Arts council attacked over world-class fair

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 March, 2003, 12:00am

Independent artists and curators have hit out at the Arts Development Council over its selection process for the curator of Hong Kong's exhibition at the 50th Venice Biennial arts fair, saying it is unfair and lacks transparency.

Para/Site, a multimedia arts collective based in Sheung Wan, will represent Hong Kong in one of the world's most high-profile art exhibitions, to be held in Venice from June 15 to November 2.

At an arts council press conference to announce the Hong Kong representative, independent curators Andrew Lam Hon-kin and James Wong Yui-hin complained that the council had misled them by giving the wrong guidelines in the tendering process. They added there had been a lack of transparency in choosing members of the selection panel.

'We were asked to submit a proposal for an exhibition to be held in a space of roughly 3,500 sq ft,' Mr Wong said. 'It was only when I reached the interview process that I found out that the actual space in Venice was only 100 square metres. By then I had no time to revamp my plans.'

Mr Lam added: 'There is supposed to be an appeal period for those whose proposal is rejected, but the [council] did not make any provisions or give us enough time to appeal the decision. This is very unfair.'

A council spokesman explained that at the time the proposals were under review, members were not able to confirm the size of the exhibition space. He also stressed specific space requirements were not given out to contestants.

'We had several options in exhibition spaces and at the end we decided on a 100 square-metre space across from the Arsenale in Venice, where the main exhibition will be held,' said Benny Chia Chun-heng, a member of the council's steering group that is supervising the project. 'But the selection criteria is the same for everyone.'

The curator's selection was made by a seven-member committee, chosen by the steering committee in mid-January. The council received 15 proposals.