Ever since Hong Kong joined the Venice Biennale in 2001 as a collateral event participant, the exercise has been plagued with controversies. Edition after edition, the organiser, the Hong Kong Arts Development Council (ADC), had been questioned on its choice of who should represent this city in the world's oldest and largest contemporary art exhibition.
Previous successful applicants included Para/Site Art Space, German curator Tobias Berger and, last year, ink artist Kwok Mang-ho, aka Frog King.
One of the problems lay in its selection process, which, though pretty transparent, had been weighed down by bureaucracy, so slow that it left the eventual participants very little time to prepare their show.
For the Venice Biennale 2013, however, the process has been moving at a much faster pace. Co-presented by the ADC and M+, the planned museum for the West Kowloon Cultural District, it has already been announced that artist Lee Kit will be representing Hong Kong at Venice next year. The decision was made so quickly that a group of local artists, led by independent curator Yeung Yang, now question whether there was a selection process at all.
'We want the truth,' demands an online petition that calls for better ethical practices of public institutions for contemporary art. Supporting Yeung are eight other Hong Kong artists.
'The announcement marked a sudden and arbitrary policy change in the selection of artists representing Hong Kong in the Venice Biennale. The policy change was made in a black box, and was not communicated and articulated to the public in a way that facilitates public access to information,' reads the petition. 'This is a serious and unfortunate setback for the development of art in Hong Kong.'
While many agree that the M+ team, led by Lars Nittve, has the clout to make the 'right' choice for this city, the process must stay transparent - especially when the whole exercise, which the organisers have budgeted HK$10 million for, will be funded with public money.
The organisers also have to reassess how much impact the event has on the local arts community/participating artists. At the moment it has very little, if any.