Spotlight shines brightly on Hong Kong’s artistic extravaganza
- With the whole world watching, the city has rapidly transformed into an arts and cultural hub of international repute
From Instagram-worthy street art to museum-quality masterpieces; from record-breaking Chinese art sales to edgy local talents and a vast array of multicultural festivals, Hong Kong’s vibrant art scene is unique and acclaimed internationally. What has so captured the art world’s attention is the speed of this transformation, especially over the past decade.
In just 10 years, some 50 galleries have opened in Hong Kong, including major names from around the globe.
Fine art sales have exploded, with the city now representing the world’s third-largest art market – after New York and London – for prestigious auction house Sotheby’s.
The continuously unfolding West Kowloon Cultural District has put the city’s performing art sector in the global spotlight, capped by the highly anticipated opening this month of the Xiqu Centre – a world-class venue paying homage to Cantonese opera and other genres of Chinese traditional theatre.
Heritage precincts like The Mills centre for heritage, art and textile, and Tai Kwun (a former police station and prison turned cultural attraction) represent modern design in a historical setting. H Queen's, an architectural icon in Central, is where eight mega-sized, world-class galleries converge.
For those who just like to wander, intriguing clusters like PMQ (formerly the Police Married Quarters) in Central, and southside’s trendy Wong Chuk Hang offer something for everyone. Marvel at the kaleidoscopic street art canvas of ArtLane in Sai Ying Pun, and see makers at their craft in the plethora of local studios at Fo Tan.
There are also various fairs and events that firmly cement Hong Kong on the international art circuit.
International line-up by Hong Kong Arts Festival
This year’s programme of events kicks off in February with the Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF). In its 47th edition, HKAF will feature more than 1,700 international artists and local talents in 166 performances from 21 February to 23 March.
The luminous line-up features many world-renowned artists, including Russian pianist Denis Matsuev and bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, who is making a long-anticipated comeback.
Not-to-be-missed performances also include a rendition of Wagner’s quintessential romantic opera, Tannhäuser, by iconoclastic director Calixto Bieito, regarded by many as the “Quentin Tarantino of opera”; and the Hamburg Ballet’s Beethoven Project, a choreographic tribute to the revered German composer by dance legend John Neumeier.
Everyone is welcome at HKartsFestival @TaiKwun – a free, two-weekend dance extravaganza with inventive and intimate site-specific performances, urban dance battles, community and contemporary dance, workshops, and screenings. For the various paid performances, tickets are available from www.urbtix.hk and www.hkticketing.com
Art Basel returns to Hong Kong
HKAF is the forerunner to two exciting art fairs, the Asian edition of internationally reputed Art Basel (29-31 March), and the edgy, home-grown Art Central (27-31 March).
Art Basel’s three shows in Basel (Switzerland), Hong Kong and Miami Beach (US) are the premier art shows of their kind, presenting modern and contemporary art with a strong curatorial perspective.
Art Basel’s arrival in Hong Kong – following its 2011 acquisition of the former Art HK fair – is regarded as a catalyst that put the city on the global art map. Cultural entrepreneur and Art HK founder Magnus Renfrew says it helped make the potential of Hong Kong as a genuine art hub “a tangible, concrete reality”.
This year, 242 leading galleries from 36 countries and territories have been selected for the seventh edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong. Exhibitors from across Asia, Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Africa will present modern and contemporary works of the highest quality by emerging and established artists.
The line-up includes galleries that have been highly influential in defining the art scenes in Europe and the United States – among them are Galerie Greta Meert from Belgium; Galerie Max Hetzler from Germany; and Paula Cooper Gallery from the United States.
At the same time, Art Basel reinforces its ongoing commitment to showcasing exceptional art from the Asia-Pacific region. For the first time, galleries represented include ROH Projects from Jakarta, Galerie du Monde from Hong Kong and Gow Langsford Gallery from Auckland.
Art Basel is held at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre concurrently with another notable event – Art Central on the Central Harbourfront.
Art Central brings world of art to harbour front
The fifth edition of Art Central continues its tradition of presenting young and dynamic artists alongside the highest quality work by established names, and showcasing progressive work that challenges the boundaries of contemporary art.
Among the tightly curated gallery booths, fair visitors will see works from more than 100 galleries including high-calibre Korean art from Seoul’s Gallery Hyundai; the different approaches to abstraction and movement by artists in Spain and Latin America (presented by Hong Kong gallery Puerta Roja); and East-West dialogue across time periods, mediums and geography presented by Marc Straus of New York, and featuring abstract minimalist painter Charles Hinman, and the contemporary ceramics of Yuki Hayama.
HK Urban Canvas adds colour to communities
And this is just a taste. Alongside the exhibitions will be an enthralling programme of interactive installations, experimental performances and engaging panel discussions, as well as some of Hong Kong’s most popular food and beverage offerings.
To further cultivate appreciation of local culture, community art project HK Urban Canvas by the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation, returns in March. Each year, artists and students come together to create commissioned shutter artworks inspired by the stories of neighbourhood business owners. This year, they explore the multicultural identities of Aberdeen, Ap Lei Chau and Kowloon City with a focus on local food.
As well as creating commissioned shutter artworks, students will take part in an artist-in-residence programme to create original artworks inspired by the unique food cultures of the two districts. For the latest updates, follow @HKUrbanCanvas on Facebook.