PHOTO/ Tara Sosrowardoyo

In a surprise move after almost a year of speculation, Art Basel promoted its new Director Asia from within—Adeline Ooi was formerly a VIP relations liaison for the fair in southeast Asia. Known as the not-so-bad-after-all kind of art adviser (the kind who spends as much time with artists as patrons), the Hong Kong scene has so far been enamored with her youthful energy.

Adeline Ooi, Art Basel Director Asia
Adeline Ooi, Art Basel Director Asia

LEAP What has been your itinerary, day by day, since the big announcement?
ADELINE OOI I don’t have a typical work day, if that’s what you mean. It has been an intense and exciting few weeks. I’ve embarked on a tour covering seven cities over 12 days. During this time, I’ve spoken with members of the press, visited nearly 60 galleries, and have had the pleasure of meeting with key collectors in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Taipei, Singapore, and Jakarta. I’ve also delivered a lecture at HKU SPACE together with Marc Spiegler, returned to Singapore, and am now getting ready to travel to Switzerland to meet the team in Basel.

LEAP How far ahead have you planned for 2015?
AO I would say my schedule is firming up all the way to August.

LEAP How much travel is too much? What are your favorite and least favoritedestinations on your usual circuit?
AO It really is too early to give you an informed answer about what is “too much.” It’s only been over three weeks on the job. But I’m used to travelling and enjoy it a lot. I don’t have got one favorite destination but I can tell you that Hong Kong is very high on the list of favorites, and I am very much looking forward to spending more time there as a resident rather than a traveler.

LEAP So, the big question: what does your appointment mean for Singapore’s fair and Basel’s relationship with southeast Asia?
AO All I can say is that I’ve had a lot of great feedback from galleries, artists, curators and collectors from southeast Asia following the appointment. Everyone seemed truly delighted and excited for me. Even before my appointment as Director, Art Basel was committed to the region. For the past two years, I represented Art Basel in southeast Asia as a VIP relations manager, organizing events and looking after collectors from across the region. While southeast Asia may be my home turf, I wasn’t hired to ensure a stronger position for it within Art Basel, but rather to represent all the diverse art scenes within Asia, from Turkey to New Zealand. I am firmly committed to ensuring that Art Basel in Hong Kong is the best possible platform it can be for all of Asia.

LEAP What are you looking to do in this role? What kind of mandate do you have from MCH?
AO It’s really too early for me to talk about my aims and goals. First of all, I’ll be focused on supporting the team in delivering the upcoming show in Hong Kong in March. I want to spend some time observing and learning first before responding. To be honest, the Hong Kong show is in a very good position; there is no immediate need for innovation. That isn’t what I was hired for. However, I am firmly committed to further develop the Hong Kong show as the leading platform in Asia for galleries from Asia and the west, and to present the strongest artists and art that Asia has to offer. Asia covers vast territories and is growing and changing quite rapidly. There is still much to learn and discover and I hope Art Basel in Hong Kong and I will be able to grow and shift with the changes as we progress.