Adeline Ooi will be stepping down from her role as Art Basel’s Asia director at the end of November after leading the Swiss mega fair’s development and operation for a decade.
The departure, announced internally on Thursday, October 5, is a conclusion of a major chapter of Asia’s art world story that saw the region’s rise to become an integral part of the global art market with Hong Kong, home to Art Basel’s fair in Asia, at the center. Ooi said she will be focusing on personal matters following her departure. Her role will not immediately be replaced as Art Basel continues to undergo a structural reorganization.
“It has been a magical ride,” Ooi said via telephone from her home in Malaysia. “It was something very special that we did together in Hong Kong, from establishing a proper art platform in Asia and trying to tell the world that we are not second best to bringing together that very special Asian energy. It was truly amazing.”
Looking back at the past decade since she took on the role in 2014 after serving as Art Basel’s VIP representative for Southeast Asia, she said it has been a special journey professionally and on a personal level. Ooi spearheaded the launch of Art Basel’s new initiatives in Asia, such as the collaboration with Art Week Tokyo and S.E.A. Focus in Singapore over the past two years.
“Adeline has delivered a tremendous amount to the Art Basel organization and to our clients in the Asian context and also at a global level. We’re really saddened to see her leaving,” said Noah Horowitz, CEO of Art Basel. Horowitz worked with Ooi when he was the fair’s director of Americas from 2015 to 2021; he returned to Art Basel as the fair’s CEO in November last year.
Ooi was appointed to Asia director as Art Basel’s parent company MCH Group took full ownership of the Hong Kong fair in 2014, following the initial acquisition of a 60 percent stake in Asian Art Fairs, which launched ART HK in 2008. The company rebranded the Hong Kong fair as Art Basel in Hong Kong in 2013.
Since then, Art Basel Hong Kong became a destination event in Asia as a platform to introduce western galleries to the region’s collectors, and shining a spotlight on artistic talents and galleries from across the region, while drawing international VIPs. The fair’s grew, hosting 242 exhibitors in 2019 until Covid hit in 2020, forcing organizers to cancel fair events around the world that year. Art Basel Hong Kong resumed in 2021 and 2022 but in much scaled-down editions with a local focus, until March this year when the city fully reopened to world travelers.
Art Basel has been going through a structural change following media scion James Murdoch’s acquisition of a 38 percent stake in MCH Group in 2020, pledging for $80 million investment. While bringing back Horowitz to Art Basel as successor to former global director Marc Spiegler, who was at the helm for over a decade until end of last year, Art Basel also appointed the newly created fair director positions to lead each of its four fairs: Angelle Siyang-Le as director of the Hong Kong fair; Bridget Finn to lead Art Basel Miami Beach; Maike Cruse to direct the flagship fair in Switzerland; and Clément Delépine to head Paris+ by Art Basel, the latest addition to the Art Basel fair enterprise. They were all installed following last year’s appointment of Vincenzo de Bellis as director of fairs and exhibition platforms.
Horowitz assured that the new organizational structure will strengthen Art Basel’s operation globally, and the fair remains committed to Asia despite Ooi’s departure.
“We recognize that the Asian market is not a single umbrella market. There are very distinct regional markets. Our team will continue to look at where we can make an impact, where we can continue to build relationships, and build and help to service local, artistically collecting communities,” Horowitz noted.
Art Week Tokyo will return from November 2 to 5. Art Basel Hong Kong, led by Siyang-Le and Gil Schorr, Art Basel’s Hong Kong general manager, will return from March 26 through 30, 2024, with the first two days as VIP days.
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