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Gagosian, the international art gallery, is opening in Hong Kong next week with an inaugural exhibition by Damien Hirst in another sign that demand for western art is growing in Asia.
The inaugural show by the world’s foremost art dealer follows recent exhibitions by galleries in Hong Kong of paintings by Pablo Picasso and a “Modern Masters” selling exhibition by Sotheby’s
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The exhibition, entitled “Forgotten Promises”, features a controversial life-size human baby skull cast in diamonds. The work of art was cast from an original skull that formed part of a 19th century pathology collection acquired by the artist.
The exhibition also features a series of diamond cabinets and butterflies in layers of metallic paint.
Mr Hirst’s celebrity, the gaudiness of the works of art being displayed as well as the reputation of gallery owner Larry Gagosian are expected to win buyers for western contemporary art in Asia.
While auction houses sold an estimated $3.8bn in Asia last year, the sales of art have largely been Chinese contemporary art, antiques and fine ceramics. Mainland Chinese buyers have been a key market.
At Christie’s sale in November, an 18th century pink enamelled blue-and-white moonflask, for instance, sold for HK$123.86m ($16m), several times the auction house’s estimate.
“It’s wonderful for Hong Kong that arguably the most significant art dealer in the world has chosen Hong Kong as his sole outpost in Asia,” said Ben Brown, the owner of Ben Brown Fine Arts in Hong Kong, which brought a Picasso exhibition to the city last year.
In September, Mr Gagosian exhibited 72 works of art in Abu Dhabi’s new art district.
The artists exhibited included Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Cy Twombly.
Gagosian has had an agent in Hong Kong for the past few years and the move to open a gallery in the city is part of an expanding global profile for the gallery, which has galleries in New York and Los Angeles and a number of European capitals.
Mr Brown said the serious buyers for western art in Asia tended to be wealthy Taiwanese, Koreans and Indonesians.
“The first thing mainland Chinese are going to do is buy their own,” he said. “They know the Chinese contemporary art market well.”
Sotheby’s preview of its Modern Masters show in Beijing last year, which featured art by Picasso, Renoir and Monet and Chagall, drew many mainland Chinese potential buyers from provincial China.
Works in the exhibition were priced from $2m to $25m.