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[Herald Interview] Art Central to grow larger, mulls return to Harbourfront site next year: fair director

Featuring galleries of the Asia-Pacific region, Art Central values locality and has strong base of Hong Kong-based galleries and artists.

By Park Yuna

Published : April 1, 2023 - 08:01

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Corey Andrew Barr, director of the Art Central art fair (Xavier Manhing) Corey Andrew Barr, director of the Art Central art fair (Xavier Manhing)

Hong Kong -- Art Central, a global art fair in Hong Kong for distinguished galleries based in the Asia-Pacific region, held its eighth edition last week during Hong Kong Art Week. With over 40,000 visitors, this year's event marked the strongest turnout in the fair's history, after having to scale down due to the pandemic for three years.

“There is certainly a lot of synergy of the art market here in Hong Kong, especially with the auction sector and internal growth of Hong Kong galleries in the past three years. I believe there is a lot of potential in the near future,” said Corey Andrew Barr, the director of Art Central who has led the fair since 2019. The Korea Herald met him at the fair on March 22 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Art Central 2023 took place there from March 21 to 25.

The upcoming year will see a change in location for the fair, which was temporarily housed in a convention center during the pandemic. From 2015 to 2019, the fair had occupied booths along the Central Harbourfront on Hong Kong Island, with over 100 galleries participating annually, except for the inaugural year of 2015.

Barr is considering bringing the fair back to its original site next year, as the Central Harbourfront is part of the fair’s identity, differentiating Art Central from other fairs.

“We are still working on that. We would love to be bigger, and I think we will be looking for a bigger venue in 2024,” he said.

Inaugurated in 2015, the art fair had taken place at a 10,000-square-meter tent on Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront, targeting younger audiences with a presentation of emerging artists from the Asia-Pacific region. It has been a fresh approach to art lovers, apart from Art Basel Hong Kong, Asia’s largest art fair which has also taken place during the same period of Hong Kong Art Week since 2013.

Korean artist Bahk Seon-ghi's “An Aggregation-Space 2023 Korean artist Bahk Seon-ghi's “An Aggregation-Space 2023" is on display at Art Central on March 22. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Korean artist Bahk Seon-ghi’s charcoal sculpture, “An Aggregation-Space 2023,” was featured at this year's fair alongside others from the region. The suspended, three-dimensional installation was created with charcoal, the final physical form left behind after trees are burned.

“I was very impressed by his dedication, bringing this museum-level piece to Art Central this year. The large-scale installation addresses mankind’s relationship with nature and charcoal symbolizes that relationship. It has been a really impressive experience to our audience,” he said.

South Korea-based galleries including Gallery Afternoon, Gallery BK and Jeeum Gallery brought together emerging artists from the region to the fair.

Barr stressed Art Central's efforts to reflect the locality with strong participation from galleries and artists from the city. Among 70 galleries, 30 of them were based in Hong Kong, according to Art Central.

“So we have a very strong contingent of Hong Kong galleries, and many of them represent Hong Kong artists. In terms of the fair's makeup, we have many more Hong Kong artists than you would normally find in an international art fair. Art Central was conceived as a fair for Hong Kong and we will continue our development here in Hong Kong,” he said.

In a time when art fairs are being held globally, Barr sought value of art fairs from their role as a gateway to the art market – and also an exit point somehow.

“It can be a gateway to the market for local artists but also can work the other way with galleries looking to find new clients in a certain market,” he said.