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Art galleries are Asia’s retail sweet spot

Hong Kong is just one part of the Asian art scene. With the new Chinese middle class hungry for art and the Asian Tigers still strong, galleries are the new retail sweet spot in the East. Growing numbers of Asian artists are being nurtured for export to the West, while Western galleries are fighting for real estate in markets such as Shanghai, Delhi and Hanoi.

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi

Tech billionaire Shiv Nadar is renowned for his philanthropy, and now his wife, Kiran, has opened their 300-piece collection of Indian modernist and contemporary artists to the public. Her non-profit gallery shows works by mid-century painters such as F.N. Souza, imposing aluminum installations by Idris Khan and visual trickery by Anish Kapoor. A retrospective of dozens of pieces by 1970s abstractionist Nasreen Mohamedi is currently on show. The space occupies a wing of the South Court Mall but plans are to relocate to a purpose-built space in the city centre.

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Halcyon Gallery, Shanghai

The London branch has grown to dominate an entire city block in Mayfair, a hub for European art collectors on the hunt for bombastic pop art. With that market stagnating, Halcyon has reached out to the East with its new three-storey modernist villa in Shanghai's financial district, overlooking the Huangpu River. The gallery launched last month with a group exhibition of sculpture featuring regional names such as Wu Ching-ju and long-time clients such as Italian Lorenzo Quinn, plus a small selection of Warhol paintings to raise the profile.

Gillman Barracks, Singapore

The city owes much of its commercial success to "cluster development," and now the fine-art world is benefiting, too. Last year a 1930s army barracks outside the centre reopened as a gallery hub, hosting more than a dozen international contemporary spaces from Japan, Seoul, the Philippines and beyond. It's become a major destination for collectors and tourists alike. It also attracts academics and artists-in-residence with the city's first Centre for Contemporary Art, a base for lectures and workshops. Later this year, Chinese gallerist Pearl Lam will open a branch on-site.

The Bui Gallery, Hanoi

Hanoi has been an art town for decades, but has gotten serious about supporting emerging Vietnamese artists and cultivating an audience among young Asians. In 2009, Betty Bui launched her contemporary space in Old Hanoi, with plans to relocate later this year into a space designed by André Fu. The idea is to build bridges between Southeast Asia and Europe, nurturing artists for export to galleries in Paris and London. Bui recently hosted an exhibition introducing eight Hanoi artists to the wider art world, including Nguyen Thai Tuan, Ly Tran Quynh Giang and Truong Tan.

Kukje Gallery, Seoul

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One of the big hitters on Korea's contemporary-art scene, 30-year-old Kukje spans a few locations across Seoul. The latest opened in Samcheong-ro last spring, in a building by Brooklyn architects SO-IL. Kukje's roster includes established Korean artists, such as Jae-Eun Choi and Meekyoung Shin, which it supports in travelling exhibitions and art fairs abroad. But the gallery's real lure for Korean collectors is its showing from the contemporary canon: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Frank Stella, Anselm Kiefer and Louise Bourgeois.

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