Art attack: Hong Kong property developers make arts and culture more accessible for all
Local artists and designers benefit as developers host rotating exhibitions and workshops, or use artworks, sculpture, installations and bold murals to add an extra dimension to new developments
An encouraging number of Hong Kong’s developers have been making concerted efforts over the years to support and commission the work of local artists and designers.
These initiatives take various forms. In some cases, they entail setting aside dedicated space to host rotating exhibitions and workshops. In others, the focus is more on giving something special to a new development, its public areas and immediate surroundings, by using artworks, sculpture, installations and bold murals to create a distinctive ambience and add an eye-catching extra dimension. “We see the infusion of arts and culture as an integral part of the process of creating and transforming places into vibrant, sustainable communities,” says a spokesperson for Swire Properties, which puts that philosophy on display in developments such as Quarry Bay’s Taikoo Place.
“We believe that arts should be accessible in people’s daily life and, in line with this vision, have a long history of hosting cultural events and showcasing public art across our property portfolio.”
One good example is the ArtisTree space, which opened in 2008 and recently relocated to Cambridge House. Its stated purpose is to champion new ideas and create innovative ways for the public to engage with art, architecture and design. The programmes staged there have included music and dance performances, as well as art exhibitions and fashion retrospectives.
“The intention is to accommodate the entire cultural spectrum, thereby acting as a platform for emerging Hong Kong artists and introducing the public to a diverse range of world-class programmes, which are both thought-provoking and unique,” the spokesperson says. “But we are not just doing this in Hong Kong; the philosophy also extends to our projects in mainland China.”
For instance, the Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu development now features more than 20 contemporary pieces commissioned from local and international artists. And, in the capital, the Taikoo Li Sanlitun retail complex is the venue for certain performances organised as part of the Beijing Music Festival.
Closer to home, the past few months have seen collaborations with the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Foundation and the City Contemporary Dance Company. In addition, veteran local choreographer Daniel Yeung was invited to deliver a multimedia performance, combining aerial arts, lion dance techniques and live and electronic music, in a modern interpretation of traditional Cantonese culture. And talented local outfit More than Musical presented a latter-day take on the opera La Traviata, retaining the dramatic power and classic duets of the original, but with some scenes omitted to make the production more relevant for a modern audience.
“Ultimately we want to broaden the public’s understanding of what art is, make it accessible, and help audiences see things in a different way,” the spokesperson says.
“With this range of events and collaborations, we hope to foster the emergence of new art forms, presenting original and creative productions, and supporting young and mid-career artists. With this in mind, we have ongoing dialogue with individuals and art groups to explore exciting ideas and concepts together and give them new opportunities.”
New World Development commissions many artists for a range of works and briefs each on the essence of their projects. “ Recently, we worked with [sculptor] Kum Chi-keung [who created Share at] Mount Pavilia,” the developer says. New World also has a proactive arts-support agenda. Indeed, its K11 mixed-use project in Tsim Sha Tsui was viewed from the outset as a showcase for fine arts and graphic design. With purpose-built exhibition space, the “world’s first arts mall” also has a special club and academy to promote continuous cultural education, as well as product design competitions. The thinking behind this is to “bring art to the masses”, while revitalising and recreating the local arts culture in Hong Kong. One aspect of this has been to support the artisanal movement, which looks to deliver expert craftsmanship and sees design, aesthetics and originality as essential to modem lifestyles.
To date, local design firm Eravolution has worked mainly on government contracts, some linked to the “City Dress Up” initiative to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong SAR. However, they see no real barriers to enhanced cooperation on private sector projects which would work to mutual advantage. “If other developers are serious about getting good art and design work done as part of their projects, then they need to be more closely in touch with the creative industry,” says Eric Tong, the company’s director and principal designer.