Hong Kong Phooey street art replica fetches HK$2 million at auction

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 January, 2015, 12:19am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 January, 2015, 1:48pm

What was trash in the eyes of the government turned out to be treasure in the art market as a replica of a street artwork made of a mosaic of colourful tiles that was taken down by authorities last year fetched nearly HK$2 million at auction last night.

Alias HK_58, a version of a work by French street artist Invader, sold for HK$1.96 million at Sotheby's Hong Kong contemporary art sale, including the buyer's premium. The successful bidder was a European private collector.

The item first appeared in Happy Valley at the start of last year as one of 75 street artworks that Invader created in the city during his "artistic invasion".

The version auctioned is made of ceramic tiles on a glass panel - a replica of the original street artwork.

Invader's publicist told the Post that the work was sold to a Hong Kong collector last January and was the largest work from the artist to appear in an auction.

The work embodies the image of Hong Kong Phooey, a kung fu-fighting dog from a 1970s American cartoon series of the same name. The work was originally created as a tribute to Bruce Lee.

But the work, along with many other Invader art pieces inspired by the 1970s arcade game Space Invaders, was removed by the Highways Department in February and March on safety grounds.

The incident sparked a public outcry, with supporters accusing the government of failing to understand the arts when it was spending billions of dollars building the West Kowloon Cultural District. Some tried to "revive" Invader's works by recreating them in original locations.

Invader said last February that having "invaded" more than 60 cities, Hong Kong was the first to remove his street art, despite the city aspiring to be a cultural hub for Asia with the opening of the cultural district and international galleries. He said he was "very saddened".

Previously, street calligraphy by the late "King of Kowloon" Tsang Tsou-choi was also painted over by the government, but objects bearing his works have been sold at auction.

In 2011, his Calligraphy on Utility Box No 2 fetched HK$800,000 at a Sotheby's sale.