basel Hong Kong; and Sotheby’s will also soon be moving into the brand-new Six Pacific Place in Admiralty, a short distance away from the auction house’s newly announced year-round exhibition space.

All this activity is especially curious given the launch of new fairs in Seoul and Tokyo and the movement of wealth during the pandemic which seemed to temporarily bolster Singapore’s status as a rising art capital over Hong Kong. Interestingly, Hauser & Wirth has so far not participated in Singapore’s relatively nascent international art fair ART SG, the second edition of which took place the week before the opening of Hauser & Wirth’s latest gallery space.

For Elaine Kwok, the gallery’s managing partner for Asia, Hong Kong’s history as a thriving art scene is the clear draw: “Hong Kong’s flourishing art scene has long attracted artists, collectors, curators, and enthusiasts from around the world. It is an established and vibrant art and cultural hub, so this relocation reaffirms our commitment not only in Hong Kong but also to the wider region.”

She added, “We are very positive about Asia. Hauser & Wirth was active in the region for decades before opening our first space in Hong Kong in 2018, and we look forward to many more years of engagement and growth ahead.” idncash