'Art mall' opens, but none of the works are for sale

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 December, 2009, 12:00am

It is the new home for more than 100 shops selling a range of goods and more than 20 restaurants serving a variety of international cuisines. But there is one thing this shopping arcade, branded 'the world's first art mall', does not sell - art.

K11 opened yesterday on the bottom six floors of The Masterpiece in Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, a HK$3 billion project jointly developed by New World Development and the Urban Renewal Authority (URA). One of The Masterpiece's flats was sold for more than HK$30,000 per square foot in September.

The mall features a HK$20 million permanent collection of 13 works by local artists, as well as an exhibition called Hiking Arte, showcasing more than 20 pieces including installations, photographs and paintings by eight artists in eye-catching spots.

But none of the pieces is for sale. And there are no galleries selling art, either. During a press tour yesterday, the first thing introduced to journalists was not the art pieces exhibited in the 340,000 sq ft floor space; they were shown the shop window of jewellery store Chow Tai Fook.

When asked why K11 called itself an art mall, why it had no art galleries and how it differentiated itself from other shopping malls such as Times Square or Langham Place, which have been commissioning local artists, neither K11's marketing department nor public relations agency returned calls.

A URA spokesman said the authority was only responsible for acquiring the land and monitoring property sales; New World Development was in charge of the mall's development and marketing. He said the authority imposed no restrictions on how much space was for art.

'However, we are planning to make use of the locations co-developed with our joint-venture partners, such as Langham Place and New Millennium Plaza, to promote the local art scene. We are still exploring the details but we are planning for events taking place during the first quarter of next year,' the spokesman said.

Nevertheless, artists exhibiting at K11 still have big ambitions for the future and hope the mall can live up to its reputation in the long run.

Man Fung-yi, whose sculptures are among the permanent collection, appreciated the mall's focus on the local art scene and the developer's dedication to art.

She believed that a greater variety of stores, such as more arts- and culture-related stores, would be possible in the mall eventually.

Renowned young painter Lam Tung-pang, who has four pieces exhibiting on the mall's top level, said it was a good start for a mall focusing on Hong Kong art.

He said he enjoyed working with the mall through a curator, which was a system different from that adopted by other malls.

'This is definitely a new trend,' Lam said, adding that the government was showing increasing support for arts and culture. He also hoped for a fine-tuning of tenant mix in future, such as more shops devoted to arts and culture.