Straight to the art

Education | Katie Hung 7 May 2019

Beginners who wish to get a glimpse into the art industry but so far have no idea how to get started, the Contemporary Asian Art: An Insider's View program, is opening the door.

Organized by Christie's Education and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Hong Kong, the five-day program was first introduced three years ago. It aims to equip participants with a mix of real-world commercial knowledge in the art industry and the academic ones, ranging from informed approaches on how to look at art, to examining the mechanisms of the market.

While Christie's Education focuses more on providing an insight on how the art market runs, the HKU faculty conceives and delivers art history teaching tools for analysis of art works across different periods to participants.

Said faculty dean Derek Collins: "Hong Kong is now one of the top four art auction markets in the world, along with London, New York, and mainland China. With the vast increase in size of the local and the mainland Chinese art world, art history training is now in hot demand. In our conversations with gallerists, museum directors and auction houses, we learned their main need was for employees who had in-depth knowledge of art."

He added: "This is the main area in Hong Kong (and the mainland) where investment is needed because the expansion of art institutions in Hong Kong and the region has outstripped the supply of employees with art history training."

Christie's Education Asia director Sara Mao also found the industry in Asia has expanded tremendously and visibly in the past decade, considering the art ecosystem in Hong Kong.

"From galleries, art fairs and auction houses on the commercial side, to museums and independent art spaces on the institutional side, there has been phenomenal growth in the scale and scope of the industry, players in the market, and interest from art aficionados," she said. "These are the main attributes to the growing appetite for contemporary Asian art in Asia and beyond." She added that the growth gave rise to an increased demand from art lovers who want to know more about how the art world works.

With past participants coming from North America, such as Mexico and the United States, Britain and Asian countries like Singapore and South Korea, their motivations are very diverse.

While some see it as an appetizer for a more in-depth study afterwards, some are looking to get a boost in their own career development, or purely for their own interest in art.

Comprising a series of seminars, group exercises and site visits to the auction house and other art-related organizations like artist studios and art archives, the program provides networking and in-depth conversation opportunities with leading insiders, such as gallery founders and established artists, for a grasp of a more comprehensive view to the art ecosystem.

The short course taps into different areas of Asian contemporary art everyday, from genres to different business considerations, so as to offer better knowledge of various roles in the art industry. The program lays down a good foundation to the burgeoning collectors in understanding different art genres.

Mao said students are also expected to handle objects that are about to be put up for auction. These objects follow the academic lectures, which allows students to apply the knowledge they've been taught in a more tangible way.

Apart from an introduction to Southeast Asian contemporary art being added to the seminar series this year, students will be exposed to a real auction.

"For the first time, we have combined this year's program to coincide with Christie's Hong Kong's biennial auction marquee week, and the program will include exclusive viewings with our art specialists, a 'how to read art' handling session at the auction sale site, a round-table discussion with Christie's senior management, as well as sitting in on a live auction," Mao said.

The program, which uses English as the medium of instruction, will run from May 20 to 24, with registration available online. It costs HK$25,000.

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