Art and soul of Kowloon

Bed down at a Hong Kong ho­tel amid a gallery of trea­sures

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Asia - CHRIS­TINE MC­CABE

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

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