Hong Kong’s Cultural Events Show Resilience As Well As Innovation To Adapt


Hong Kong’s arts ecosystem has grown rapidly in size and sophistication over the past decade, with events such as Art Basel raising the city’s global profile while catalyzing the expansion of the broader cultural landscape. Although the pandemic forced the cancelation of many in-person events, Hong Kong has demonstrated resilience and innovativeness to find alternatives that turn adversity into opportunity.

Art Basel, for example, hosted its Online Viewing Rooms in March in an effort to provide an alternative platform to showcase art works that galleries were planning to bring to the physical fair. Adeline Ooi, Director Asia, Art Basel, says this allowed galleries to engage remotely with Art Basel’s global network of patrons and promote their artists to new collectors and buyers.

“We believe that digital platforms cannot replace the experience of seeing art in person or visiting the fair itself,” says Ooi. “However, digital tools and platforms such as Online Viewing Rooms have helped galleries build momentum among collectors and to stay connected at a time when it has not been possible to travel and meet.”

The auction sector has taken many of its events online in the past year. Christie’s held a hybrid in-person and online New York-Hong Kong auction in December that was watched remotely by 500,000 people. Meanwhile, the auction house’s online-only sales rose more than 260% last year to a record US$311 million. Digital tools such as Augmented Reality, audio tours and virtual viewing rooms were employed to enhance the online auction experience.

“The pandemic has hastened the digital evolution in the industry, with a new approach to client engagement, marketing, sale formats and remote selling tools,” says Francis Belin, President of Christie’s Asia-Pacific. “Collectors will increasingly transact across multiple channels, not just live auctions, and auctions can be hosted more nimbly, tapping the level of demand and shifts in tastes throughout the year.”

S. Alice Mong, Executive Director of Asia Society Hong Kong Center (ASHK), has been active in supporting the city’s art ecosystem during the pandemic through ART Power HK, a campaign that brings together more than 150 partners from across the local arts community. Launched in February 2020, ART Power HK provides an online platform where stakeholders can share art offerings through virtual exhibitions, tours, talks and videos.