ArtisTree shows the way for exhibition spaces
Joining forces with London's venerable Victoria & Albert Museum to present a retrospective on fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was a golden opportunity for the newly opened ArtisTree in 2008.
The large, independent events venue - which complements Swire Properties' commercial, retail and residential portfolio in Taikoo Shing - welcomed the chance to host the prestigious exhibition after it was rejected by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's museums. The show went on to attract thousands of visitors to the 20,000-sq-ft venue and set the stage for the success of future exhibitions including Simon Birch's Hope and Glory, and Kowloon King.
It was originally a two-level industrial space, but an entire floor was removed to provide a 6.7-metre ceiling height with concrete walls and flooring, allowing each event to be flexibly designed. In contrast, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's 'multi-purpose' exhibition rooms in municipal buildings scattered around Hong Kong have characteristic low ceilings and mundane design, linoleum floors and grey-carpeted partitioning. These usually sterile venues are inevitably inflexible, tending to host standard exhibitions and simple seminar-style events.
Hong Kong does not lack arts and community venues, but appropriate, flexible, usable and open spaces are in short supply.
Equally disappointing are the proposed facilities to be included in soon-to-be-revamped heritage buildings such as the Married Police Quarters and Central Market whose designs follow existing government models. These buildings should be simply designed with flexible project art spaces of concrete floors and wooden walls - backed by an open-minded management.