Hong Kong News

Nonpartisan, Noncommercial, unconstrained.
Friday, May 24, 2024

Hong Kong’s riche ready to party at champagne-soaked soirees

Hong Kong’s riche ready to party at champagne-soaked soirees

After three years of Covid hibernation, Hong Kong's champagne-soaked art and luxury shopping scene is roaring back to life.
With the city’s edition of Art Basel just a few weeks away, global auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s are bringing back in-person VIP events. They’re also gearing up for the return of wealthy mainland Chinese patrons, who mostly stayed away during the global health crisis due to travel restrictions.

The annual fair kicks off in the week of March 21, but the gala mood is already palpable. At a soiree of some 90 people on a recent Friday evening in the center of Hong Kong’s financial district, women in white gloves hobnobbed with Sotheby’s executives as they admired Hermes collectibles. A lady in a princess frock slipped off her pink mask to pose for the camera, champagne flute in one hand and a rose-hued Birkin in the other.

“It’s nice to see all my friends at these parties again; feels more exclusive than when it was all online,” said Angel Lai, who attended the Sotheby’s show and owns at least 10 Birkins. “You’re definitely buying more when you show up in person.”

The social gathering of Hong Kong’s well-heeled — one among the many being held in the run-up to the event — is the latest sign of normalcy returning to a city that just a few months ago had some of the strictest quarantine policies and social distancing measures. Lai said her social life has lit up ever since China reopened its borders. She has attended four VIP parties in two weeks, compared with just two in the whole of last quarter.

Despite those three years lost to the pandemic, the former British colony still remains the main Asia transaction center for Sotheby’s and Christie’s. It acts as a gateway for the biggest auction market by sales — China. The country accounted for 33 percent of the global share by value in 2021, according to a joint report by Art Basel and UBS Group AG.

This year’s Art Basel also coincides with the government’s efforts to welcome back tourists and revive a battered economy. Chief Executive John Lee has unveiled a “Hello Hong Kong” charm offensive and this month announced a giveaway of 500,000 free air tickets to visitors. The city will be hosting a series of events in coming months, including the sold-out Clockenflap music festival scheduled for early March.

Sotheby’s, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Asia, will be holding dedicated client receptions with themes ranging from wine masterclasses, guided art tours and panel discussions throughout March, according to Nathan Drahi, managing director for Asia. The auction house will also organize a gala evening, he said.

At Art Basel, invite-only, in-person events have always played a key role in building loyalty among attendees. It isn’t any different for the tech and social media-savvy younger generation, because all that action and excitement is hard to replicate online.

About 69 percent of collectors still prefer to make purchases at a physical exhibition at a gallery or a fair instead of online, according to the Art Basel & UBS report.

“Part of luxury is both the goods and the experience,” said Karla Martin, a managing director who oversees the global luxury sector at Deloitte. “It’s part of being in a club that everybody can’t get into, the champagne, the one-on-one clienteling.”

That’s why Phillips Auctioneers is planning to bring back many more in-person events including exhibitions, auctions and private sales. It plans to boost its Hong Kong headcount by 40 percent to more than 100 in the city by the end of this year.

Christie’s is lining up in-person dinners where it typically brings about 50 VIP clients together as the company prepares for its Spring auction and Art Basel. It also plans to organize activities in Shanghai and Beijing, marking its 10th anniversary of its first sale in China.

Being in person “is a multiplier” of Christie’s expertise and ability to procure art, said Francis Belin, president of Christie’s Asia.

“Now you can decide to talk about it over coffee in the morning or a bottle of wine in the evening,” he said. “You see that drives the relationship in a different way.”

Such events also help with sales of less-known work, furniture, sculptures and Asian classical art, objects people prefer to see up close, Belin added.

There’s still one pandemic-era irritant that could spoil the fun at a party: the mask mandate. While cities like London and New York scrapped the requirement long time ago, Hong Kong just extended the regulation through March 8, with no clarity on when it will end. That raises the question whether the art event will manage to attract enough visitors and pull off sufficient deals to help Hong Kong regain its pre-Covid mojo.

While Art Basel is set to stage 177 exhibitors this year in Hong Kong, it’s still short of the pre-pandemic count of 242 in 2019. The years of strict Covid restrictions have also helped places like Singapore and Seoul to take a bite of the luxury and art market.

But for now, Hong Kong is getting another chance. Christie’s is planning to open a new 50,000-square-feet, four-floor space next year. Phillips is also moving to a new office of about the same size. Sotheby’s will open new spaces totaling 60,000 square feet next year, including an exhibition space in the Central district.

“Collectors really are excited to be able to come back,” said Belin at Christie’s. “Art Basel is probably the first window where they would fly back.”

Related Articles

Hong Kong News
It's always the people with the dirty hands pointing their fingers
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Steve Jobs' Son Launches Venture Capital Firm With $200 Million For Cancer Treatments
Google reshuffles Assistant unit, lays off some staffers, to 'supercharge' products with A.I.
End of Viagra? FDA approved a gel against erectile dysfunction
UK sanctions Russians judges over dual British national Kara-Murza's trial
US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Political leader from South Africa, Julius Malema, led violent racist chants at a massive rally on Saturday
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
'I am not your servant': IndiGo crew member, passenger get into row over airline meal
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Spanish Citizenship Granted to Iranian chess player who removed hijab
US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell freezes up, leaves press conference
Speaker McCarthy says the United States House of Representatives is getting ready to impeach Joe Biden.
San Francisco car crash
This camera man is a genius
3D ad in front of Burj Khalifa
Next level gaming
BMW driver…
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.