Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Is 'affordable art' really all that affordable?

By Sarah Chakales, CNN
updated 6:33 AM EDT, Tue March 25, 2014
In a Hong Kong Affordable Art live exhibit, Australian artist Emma Hack painted a nearly nude woman to blend in with the wallpaper. Hack is known internationally for her gorgeous body illustrations. Most famously, she painted Australian pop singer Gotye and New Zealander Kimbra for the music video that accompanied hit song "Somebody That I Used to Know." In a Hong Kong Affordable Art live exhibit, Australian artist Emma Hack painted a nearly nude woman to blend in with the wallpaper. Hack is known internationally for her gorgeous body illustrations. Most famously, she painted Australian pop singer Gotye and New Zealander Kimbra for the music video that accompanied hit song "Somebody That I Used to Know."
HIDE CAPTION
Living art
Something for the kids' bedroom?
Local and international art
Wearable art
Under HK$10,000
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hong Kong's Affordable Art Fair attracted 29,000 visitors and topped $5 million in sales
  • For many Hong Kong residents, "affordable art" is still out of their budgets
  • Next stop on the Affordable Art Fair tour is Maastricht, Netherlands, followed by New York, Toronto and Singapore

Editor's note: To coincide with the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament, on from March 28-30, this week CNN is profiling parts of Hong Kong in a special series.

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Featuring everything from hand-painted heels to a live (and semi-naked) woman, Hong Kong's latest art fair wrapped Sunday with sales topping HK$39 million ($5 million) -- up 50% on last year's inaugural event.

A record 29,000 visitors came to check out the three-day exhibition -- the most in the fair's 15-year global history.

But the art on sale here is not intended to break the bank.

Affordable Art Hong Kong, a spinoff of the original event launched in London in 1999, attracts art enthusiasts from all walks -- and wallets -- of life, with original works on sale from unknowns and well-knowns at the more than 120 galleries represented from around the world.

Amid the watercolors, oil on canvas and prints, eye-catching installations included bronze skulls and a live exhibit of a nearly nude woman being painted to blend into wallpaper.

Organizers say it's up to the artists and galleries to set a price for each artwork, as long as it does not exceed HK$100,000 (roughly $13,000).

MORE: Bargains galore: Spectacular designs shine at Asia's largest gem show

Visitors could also satisfy their creative urges by trying their hand at Chinese painting and collage.

Painted high heel shoes by France artist JM Robert at the Affordable Art Hong Kong fair. The pair front right sold for HK$4,500 ($580).
Painted high heel shoes by France artist JM Robert at the Affordable Art Hong Kong fair. The pair front right sold for HK$4,500 ($580).

A section on Hong Kong's young artists appealed to local tastes, while an "Under HK$10,000 Wall" catered to the art collector on a tighter budget.

"This is an area where people can come and find works that are about HK$1,000 to HK$10,000 (US$130-$1,300)," said Camilla Hewitson, fair director.

"If there's something that really inspires, then you can find the gallery and have a discussion about that particular artwork."

'The purpose is to democratize art'

So is affordable art really that affordable?

For many Hong Kong residents, the answer is no.

The median monthly income for people living here is HK$14,100 ($1,800), according to the latest report from Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department.

On that salary, buying the most expensive piece at the fair would cost seven month's wages, excluding daily living expenses like food, transportation and rent.

But of course, it's all relative.

Compared to Zeng Fanzhi's "The Last Supper," which auctioned at Sotheby's 40th Anniversary Sale in Hong Kong last October for a record HK$180.4 million ($23.3 million), everything under HK$100,000 seems like a steal.

MORE: Hotel becomes million-dollar art gallery

Organizers of Affordable Art Fair say price is just a small part of their mission.

"The purpose is to democratize art -- to open it up to a much wider audience who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to see fantastic works on display," says Paul Matthews, director of development and global partnerships for the fair.

"People are very intimidated by the idea of going to galleries and each city we go to we help to break down those perceived barriers and get people understanding that there's art out there that they can afford -- and that art can be for everyone," he adds.

Based on the fair's success in Asia so far, organizers say they are now looking to expand into South Korea, Japan and Taiwan in coming years.

If you missed the show in Hong Kong, you can always hit the Affordable Art Fair at one of its upcoming global tour stops. It's heading to Maastricht, Netherlands next -- followed by New York, Toronto and Singapore. Click here for the full worldwide schedule.

MORE: Ultimate Hong Kong shopping guide: Causeway Bay

Hong Kong art galleries

In Hong Kong this weekend for the Sevens and want to mix a bit of culture in with your rugby? Here are a few galleries to get you started:

Avenue des Arts: Unit 06, 12/F Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan; +852 2744 6699

EC Gallery: G/F, 72a Hollywood Road, Central; +852 2803 7960

Galerie Koo: 7/F, Vogue Building, 67 Wyndham Street, Central; +852 2525 0331

Karin Weber Gallery: G/F, 20 Aberdeen Street, Central; +852 2544 5004

Odd One Out: G/F 34 Sau Wa Fong, Wan Chai; +852 2529 3955

MORE: Insider Guide: The best of Hong Kong

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:56 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, these itineraries make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Tue July 29, 2014
Good cocktails combine with spectacular views across rivers, cityscapes and oceans at these bird-level drinkeries.
updated 2:09 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
updated 10:26 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Cinema loves portraying the lives of expats. Sometimes it gets it right. Sometimes it casts Nick Nolte as a jungle king.
updated 9:17 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Don't be intimidated, says a local expert. Here's how to do China without the hassles
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
When your city has an unenviable reputation for insulting tourists and fleecing them for every cent, inviting hotel guests to pay what they want could be a risky move.
updated 3:10 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
1937 Auto Union V16 Streamliner, Audi Museum, Germany
With factory tours and collections of stunning vintage prototypes, southern Germany is petrolhead paradise.
updated 9:44 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Every tourist destination has a flip side, a season when prices go down and savvy, flexible travelers can score big savings.
updated 3:11 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A Marrakech lamp bazaar
Morocco's Red City is crammed with stunning gardens, shaded souks and steamy bath houses.
updated 12:52 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Santo Stefano Island, Italy
Pristine beaches, unspoiled nature and few tourists -- a stretch on these former penal colonies is no longer a punishment.
updated 5:23 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Life in Joburg can be stressful. Luckily there are some exceedingly non-stressful places close by.
updated 5:07 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Istanbul skyline
CNN's Ivan Watson pays homage to the city he's called home for the past 12 years.
China notches up another superlative achievement as a Nanjing-based artist creates the world's largest and longest anamorphic painting.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
In what is undoubtedly the world's "coolest" surf video, photographer Chris Burkhard endures freezing temperatures, blizzards and injury to capture Arctic waves and their riders.
updated 11:39 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Few airline routes are as cutthroat as the one that travels between London and New York. It is the world's busiest route and there are few lengths airlines won't go to in the hopes of getting a piece of the action.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT