All posts filed under: City

Tai Kwun

By Elliat Albrecht Hong Kong has a soft spot for crime and police stories. Films about gangs, double agents and bloody conflicts have long been a mainstay of local cinema. There is an underlying psychological reason: a surge of public interest in the genre occurred in the 1980s, coinciding with the UK and China’s negotiations over the 1997 handover. Amid anxiety about the political future, the movies often depicted the goings-on of crime syndicates and their clashes with authority to explore themes of loyalty, heroism and chaos. This blue-coat fascination laid the foundation for some of the most significant pop culture of the 1980s – and continues to provide inspiration today, in the form of the city’s newest cultural institution. While Hong Kong awaits the opening of M+, its much-anticipated major museum of visual culture, the recently opened Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts is poised to tick the mid-size museum box. Built on a historical site, the 19th-century Central Police Station compound on Hollywood Road, Tai Kwun has an unusual cross-disciplinary remit. The …

Sculpture Parks and Street Art: Curating Hong Kong’s Public Art Agenda

By Aaina Bhargava Hong Kong, renowned for its booming art market, is widely regarded as Asia’s art hub. While commercial success has unquestionably been essential in validating this rising status, so has been the provision of proper education and exposure of the public to a diverse range of artistic practices. To fulfil its potential as an art capital, Hong Kong needs more of the latter. There are still sectors of the art community that are severely under-represented, from local art initiatives to experimental art spaces and, in particular, public-art projects. Public-art programmes are vital to cultural development in cities, due to the easy accessibility to art they provide. Hong Kong has suffered from a lack of quality programmes, but two recent initiatives seek to change this. One is Hong Kong’s first sculpture park, and the other is the formation of HKwalls, a non-profit organisation facilitating street-art projects citywide. Harbour Arts Sculpture Park opened in late February, altering an iconic space on the harbour front between Central and Wan Chai. Co-curators Tim Marlow and Fumio Nanjo have emphasised the significance of the park in …

After the Deluge

A site-specific project by Kingsley Ng and Stephanie Cheung. By Tessa Moldan. Standing in the dark belly of Hong Kong’s oldest floodwater storage tank is without doubt one of the more powerful ways in which to contemplate the impact of rapid development on the city. Such was the experience granted by Kingsley Ng’s site-specific project after the deluge (January 1–31, 2018) in Sham Shui Po, which provided viewers with an all-encompassing experience consisting of undulating fabrics weaved through the tank’s pillars, illuminated against the dark with UV light and set to a minimal soundscape created by Angus Lee. The multi-disciplinary performance called attention to the monumental nature of the tank, which was inaugurated in 2004 as a means of coping with severe flooding in the area as a result of land reclamation. Although it bears Ng’s name, this was a collaborative project, curated by Stephanie Cheung, involving disparate elements coming together as a vast, layered experience that reminds viewers of their scale against the great forces of nature and the passage of time. Wearing headsets …

Crossing Hong Kong’s Harbour

By John Batten The very first art objects mass-exported from China to buyers in Europe, Asia and the Ottoman Empire were designed-to-order, ceramic and porcelain chinoiserie items, often purely utilitarian: crockery dinner sets, jars and storage urns. In the 18th century worldwide trade expanded due to growing demand, sturdier ships and established trading routes. Canton, as Guangzhou was then known, was China’s only port open for foreign trade, and encouraged by the success of the porcelain trade the earliest China Trade paintings were created there. This established the practice for visiting European traders and military personnel to buy or commission a painting as a souvenir of their visit or an export product. Executed by Chinese artisan painters, China Trade paintings were completed in a western landscape painting style, often naive and using rudimentary perspective. The paintings focused on depicting Canton life, including factories, trading houses, foreign diplomatic quarters, landscape scenes and visiting ships – subjects that appealed to Europeans. The monopoly on British trade with India and China held by the British East India Company for more than two centuries ended …

Art Partners

Meet the three women behind some of Hong Kong’s most ambitious large-scale public exhibitions. On a recent December afternoon at the Ladies’ Recreation Club, three women gathered to discuss art. They were passionate, vocal and slightly stunned at the speed with which their lives have shifted. For Levina Li-Cadman, Sarah Pringle and Vita Wong-Kwok, art is not about recreation. This is a high-octane, professional partnership, reflected in the name they chose when they launched their company exactly a year ago: Art-Partners.  The core founder was Li-Cadman, whose background is in luxury-goods and media marketing. In 2003, when the Financial Times launched its Asia edition in Hong Kong, her job was to build its relationships with high-end clients. One of these was Christie’s, and she was subsequently asked to become the auction house’s Asia-Pacific director of business development.  After that, she began consulting for White Cube and for the Royal Academy of Arts in London. As Hong Kong’s second Art Basel fair approached in May 2014, the Peninsula hotel was keen to demonstrate its artistic sensibilities through an …

Interior Materialism[s]

By Gerhard Bruyns One of the most daunting challenges of all design endeavours is the material expression of ideas and intentions. Historically, the very first attempts at materialising ideas have in some way been challenged. First, designers consider the technical skills needed to express the idea. Second, they question the material at hand to give the idea a form or body. And third, they search for the stylistic language most suited to the idea. For the ancient Greeks, the challenge was to achieve material perfection in either architectural or human form. Architectural perfection lay within the classical orders of the Doric or Ionic orders that guided the way that building facades had to be designed. The composition of each facade, the elements it contained and the proportions of each section of a facade were the driving concerns. The geometric simplicity of the Doric order’s column capital influenced a specific material composition compared to the Ionic order’s curvatures and edges. Each Greek temple was devised in a similar order, where the perfection lay in the proportional orders of the plan: usually in a 1:3 ratio between the main entrance …

An Empty Apartment. A Painting. Afternoon: Law Man Lok at Things That Can Happen

By Michele Chan Opening with the starkest, barest of scenes – “A country. A tree. Evening.” – Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot sends viewers on a reflexive rummage for revelation and meaning. There is an analogous barren yet expectant vacuity in the closing exhibition at things that can happen in Sham Shui Po: the door opens onto an empty Hong Kong apartment, its walls painted deep grey, and the eye falls on a sole painting hung near the far right corner in which Dumbo, wraith-like and ethereal in orange pastel hues, hovers mid-flight against a background of electric yellow. The only other work in the room, displayed on the wall opposite, is the diptych He-Man & She-Ra (2015), two garish superhero murals executed in the shabby vintage style signature to Hong Kong artist Law Man Lok, aka Lawman. A sense of stagnant expectation pervades, Beckettian with a whimsical twist: He-Man and She-Ra are frozen mid-transformation; Dumbo is trying to fly; and Things’ two-year-old space in Sham Shui Po is set to close, while its founders, artist Lee Kit …

Ha Bik Chuen

Ha Bik Chuen’s Archive of Determination By John Batten For over 50 years, Hong Kong artist Ha Bik Chuen (1925-2009) built a large collection of art-exhibition catalogues, art books, magazines and clippings from newspapers and other printed matter. Often accompanied by his wife or children, Ha also photographed every art exhibition he visited, and his photograph archive comprises hundreds of boxes of prints, contact sheets and negatives. Now known as the Ha Bik Chuen Archive and featuring thousands of individual pieces, it is a historical collection of Hong Kong art and Ha Bik Chuen’s resources, a glimpse of past international art trends and a personal record of Hong Kong’s art scene between the 1960s and 2000s. The collection was formerly housed in Ha’s crowded home and its rooftop in Shim Luen Street, To Kwa Wan, where his family kept everything intact after his death, as he wished. It has now been boxed and relocated to a Fo Tan industrial unit where the Asia Art Archive began a three-year project in 2016, funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, to catalogue …

Speculative Cartography

By Gerhard Bruyns and Peter Hasdell On Exactitude in Science: In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. Succeeding Generations… came to judge a map of such Magnitude cumbersome… In the western Deserts, tattered Fragments of the Map are still to be found, sheltering an occasional Beast or beggar; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography. Purportedly from Travels of Prudent Men by Suárez Miranda, Book Four, Chapter XLV, Lérida, 1658; from A Universal History of Infamy by Jorge Luis Borges, 1935 Jorge Luis Borges’ On Exactitude in Science examines as speculative instruments the applications, skills and techniques of cartography, and can be understood as a critique both of …

Gerard d’Alton Henderson

A Total Embrace By Alexandra A Seno In the autumn of 1963, a new luxury hotel opened in the heart of Hong Kong’s Central district. The 27-floor Mandarin Oriental boasted state-of-the-art amenities such as the city’s first phone system that allowed guests to make direct calls to outside numbers, and switchboard operators to activate an in-room light informing occupants of missed calls. Befitting such a cosmopolitan operation, the hotel’s owners chose an artist based in Spain to create the property’s most prominent features. A rising star with a growing international following, he was of European and Chinese descent, and seemed to have just the right style for the large, dramatic murals in the lobby and the Mandarin Grill restaurant, as well as mosaics for the rooftop swimming pool area. This is how most of Hong Kong was first introduced to Gerard d’Alton Henderson. In the final two decades of British rule, Henderson — who was born in Malaysia and grew up in Singapore — was the artist to know in the Crown Colony. The best households had to …