I am neither British nor a big fan of Disneyland, yet the large canvas of a drug addled Mickey Mouse winking at me with a British flag backdrop makes me wonder if it would look better on my living room wall.
Party Time UK, 2014, Stencil Spray Paint Mixed Technique on Canvas
‘Party Time UK’ is just one of the eye-catching pieces by Otto Schade adorning the stark white space in the Fabrik Gallery in Sheung Wan. Perched across from me on a white bar chair is Mark Saunderson, Co-Founder of the Asia Contemporary Art Show, and he’s explaining how what began as a uniquely marketed event has carved out its own space in Hong Kong’s art world.
“I don’t think we set out to be disruptive, but what we saw was an industry that has issues,” says Saunderson.
Those issues according to Saunderson include an out-dated sales model, the increasingly high rent of Hong Kong gallery space, and a disconnected pool of buyers.
“We wanted to create an experience that was inclusive, but we also wanted to create something that was engaging,” explains Saunderson.
With its fifth edition launching in just a few weeks it seems that Saunderson and his partners have struck a chord amongst collectors, artists, and galleries. While not seeking to be disruptive the Asia Contemporary Art Show has knocked down its fair share of walls.
Throughout our discussion, Saunderson liberally refers to collectors as buyers, and speaks often of transactions, telling signs of where the Show focuses much of its energies – connecting the right elements to ensure everyone leaves happy.
“The opportunity for successful transactions correlates to the content, quality of audience, and execution,” he states. “If you can successfully improve those factors the [result] is a happy, more engaged buyer group and equally galleries. It’s a whole lot more than gathering, harvesting and bringing the content together.”
Deeming each show a success is also based on hard facts, measured in dollars and cents.
“The critical measures for us are: what’s sold at the show, were there transactions, how many, and what range?,” explains Saunderson.
According to Saunderson, the emphasis on sales is increasing buyer engagement beyond the event. Roughly two thirds of all exhibitors, over 80 galleries and about 50 artists at the upcoming October showing, report post-show sales, a statistic that goes a long way to bringing back artists and galleries as well as producing a 22 percent average of returning visitors.
Beyond the numbers, Saunderson admits that the allure of meeting the artists behind many of the works on display is a crowd pleaser.
“The story of the image is not just the image. It’s much deeper than the image. It brings a human experience into the equation. There’s very rarely a situation when a work has not been enriched by that experience. It just fascinates me.”
I for one want to know the story behind the ribbon-faced Mickey Mouse.
(Note: Otto Schade will not be at the Asia Contemporary Art Show next month.)</ em>
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