Art in every step
To celebrate the HKSAR’s 20th anniversary, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is dressing up staircases around Hong Kong using some of its most prized collections.
Hong Kong is a city to walk in. It is naturally hilly and, combined with competition for space everywhere, translates into a constant need to go up and down. Staircases are inevitably an essential part of the cityscape.
That makes the many flights of steps in various districts convenient canvases for flower paintings. Hence the outdoor art project, “City Dress Up: Blossoming Stairs”, launched this spring with a threefold purpose: to celebrate the HKSAR’s 20th anniversary and the 55th anniversary of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and to bring art to the community.
Eve Tam, the Museum Director, said: “The floral theme was chosen because flowers are pleasing and beautiful to look at. Since we are promoting art to the public, we selected a theme that can be easily understood rather than something too abstract or conceptual.
“People are essentially walking into art without being conscious of it, unlike in a museum. It is a way to get the public to see art from a different perspective.”
To start the ball rolling, the museum looked at venues managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and identified about 20 staircases. Since many of these venues were public parks, the floral theme, sometimes complemented with other images of nature such as birds and animals, also matched the natural environment of those parks.
All the floral artworks are taken from the museum’s collections and are changed according to the season. Currently in the “Autumn” term, the stairs will get a “Winter” makeover in October.
The museum made sure its selection of art spanned a great variety, including traditional Chinese paintings, China trade paintings from the 19th century, contemporary art, antique textile art, lacquer ware, as well as ivory and bamboo carvings.
Wu Guanzhong’s Faces Unchanged, for example, now adorns the staircase at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre piazza in Tsim Sha Tsui. The master’s work has been chosen to grace this highly visible spot for tourists and locals because of his unique style that bridges Chinese ink art and Western abstractionism.
The museum’s annual Summer Art Cadets programme also plays a part in the “City Dress Up: Blossoming Stairs”. The museum has joined hands with Youth Outreach – School of Hip Hop to promote graffiti and animation as modes of self-expression among youths, and displays the participants’ work on staircases in Tai Po and Hung Hom. The primary school pupils’ graffiti appears at Tai Po Waterfront Park from now on, while the animation created by the secondary school participants is shown at the Hong Kong Coliseum, an icon of pop culture and a fitting venue for the works of these young artists.
Tam said: “The public response has been very encouraging so far. There are tourists from Taiwan making a trip here specifically to see the staircases, and locals who were previously not aware of some of these public parks travelling across districts because of them. We were seeing a lot of posts on social media even before our publicity campaign began. Not to mention the many creative poses that people strike on these staircases that are inspired by the art.”
Arts Fun Day and Diversity Tour
During the Autumn and Winter terms of “City Dress Up: Blossoming Stairs”, the Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong holds an Arts Fun Day per term to offer the public a chance to experience art through different senses. Activities like wheelchair painting, tactile reproduction of artworks, touchable blessings, art workshops as well as music and dance performances present the very different ways artists with disabilities perceive art and how that influences their works.
Myra Tam, Executive Director of the association, said: “When you lose one of your senses, the others get better to help you cope with life. That is why we have brilliant photographers who are hearing impaired, because they have such good eyes and can see things in amazing detail. Conversely, when you are visually impaired, you can become very good at hearing and excel at music.
“When you look at photos taken by wheelchair artists, you will be amazed by their perspectives, because they see the world from 3 feet high. It is eye-opening and shows that art is equal.”
One such artist is sand painter Jessica Chiu. Inspired by the artworks from “City Dress Up: Blossoming Stairs”, Chiu has created stories with characters linked to the flowers. Her impaired vision gives her works a vibrant colour palette and strong contrast in a medium that is as much about touch as it is about visuals.
Docents and disabled artists will be on hand to introduce the creations during diversity tours on Arts Fun Days. The next Arts Fun Day is slated on August 20 at Tai Po Waterfront Park, where participants will be drawing on kites, among other activities. The Arts Fun Day for the “Winter” term will be held on November 11 and December 16 at Lai Chi Kok Park and Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza respectively.
To know more about the staircase dress-up project, visit www.blossomingstairs.hk.