Designing Hong Kong: Its Cooler, Artsy, Edgier Side (Part 2)

6 comments
Festivals, General

So what about HK’s art scene? With no large monuments to art of great significance, it is bubbling up instead in gallery spaces. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Perhaps less convenient than having a MoMA or similar to descend upon and while away a full afternoon – with just a little digging, you can find increasingly well-curated pieces representing both local and international talent in HK’s smaller artistic venues. Central and Sheung Wan expectedly house many of the gallery offerings here, such as the well-known White CubeCat Street GalleryOpera Gallery, and Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

Assorted treasures - from Umberto Ciceri's lenticular ballerina prints to SEEN's graffiti art -  inside the Opera Gallery

Assorted treasures – from Umberto Ciceri‘s lenticular ballerina prints to SEEN‘s graffiti art – inside the Opera Gallery

IMG_2173

But galleries are also cropping up in Sai Ying Pun, Chai Wan, Aberdeen, and Ap Lei Chau – even in very unexpected locations in the mostly corporate Quarry Bay area (ArtisTree) and most recently, at the new and somewhat oddly named Living Room Museum outside Times Square in Causeway Bay.

Selections by Indian photographer Raghu Rai on display at ArtisTree

Selections by Magnum photographer Raghu Rai on display at ArtisTree

"That is what photography means to me. It is my profession, it is my religion, it is my karma, it is my life." - hear, hear, Raghu Rai

“That is what photography means to me. It is my profession, it is my religion, it is my karma, it is my life.” – hear, hear, Mr. Rai

The newly sprouted, oddly named Living Room Museum outside Times Square - currently featuring  B&W works from the 1950s-60s by native HKer and photographer Dr. Leo K.K. Wong

The newly sprouted, oddly named Living Room Museum near Times Square – currently featuring B&W works from the 1960s-70s by native HKer and photographer Leo K.K. Wong

Imagery of street scenes and icons of religious or cultural meaning by Wong - which while reflections on the past, actually reminded me of some traditions that remain (and that I have also photographed)

Imagery of street scenes and icons of religious or cultural meaning by Wong – which while reflections on the past, actually reminded me of some traditions that remain (and that I have also photographed, in my own way)

Photo Jan 26, 7 01 51 PM

I often find that the most interesting aspect of art is how people respond to it, interact with it. To be successful, I believe a piece must move the viewer in some way, whether to elate, sadden, surprise, enlighten, elicit laughter, or inspire. And it’s never too early to encourage this influence – or is it?

Sometimes art really seems like reality - at Art Basel HK

Art as life? At Art Basel HK

Especially in the US right now, guns are no joke - but there is something fascinating about seeing the cross-section of a larger-than-life replica (that poses no danger)

Especially in the US right now, guns are no joke – but there is something fascinating about seeing the cross-section of a larger-than-life replica (that poses no danger)

Perhaps the most-talked-and-walked-about 'sculpture' at Art Basel - He Xiangyu's 'death-like' figure, 'The Death of Marat' (and don't worry - while almost impossible to tell, it's actually fiberglass)

Perhaps the most-talked-and-walked-about piece at Art Basel – conceptual artist He Xiangyu‘s ‘death-like’ figure, ‘The Death of Marat’ (and don’t worry – while almost impossible to tell, it’s not really a dead dude – it’s made of fiberglass!)

Look closely, and you'll see this innocent child is actually checking out...porn (or close to it) via Nam June Paik's 'TV Bed' exhibit

Look closely, and you’ll see this now-slightly-less-innocent child is actually checking out…porn (or close to it) via Nam June Paik‘s ‘TV Bed’ exhibit

One particularly positive element of HK’s art scene has been exhibits that intersect creativity with conservation-focused messages of awareness and hope, encouraging interaction (and action) – such as the Elephant Parade and 1600 Pandas moving exhibits that toured through HK over the past year. [Bonus points for cuteness (!) and mass appeal across generations.]

A particularly pink member of the Elephant Parade that made its way through HK - raising awareness of the need to protect these gentle giants (pictured here outside One Island East)

A particularly pink member of the Elephant Parade that made its way through HK (Andre Miripolsky‘s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’) – raising awareness of the need to ‘break the chains’  and protect these beautiful and intelligent creatures

Taking it all in - hovering over the '1600 Pandas' exhibit that ended its tour through Hong Kong at new design hub, PMQ

Hovering over the ‘1600 Pandas’ exhibit that ended its tour through Hong Kong at new design hub, PMQ

Asia is not uniformly known for protecting animals, and some countries are overtly poor at this. China is particularly guilty, with its insatiable, cruel, and infuriatingly wasteful appetite for some animal by-products that result in unspeakable animal population decimation and cruelty, such as ivory from elephants, black rhinoceros horn for ‘traditional’ (and completely unfounded) medicine, and shark fin for a pointless and tasteless ‘status soup’. Hence the plea behind the Elephant Parade – with key takeaways being to not purchase ivory products and to discourage others from doing so. If the demand dies down, so does the illegal ivory trade – allowing these gorgeous gentle giants to live in peace and once again thrive in the wild.

Photo Sep 04, 4 28 12 PM

Cristiano Cascelli‘s creation, ‘Sunny’

Photo Sep 04, 4 37 31 PM

William Sim‘s elephant, entitled ‘Big White Happiness’

Mark Goss' Thai-inspired 'Jungle Chang'

Mark Goss‘ Thai-inspired ‘Jungle Chang’

Consider the relative success story behind pandas. 1600 Pandas sought to increase awareness of their endangered status (1600 reflects the estimated number of pandas currently living in the wild) and highlight the importance of continued conservation efforts. Threats to their natural habitats, such as unbridled construction, are key reasons for their low numbers. However, while the number 1600 is concerning, it is at least quite a bit higher than estimates from the 1980s. Pandas prove that when China decides it wants to, it can play an enormous positive role – as it is their cooperation and protection that have allowed the bulk of panda populations to re-grow.

'1600 Pandas' near the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade in Kowloon, before moving on to various sites on HK's main island and being sold to raise $ for conservation efforts

‘1600 Pandas’ near the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade in Kowloon, before moving on to various sites on HK’s main island and being auctioned off to raise $ for conservation efforts

_DSC7326

_DSC7306

_DSC7310

The ‘eco’ movement overall is one that is beginning to take hold in Hong Kong, and I think that’s a very good thing. Perhaps HK has become more sensitized to the importance of environmental considerations  while observing the cost of economic expansion in the mainland (and literally experiencing its downstream effects, via increasing pollution). Thoughtful art and design can be powerful in this regard, both in their own development and the messages they communicate – and I’m hopeful that they will continue to influence and inspire.

Art? No. But recycling and other environmentally-friendly efforts should be commended (plus I thought it looked kinda cool)

Art? No. But recycling and other environmentally-friendly efforts should be commended (plus I did think it looked kinda cool)

Art fairs and festivals have also unsurprisingly gained HUGE popularity in Hong Kong. Art Basel is clearly the most famous of the bunch, with last year’s event a massive affair, featuring more Asian artists than the year prior. I think of it as my version of art-binging for the year. But there are also several other art events, including Fine Art AsiaAsia International Arts & Antiques FairAsia Contemporary Art ShowHK ArtWalkAffordable Art Fair, and for performing arts, the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Springtime is art season in HK!

Passing by Gu Wenda's 'Metamorphosis' series created for the UN and showcased at Art Basel HK - using actual human hair from multiple countries to create a gigantic artistic monument to the power of the masses and to symbolize 'cultural colonialism'

Passing by Gu Wenda‘s ‘Metamorphosis’ series created for the UN and showcased at Art Basel HK – which wove together actual human hair from multiple countries to create a gigantic artistic monument to the power of the masses and to symbolize ‘cultural colonialism’

The simply named but intensely colored 'Pens' by artist Kyoung Tack Hong

The simply named but intensely colored (and smile-inducing) ‘Pens’ by artist Kyoung Tack Hong

The indulgent, laser-cut currency-based sculpture 'Caryatid', by artist Scott Campbell

The indulgent, laser-cut currency-based sculpture ‘Caryatid’, by artist Scott Campbell – just so cool!

Paper cuts by Chinese artist Wu JIan'an

Ombré paper cuts by Chinese artist Wu JIan’an

Lee Wen's über-fun 'Ping Pong Go-Round'

Lee Wen’s über-fun ‘Ping Pong Go-Round’ (on a much less fun and unresolved note, the outspoken artist unfortunately either was beaten or experienced a bad fall related to his Parkinson’s disease during Art Basel HK, requiring hospitalization)

Even the lounge spaces surrounding the Art Basel HK exhibits celebrated artistic installation...

Even the lounge spaces surrounding the Art Basel HK exhibits celebrated artistic installations…

...and allowed viewers to become part of the art itself

…and allowed viewers to become part of the art itself

If there's one thing that HKers really enjoy, it's drinking - all the better to enjoy the day art-hopping (and don't think the irony of the name of the champagne for sale - 'Ruinart' - was lost on me, despite the actual French pronunciation!)

If there’s one thing that HKers really enjoy, it’s drinking – all the better to enjoy the day art-hopping (and don’t think the irony of the name of the champagne for sale – ‘Ruinart’ – was lost on me, despite the actual French pronunciation!)

One other great thing about art festivals? The after-parties! Here, video screens featured by artist Nadim Abbas at the Absolut Art Bar - Apocalypse Postponed satellite event

One other great thing about art festivals? The after-parties! Here, video screens featured by artist Nadim Abbas at the ‘Absolut Art Bar – Apocalypse Postponed’ satellite event

And what better way to prepare for a potentially apocalyptic night? A DJ set or 2, and a few vodka Ca++ cocktails (replete with fizzy calcium tablets - nothing like strengthening one's bones while waiting for 'the end'!)

And what better way to prepare for a potential apocalypse? A DJ set or 2 with a hypnotizing light show, and a few vodka Ca++ cocktails (replete with fizzy calcium tablets – nothing like strengthening one’s bones while waiting for ‘the end’!)

Sometimes great creative inspiration comes from the street. I’m sure some may disagree – but in my opinion, absence of traditional canvas material and protective glass do not automatically disqualify something from being ‘art’. But that’s another discussion for another day.

Hong Kong has only relatively recently begun to embrace street art. So I was quite surprised to stumble upon HKwalls, the city’s first street art festival, hosted on a series of walls throughout Sheung Wan. It’s not that common that you get to catch a street artist ‘in the act’, so while some might say this approach is a bit mainstream, I found the opportunity really enjoyable. And no, not because of all the paint fumes! Most of the work created during this event remains, and it’s brought a great dose of color and character to the ‘hood, offsetting and balancing Sheung Wan’s backdrop of traditional storefronts, antique shops, and galleries.

ROES saturates a Sheung Wan alley during HKwalls

ROES saturates a Sheung Wan alley during HKwalls

WHYYY works his avian-inspired magic to create my favorite piece of graffiti at HKwalls

WHYYY works his avian-inspired magic to create my favorite piece of graffiti at HKwalls

CATHLOVE's creation - somewhere at the intersection of a Hindu goddess and a sunbathing cat

CATHLOVE‘s creation – somewhere at the intersection of a Hindu goddess and a blue-haired, sunbathing cat

ROES puts on the finishing touches of his masterpiece

ROES midway through his masterpiece

Graffiti is often at its most humorous when playfully leveraging existing structures

Graffiti is often at its most humorous when playfully leveraging existing structures

Mark is motivated to mimic Stern Rockwell and 4Get's colorful mural (and he does it so well, doesn't he?)

Mark is motivated to mimic Stern Rockwell and 4get‘s colorful mural (and he does it so well, doesn’t he?)

XEME and Mark Goss' familiar piece on Upper Station Street

xeme and Mark Goss‘ highly recognizable work on Upper Station Street (and if this looks quite recently familiar, it should – scroll up to Mark’s elephant creation above!)

I still wondered where HK’s edgier set hung out, though. Or if they even existed. You know who I mean – the black-leather-and-combat-boot-wearing, tattoo-emblazoned, pierced-to-oblivion folks. Look, part of me has always sympathized with this group – just because they style themselves however the f&*$ they want, they are often marginalized for how they choose to look. As long as their appearance doesn’t represent a more sinister intent, I actually respect them for their lack of adherence to a more typically accepted dress code.

_DSC1018

_DSC1027

_DSC0887

OK - maybe he doesn't look so unusual - but he was singing reggae, which was a little unexpected

OK – maybe he doesn’t look that unusual (except for the man-bun) – but he was singing reggae, which was a little unexpected

And I find some tattoos to be downright beautiful. Or at least really friggin’ impressive. I have a pretty high pain threshold, but I personally don’t have the cajones to squirm through a tattoo session.

Braving yet another tattoo - at the HK Tattoo Festival

Braving yet another tattoo – at the HK Tattoo Convention

_DSC0759

_DSC0728

So I was quite intrigued when I learned about HK’s annual Tattoo Convention. Ok, yes – maybe it sounds a bit, well, conventional. I mean, we’re talking tattoos, right? But it still was pretty cool to check out. I must admit, after getting caught up in all the energy at this festival, I was almost tempted to give it a go myself at one point – but that whim didn’t last long (more like a minute). Regardless, everyone was a good sport about having a non-participant in their midst – and quite proud to show off their new skin art. And it was a good reminder – just because someone’s sporting a tat, it doesn’t mean they’re not ‘family people’ or just like the rest of us in many other ways.

_DSC0963

_DSC0800

I thought this lovely chap demonstrated an intriguing mix of humility, exhibitionism, and a willingness to show off his more delicate, tender side…

_DSC0821

…until I stumbled upon this unashamed character! Oh, the lengths one goes to for full-body tattoo coverage…

_DSC0810

Beyond words…

_DSC1100

_DSC0878

_DSC0902

Inspiration comes from everywhere (and every time period – this one from a Baroque-style painting)

_DSC0797

_DSC0854

_DSC0769

Not just for the boys..

_DSC0709

And here is where I felt a slight pang of envy…

A boy and his...cockroach? Even the kids get a little - quirky - at the HK Tattoo Convention

A boy and his…cockroach? Even the kids get a little – quirky – at the HK Tattoo Convention

Tattooed guys love their kids just as much as the next dad!

Tattooed guys love their kids just as much as the next dad!

So what’s next for Hong Kong? From my perspective, it is looking to the future. Consistently cutting edge, it may not be (yet). But getting to that stage means first having an open mind, starting to think out of the box, and creating an infrastructure to incubate fresh ideas. The fact that TED (Technology Entertainment Design) has arrived in our own little ‘hood of Wan Chai signifies a small but important gaze to the future, spreading ideas and creative inspiration across a number of sectors. Hong Kong Design Centre‘s Business of Design Week annually looks at the power and evolution of design through the overlapping lenses of innovation, technology, business, branding, and culture – with the goal of designing a better tomorrow. Knowledge of Design Week is an annual forum that puts a practical spin on innovative design. And HK is a city that encourages innovative business – with a rapidly growing group of entrepreneurs supported by organizations like General AssemblyNest, and CoCoon.

Mark gets ready to check out some 'ideas worth spreading' at TEDxWanChai, right in our backyard!

Mark gets ready to check out some ‘ideas worth spreading’ at TEDxWanChai, right in our backyard!

Does posing next to the TEDx sign make me a huge nerd? Maybe - but I don't really care :)

Does posing next to the TEDx sign make me a huge nerd? Quite possibly – but I don’t really care 🙂

TEDxWanChai featured innovators such as Jesko von den Steinen - actor, performer, choreographer, filmmaker, creative designer, and principal artist at “The House of Dancing Water”, the world’s largest water-based show held at the City of Dreams in Macau (he was previously with the astounding Cirque du Soleil)

TEDxWanChai featured innovators such as Jesko von den Steinen – actor, performer, choreographer, filmmaker, creative designer, and principal artist at ‘The House of Dancing Water”’ the world’s largest water-based show held at the City of Dreams entertainment complex in Macau (he was previously with the astounding Cirque du Soleil)

On the artistic front, the West Kowloon Cultural District is developing a number of visual and performing arts venues – for indoor and outdoor consumption. I am particularly excited about its contemporary visual arts museum, M+, to feature 20th and 21st century art, architecture, design, and the moving image. But – sigh – we’ll have to wait until 2018 for its complete unveiling.

So – HK is not New York. Or London. Or Beijing, Shanghai, or any other city. Nor should it try to be! The important thing is that HK move forward and continue to craft its own identity. I am hopeful it will keep on pressing its creative juices, embracing its talented outliers, and actively designing its exciting future with responsible innovation and cultural exploration (and evolution) in mind.

top

 

All images © 2015 deb fong photography

 

Related posts:

Designing Hong Kong: Its Cooler, Artsy, Edgier Side (Part 1)

One Year In: What It’s Like to Live in Hong Kong (Part 6 – The People and Their Culture)

 

top

Posted by

Globetrotter based in Hong Kong, travel and street photographer, Getty Images contributor, award-winning blogger of WanderFong.com - seeking true beauty in travel and life!

6 thoughts on “Designing Hong Kong: Its Cooler, Artsy, Edgier Side (Part 2)”

  1. Excellent post, so informative and filled with good photos. You are the best blogger!

    I did not realize Hong Kong is so artsy. Now about those tattoos, hmmm … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, you are too kind! Thank you so much! I had so much fun building up content and writing/selecting images for these post over the last almost-year. It’s not an art capital quite yet, but HK definitely has a ‘scene’ – just need to know where to look for it! And yes, the tattoos were VERY intriguing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, I thoroughly enjoyed that. I knew HKers had art in them, somewhere, somehow! This is a city eager to be creative and ‘out there’, just look at the Occupy Central displays. When the local art scene is strong and healthy, I think that bodes well for the city and its future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Peter! Indeed – not so easy to find on the surface, but after some digging, the creativity reveals itself 🙂 And I agree, a robust art scene does help propel a city and its people forward. I’m looking forward to seeing it continue to develop! Thanks for reading, as always..

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s