We had a special interviw with Mr. Magnus Renfrew, who is the director Asia of Art Basel, at Grand Hyatt Tokyo!
─What is the purpose of this visit?
MR: The purpose of this visit is in keeping with my overall schedule for the year; the first part of the cycle from June until December was about outreach to galleries, and from January until the fair it is all about speaking to collectors and the international arts community. So now I’m travelling around Asia speaking to collectors, curators and so on to encourage them to experience the fair, and talking to the press as well. The week before last I was in London, Berlin and Paris, this week coming up in Seoul and Tokyo, and I’ll be in New York next week.
─Do you think more Japanese collectors will be coming to the fair this year?
MR: I hope so. I hope more and more people are becoming aware of what we are trying to achieve in Hong Kong. And I certainly think that the involvement of Art Basel in the art fair in Hong Kong will draw an even greater number of art collectors from Japan as well as from other parts of the region.
─Japanese people have apparently got interested in the fair because it changed into Art Basel’s art fair.
MR: I think that’s true. The previous art fair created a strong foundation for this. And there is no doubt that Art Basel has greater resources than we have had historically. So, I think it will help to bring a much wider audience from all over the world.
─When did you first encounter art ? Was it when you were young?
MR: Yes, both my parents are archeologists, so I have been visiting museums for as long as I can remember.
─Where were you born?
MR: I was born in Winchester and brought up in Cambridge. My parents were archeologists in the university.
─Are you a collector as well?
MR: I’m not really a collector. I think one of the great advantages though is that I get to see a lot of art everyday anyway that I don't necessarily have to own it. But I have picked up one or two things. I’m in a very fortunate position to travel so much and to see such a wealth of great art on my travels.
─How did you get interested in Asian art?
MR: I first got interested when I was working on an auction of contemporary art from Asia, which took place in June 2006. I was working for about 18 months preparing the auction. I was also reading a lot about the region, and I was really impressed by the works that have been produced in that part of the world. So I wanted to be close to the center of things. After Bonhams, I met a wonderful lady called Pearl Lam., who offered me a job to go and run her galleries in Shanghai and Beijing. I spent an incredible year in Shanghai, and travelled to the various different art centers around China.
─Do you think the Asian market is going to develop gradually?
MR: Yes, I think it is developing in quite an interesting way as it has a huge amount of potential. It’s still at quite an early stage of its development. However, galleries in Korea, Taiwan or Japan are very sophisticated. In the past, people have perhaps bought primarily from auction houses, but are now beginning to see the importance of buying from galleries and acknowledging the roles that galleries play.
─Japanese art is very diverse. What kind of art would you like to see at the fair?
MR: The majority of the work that will be shown at the fair will be contemporary work. However, I am delighted to say that we will be presenting more historical material at the fair work this year by Gutai or Monoha artists. Gutai, for example, has been gaining a lot of international attention over the last few years. We hope that the art fair in the future will be able to provide even more of these kind of opportunities. It’s very interesting for us to engage with and reach back further into the 20th century to try to understand more about the historical context. But it takes time for us to build this knowledge, and we have to ask the right people for the right advice.
─Thank you for your time!
MR: Thank you very much. It was nice seeing you again!