Spotlight on Hong Kong as Art Basel opens

The first Art Basel fair to be hosted by Hong Kong boasts a prestigious array of international art, highlighting the city's new role as a global arts hub amid an explosion of personal wealth in mainland China.

The four-day annual event, previewed by VIPs Wednesday and opening to the public Thursday, has works from more than 3,000 international artists and from 245 of the world's leading galleries.

The main section showcases works from an international group of 171 modern and contemporary art galleries, with selections of paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs and video.

Other sections feature selections from the Asia-Pacific specifically curated for the show, large-scale sculptures and a section with solo and two-person exhibitions from emerging international artists.

"Having seen the high quality and vast range of presentations from galleries across the globe, I can assure you that the first edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong promises many discoveries and delights," Art Basel director Marc Spiegler told reporters.

Art Basel also exhibits in the Swiss city of Basel and in Miami Beach in the US, but the Hong Kong show will emphasise art from Asia, Spiegler said.

Hong Kong is "a place where all Asia feels at home and with many bridges to the west", he said.

"Here in Hong Kong, we will provide a global stage of international exposure for galleries and artists in Asia."

The boom in Hong Kong's international art market is largely a result of the fast growing wealth of mainland Chinese, who are investing in art.

There is also a growing interest among Asian collectors for different types of art aside from traditional works.

Gagosian, White Cube, Acquavella, Lehmann Maupin and Pearl Lam are just some of the big-name galleries to have arrived in the city in the past two years despite sky-high rents.

Art Basel replaces Art HK, Hong Kong's former art fair which was set up in 2008. It was recently taken over by the high-profile Swiss Art Basel franchise, which has been showcasing modern and contemporary art since 1970.