Art and soul of Kowloon
Bed down at a Hong Kong hotel amid a gallery of treasures
ART hotels have emerged as an accommodation genre but in Hong Kong the Langham group was one of the first in the world to collect the work of contemporary Chinese artists when it opened in Mongkok in 2005.
Still the only five-star hotel in this bustling precinct at the top of Nathan Road, an area redolent of old Kowloon (and ideal Jackie Chan movie car chase territory) with its mildewed 60s high rises and flickering neon signs, Langham Place Mongkok holds one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary Chinese art. There are more than 1500 pieces arrayed throughout the public areas and corridors of the 42-storey, 665-room property.
The collection was curated (and is maintained) by Angela Li (who runs a gallery on Hollywood Road called Contemporary by Angela Li). She has also put together a fantastic little iPod tour for guests, highlighting 21 of the hotel’s most important works.
Art sets the tone the moment you arrive. For amid the bustle of old-world retail (on the hotel’s back doorstep wet market vendors wield meat cleavers and marshal plastic tubs of fish and frogs) guests are greeted by Jiang Shuo’s arresting sculpture, Red Guards Going Forward! Making Money. This pair of enormous, childlike guards, one brandishing a mobile phone, with their featureless faces and mouths opened in a cartoonish O, are intended to highlight a shift from the worship of Maoism to capitalism in mainland China.
And while capitalism is no stranger to the industrious citizens of Hong Kong, Jiang’s work is the first sign that this is no everyday hotel. At the Langham, the art was not