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Art behemoth Gagosian Gallery opened its doors in January with a widely lauded exhibition by Damien Hirst. In a city where space is hard to come by, the high-ceilinged 5,200-square-foot gallery is making the statement that Hong Kong is worth the investment. Director Nick Simunovic said the gallery's goals mirror its ones in other parts of the world: to mount "museum-quality exhibitions" and to help serious collectors add to their coffers. But Gagosian also aims to represent a wide range of artists of interest to both Asian and Western collectors. "I have been fielding requests for artists as diverse as Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, Roy Lichtenstein, Alberto Giacometti and Pablo Picasso, among many others," Simunovic said.

In March, Pascal and Sylvie de Sarthe brought a branch of their flagship Phoenix, Arizona gallery to Hong Kong. The gallery highlights works ranging from Abstract Expressionism to Pop. The couple is the exclusive dealer for photographer and surrealist artist David LaChapelle in Asia and launched their Hong Kong outpost with a successful show of Chinese artist Zao Wou-ki's colourful abstract canvases.

Art world mainstays agree: Hong Kong still has a long way to go before it can be seen as a hub on par with New York, Paris or London. But it is clear that a city oft criticized as commercial and superficial is finally developing some cultural depth.

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