Hong Kong's stock market may rank with the biggest and brightest but our arts scene still leaves a lot to be desired. Let's hope the new Hong Kong Arts Festival Society chairman, Ronald Arculli, can make a difference.
Arculli is no stranger to anybody with an interest in shares, having spent six years as the chairman of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.
Last week, he was elected by executive members of the Hong Kong Arts Festival to head the organisers of the annual arts event, replacing Charles Lee Yeh-kwong.
The event, which celebrates its 41st anniversary next year, has a HK$105 million budget for 170 shows, ranging from opera and ballet to concerts and plays.
Some eye-catching shows will include the American Ballet Theatre performing Romeo and Juliet, as well as the San Carlo Theatre from Naples, which will perform the opera La Traviata.
Arculli is a fan of western opera and has travelled to Austria for the past 20 years to enjoy performances at the celebrated Salzburg Festival.
As chairman of the annual Hong Kong arts event, he said he would continue the tradition of bringing artists from around the world to the city.
"Hong Kong is a city where the east meets the west, and we need to have a balanced mix of opera, dance and music from both the west and China," he said.
As HKEx chairman, Arculli visited Russia, Italy, Britain and the US to lobby for companies to list in Hong Kong.
He told White Collar that he would use the same lobbying skills to twist the arms of corporate executives or individuals to financially support arts events.
"Although the budget of the Hong Kong Arts Festival is much smaller than [that of] Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, the importance of the two are the same," Arculli said.
"We always talk about Hong Kong trying to catch up with New York and London as an international financial centre. We have caught up in terms of IPOs and the number of banks and financial services operating here. We, however, are still lagging behind in terms of our entertainment and creative industry."
Arculli said London and New York had quality shows every night of the year.
"Hong Kong has a lot of performances during the Arts Festival period but we do not have sufficient venues for the performances," he said. "The number of talented people working in the creative industry is relatively small.
"Many tourists now come to Hong Kong to enjoy good meals and shopping. If we want them to stay longer, or to visit here more frequently, we need to be more like London and New York."
Sales of tickets for the festival, which start today, are expected to raise HK$40 million. The rest of the budget will be made up of HK$33.18 million from the government and HK$11 million from the Hong Kong Jockey Club.