torsdag 3. juni 2021

Amid censorship fears, Hong Kong's artists contemplate an uncertain future

At the annual Art Basel fair in Hong Kong, visitors browsed busy booths filled with works by some of contemporary art's biggest names, from Damien Hirst to Isamu Noguchi.Those prevented from joining in person due to travel restrictions -- whether collectors from mainland China or European gallerists -- were instead beamed in to inspect artworks via iPads or address attendees using "live hologram" technology.

With last year's fair canceled due to the pandemic, and 2019's event held amid Hong Kong's uproarious pro-democracy protests, the buzz signaled something of a return to business as usual for the international art world. While the exhibitor list was less than half its usual size, many of the 104 participating galleries reported strong sales across the five-day event. But for Hong Kong's local artists, few of whom get the chance to exhibit at international fairs, the picture is not quite as promising.

Almost a year after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law on the territory, the creative community has been left unsure about what is, or is not, legally permissible. And although the legislation, which outlaws sedition, secession and subversion, has largely been used against opposition activists, it has also cast a shadow of uncertainty over local artists, curators and gallery owners.