Hauser & Wirth’s new Hong Kong gallery to open in Central on Wednesday, aims to make art more accessible

Hauser & Wirth’s new Hong Kong gallery to open in Central on Wednesday, aims to make art more accessible

Hauser & Wirth’s new Hong Kong gallery to open in Central on Wednesday, aims to make art more accessible

The total gallery space, excluding private viewing rooms, is around a third larger than the previous location, with most of it on the ground floor. Most importantly, the gallery’s artists are thrilled to be in a far more visible space, says Asia managing partner Elaine Kwok.

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“Our opening show is Zhang Enli’s ‘Faces’. He has been with us for nearly 20 years,” Kwok says of the Chinese artist.

“He was the first Asian artist to join the gallery, in 2006. And up until now we haven’t had the right platform in Hong Kong.”

Zhang Enli photographed with his “Smoking” (2002) at the opening of his retrospective exhibition “Expression” at Shanghai’s Long Museum on November 7, 2023. Photo: Enid Tsui

The exhibition will only feature nine works but the gallery says they are all new works with substantial dimensions. The largest is A Guest from Afar (2023), which measures 2m by 4m (6.6ft by 13.1ft) and was featured in the hoardings.

The titular “faces” are not recognisable, unlike in the Shanghai-based artist’s earlier figurative works from the 1990s and early 2000s.

Paintings such as Bar (1994) and Smoking (2002) that were on show in the large-scale retrospective at Shanghai’s Long Museum in 2023 saw the influence of German Expressionism in terms of blending realism and distortion that expressed inner emotions.

“A Guest from Afar” (2023), by Zhang Enli. Photo: Hauser & Wirth

But as Zhang’s paintings have become more abstract, he increasingly focuses on the emotions, which he portrays through gestural, loose, abstract lines. In the work Art Museum Director (2022), for example, a clownish red nose among the circles and lines suggests it is a frontal portrait, and lends levity to what is a very serious job title.

Kwok says the street-level space will hopefully encourage more passers-by in the bustling business district to pop in. The gallery did not consider moving out of Central, which remains the area favoured by high-end galleries and will soon see the opening of auction houses Sotheby’s and Christie’s permanent exhibition galleries and salesrooms, Kwok adds.

Access and visibility aside, the vast majority of artworks that Hauser & Wirth deals with are beyond the financial means of people walking past during their lunch breaks.

“Art Museum Director” (2022), by Zhang Enli. Photo: Hauser & Wirth

The gallery, which represents other artists whose works are worth millions of US dollars, such as Zeng Fanzhi and the late Louise Bourgeois, is not changing its business model, Kwok says.

“We feel very positive about the art market in Asia and making Hong Kong our home in Asia,” she adds.

Back in 2018, Hauser & Wirth arrived in Hong Kong at a time when a slew of top-end multinational galleries were either opening in the city for the first time or expanding their spaces here significantly.

Hauser & Wirth’s new street-level gallery is located at 8 Queen’s Road Central. Photo: Hauser & Wirth / JJYPHOTO
Kwok says the gallery is very positive about the art market in Asia. Photo: Hauser & Wirth

That has come to a stop, with no opening by a major overseas gallery in the past few years. The city has, however, seen the addition of new, exciting local players.

H Queen’s, which was hailed as a new art gallery hub when it opened in 2017, has seen the departure of Seoul Auction, Ora-Ora and now another major tenant.

It launched a new video series recently called “Elevated Artistic Encounters” to promote exhibitions at its still-substantial collection of galleries, comprising David Zwirner, Pace Gallery, Tang Contemporary Art and Whitestone Gallery.

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“Zhang Enli: Faces”, Hauser & Wirth, G/F, 8 Queen’s Road Central, 11am-7pm, Tue-Sat. Until March 9.

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