Letter to special HK Mail list
sent from Gallery Galschiøt

Expert warns: Art Basel - risks of white-washing and censorship in Hong Kong
As Hong Kong tightens its grip on the art market, 200 galleries are warned of risks attending the art fair by renowned art expert Dr. Eric WEAR, former HK President of International Association of Art Critics (AICA)
Dear Hong Kong list, 
I would like to share this story with you, which could be an early sign of the collapse of Asia's largest art market:
The renowned art expert and former HK President of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) Dr. Eric WEAR, has just reached out to the absolute elite among the world's art galleries and suggested that they do not exhibit at Art Basel in Hong Kong. (See letter of warning here or below). At the same time, he proposes that Art Basel withdraw from Hong Kong and move all their activities abroad.
In his letter to Art Basel and 200 galleries, Dr. Wear points out that given the current circumstances, they risk having to commence extensive political censorship of the art they exhibit in Hong Kong. Consequently, they would be taking responsibility for executing political art censorship on behalf of the Chinese government. He refers, among other things, to the removal and confiscation of "The Pillar of Shame" in Hong Kong, which is now inaccessible to the owner after 24 years of public exhibitions in the city.
Dr. WEAR believes that this political art censorship will compromise the art institutions to an extent that endangers their reputation within the global art community. They risk facing intense criticism from both the Western world's political system and the art world in general.
Letter to Galleries planning to attend Art Basel HK
Your risk in attending Art Basel Hong Kong 2024
white-washing, censorship and business without freedom of expression
Dr. Eric WEAR: International Association of Art Critics (AICA). President of AICA Hong Kong, 1999-2001. Associate Head of the School of Design of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (1989-2006) leading curricula design and critical studies. Other activities in Hong Kong: Asian Art Archive, board of directors; Academy of Visual Arts, advisory committee; Arts Development Council, Visual Arts Committee. Collector and critic in Shanghai 2008-2014. Now living between Lisbon, Paris and Bangkok.
Email: ericottowear@mac.com ph: +351 916 809 619, Links: Letter online and List of contacted Galleries.
In relation to the appeal to Art Basel and the world's leading galleries, Jens Galschiøt comments:
"The outreach from the renowned art expert indicates that significant concern and uncertainty have arisen in Hong Kong's art market, one of the most vital in Asia. This may be one of the first signs of a potential collapse in an art market where Western art institutions are decisive and completely dominant.
The art institutions now risk having to flee out of Hong Kong to avoid being held accountable for propagating Xi Jinping's attacks on freedom of expression, the legal system, and democracy in Hong Kong.
It's not just about Art Basel and galleries, but also auction houses like Philips, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Bonhams. One can, of course, hope that these companies decide not to assist Xi Jinping in undermining Hong Kong's legal system and freedom of expression. However, with the latest steps taken by Hong Kong's Secretary for Security, Chris Tang, it doesn't seem feasible to present art that critically addresses China without risking charges under the security legislation. See letter by Mr. Tang with his view on art.
This places the global institutions in the art brokerage and sales sector in an almost impossible situation. And it's hard to see any alternatives for them other than closing their branches in Hong Kong and relocating to a place where there's still freedom to sell all art without restrictions.
The Mayer Brown case should be an early warning. Less than 2 years ago one of the world's largest law firms, Mayer Brown, was forced to drop its representation of the University of Hong Kong in a case that also originated from art in Hong Kong. Mayer Brown served as the law firm for the university and assisted it in removing and partially destroying the art piece "The Pillar of Shame". The reason for it is that it is a memorial for the student massacre in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Back then, Mayer Brown was attacked by thousands of art activists and the US Senate who conducted a hearing (see video) which concluded that one couldn't be a Western firm while simultaneously helping the Chinese government suppress democracy and freedom of expression in Hong Kong.
There's a high probability that Western-based art dealers and exhibition venues will find themselves in the exact same situation as Mayer Brown and will suffer the same fate in Hong Kong.
Unless they choose to withdraw or stand firm behind the inviolability of art."
Jens Galschiøt, artist behind the Pillar of Shame
Contact: aidoh@aidoh.dk, ph +45 4044 7058
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