This was my first experience of actually buying a ticket. The problem with having been a journalist is that you get used to freebies. The first year of this fair there were so many tickets lying around, it made me allergic to buying a ticket thereafter. Even up to last year I could get a ticket from my friends back at the newspaper. But this year, the fair seems to have got much bigger and tickets were really tight.
So after finally determining that I was not going to get my hands of a free ticket, I finally bought one. I got a two-for-deal so V came along too. Except I am not a good person to go to these kind of things with because I tend to lose the person I’m with. That’s ok if that person is my husband, because I’ll always find him eventually.
Except that this time I got a little irritated because we were supposed to be looking for something to buy – although V thinks I should buy in India as it will be cheaper – and I suck at asking for the prices of anything, apart from the fact that I’d like V to like what I pick too. But when I tracked V down, he kept marching me through everything at high speed, kind of how he does when there are a lot of sale signs in the mall, so I ended up getting very grumpy and we parted ways after convening for a coffee.
V claims there wasn’t that much interesting stuff which is so not true because there was tons. Not if you’re marching through at the speed of light, I suppose. What I saw:
1. I always discover one new famous artist to love at the fair and this time it was Julian Opie. ‘New famous artist’ sounds like a contradiction in terms but what I mean is new to me but already famous. Opie’s work is really simple but just makes me smile, especially the electronic figures with the swishing ponytail/skirt.
2. There were the usual smattering of Picassos but what I realised was that they were not as unaffordable as I thought. One rare gallery had put up the prices next to the artwork – more on that later – and the Picassos were priced at around HKD1 million. Now I am not sure I can personally afford HKD1 million because I have a poor sense of awe when it comes to money and I have this problem of thinking if I can afford HKD100,000 then I can afford HKD1 million which is of course laughable when what I can probably afford is HKD40,000. But that is why I need V around to keep my reality in check. But the point is I expected Picasso to be more than HKD1 million, even though these were probably not his best work – they were in black and white and could have been etching. I didn’t look closely because I was so excited at the thought that I might have been able to afford a Picasso. Anyhow, the Julian Opie was HKD70,000 which I thought was also not bad.
3. So I don’t understand why galleries don’t just put the price tag up with the art. What is with all this mystification? I have a feeling they are losing customers because wimps like me will just assume the art is out of their range and not ask the snooty salesgirls. When what do you know, I can probably afford an Opie even though I don’t look like much and was wearing Bata sandals.
4. On the subject of which, I know art is supposed to be all la di da but the art fair is huge and it just makes no sense to be wearing six inch heels. Why do we women put ourselves through this? And then we sniff at women who cover themselves up with a burkha. Give me a burkha anyday over feeling compelled to spend upward of two hours standing in six inch heels.
5. I also some beautiful Damien Hirst butterflies. It annoys me when I find myself agreeing with the hype. But there you have it. The man’s work is cool and funny.
6. I also spotted one nice Subodh Gupta painting – too large for me to covet – and one ridiculous huge-ass plate.
7. Suddenly Anish Kapoor is all over the place.
8. Ditto with Korean artists. They are all over the place. It reminds me of when I went to Seoul on an art-related junket and we went to the Korean International Art Fair and someone noticed that all the Hong Kong galleries had Mainland artists and they asked “but what about artists from Hong Kong?” Well.
9. I booked myself into one of the free art tours (by ParaSite) which is what I recommend for anyone going to the fair, especially if you’re clueless about art (which I’m not but I still benefit from structure. Unfortunately the only tour I could get on was the last one for the day I would have dearly liked to have left by then… or seen the tour as some sort of intro and then made my own way around. I almost skipped the tour but I’m glad I did it. The guide introduced us to a few interesting pieces, some of which I had missed and others which I had spotted but which she gave a new perspective on.
10. Thanks to the guide, I finally got what Murakami is up to. But still, not sure I like his work. In short, it hurts my eyes.