Hong Kong ArtWalk returns for its 12th edition on Wednesday to an increasingly diverse commercial art gallery scene. This year more than 60 galleries - including Blindspot Gallery, Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hanart TZ Gallery and Sundaram Tagore Gallery - will take part. Organiser John Batten has come up with another meaty ArtWalk Extra programme featuring a host of talented local artists.
Although more international galleries have set up here in the past couple of years, Batten says the local commercial art gallery scene hasn't changed much. 'We have more galleries, but they are, with a few exceptions, similar to those of previous years - only the Vietnamese art has now been replaced by mainland art,' he says.
'Hong Kong offers a great business and taxation climate and some astute overseas galleries have set up for those reasons. The biggest difference is that Hong Kong artists are now more visible in galleries - that really was not the case 12 years ago.'
Rising rents for street-level shopfronts in Central and Sheung Wan means galleries will have to move further out. Batten says it's a pity that industrial buildings are being converted to office uses instead of galleries: '[They] fit perfectly into industrial spaces. Greater diversity in Hong Kong's art scene will happen once more full-time dedicated galleries move into these types of spaces,' he says.
Highlights of this year's ArtWalk Extra include: the New Music Ensemble, performing works by US composer John Cage around the streets of SoHo and Sheung Wan; artist Ula Tsui projecting her stop-motion video onto a wall in a to-be-identified location; the Society for Community Organisation (SoCO) putting on a photo exhibition (entitled 'Cubicle') about the sorry state of local housing.
First held in 2001, ArtWalk is an annual one-night event with participating galleries opening until midnight, serving free snacks and wine. Tickets are priced at HK$450.
This year I'll be checking out new spaces in the Sheung Wan area before hitting the Hollywood Road/SoHo stretch. It's a good chance for me to meet gallery owners and, perhaps, show some of them the art of decent press release writing.
ArtWalk is as much a charity as it is an art/social event. About 70 per cent of sales on the night go to charity; SoCO last year received HK$400,000, according to Batten.
All participating artists in ArtWalk Extra receive artist and material fees.