Leung Chun-ying

New brand for arts hub will be 'waste of money'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 March, 2012, 12:00am

Arts hub bosses should concentrate on what would be in the West Kowloon Cultural District rather than spend money on dreaming up a new name for it, culture groups and arts critics said.

Cultural district authority chief executive Michael Lynch hinted that the body was considering a new name to symbolise progress in the long-delayed project, and distance it from past rows.

The HK$21.6 billion project has never been far from controversy since it was first mooted in the 1990s.

Most recently, it has been at the centre of a row over a potential conflict of interest involving chief executive hopeful Leung Chun-ying, a judge in a 2001 design contest for the site. Leung has been accused of failing to declare his business connection with an unsuccessful Malaysian contestant. Leung said he was not made aware of the relationship.

It has also emerged that the winning design in that contest, by British architect Norman Foster, was rejected for technical reasons before being reinstated.

Lynch told the South China Morning Post that 'the issue of the name would be an important part [of the project's development]. There are a lot of things happening, starting to point us to the right direction. [We are] going forward, rather than arguing or justifying what we [did] the last couple of years.'

But Mathias Woo Yan-wai, head of experimental theatre company Zuni Icosahedron, said a renaming exercise would be a waste of money and fundamental questions should be settled first.

'A restaurant owner has to know what cuisine he is going to sell before naming the restaurant. But the arts groups have still not been informed of the content and operation model of the arts hub,' Woo said.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, a member of the consultative panel advising the arts hub authority, doubted whether a new name would erase memories of the controversies, and said the authority should not 'rely on spin doctors'.

'The history will be there forever. Content should be the top priority,' Lee said.

He added that a multimillion- dollar renaming was unacceptable in financially tough times.

Panel member and arts critic Ada Wong Ying-kay urged the authority to stick with the existing name.

'The controversies attached to the name are meaningful to the city. It shows our increasing public awareness in participating in policymaking,' Wong said.

An authority spokeswoman said the authority had hired a branding consultant, but renaming was only one option being considered.

Meanwhile, the arts hub just launched its first architectural design competition for the Xiqu Centre, the project's first permanent cultural venue. The centre is scheduled for completion around the end of 2015, and will be one of 15 proposed performing arts venues.