Hong Kong art scene goes global

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

TH­Eskies were black, the rain was fe­ro­cious. There were land­slides and light­ning strikes. But in­side the Hong Kong Con­ven­tion and Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre last week, Art Basel was vivid with com­pet­ing colours. Cre­ators, cu­ra­tors and col­lec­tors tot­ing drip­ping um­brel­las paused to peer at Marnie Web­ber’s un­set­tling in­stal­la­tion, Log Lady and Dirty Bunny, and Yayoi Kusama’s spotty and joy­ous dog statue, Ton Toko.

Apho­tog­ra­pher named Stan­ley Wong, who prefers to be known as ‘‘Another­moun­tain­man’’, was ex­plain­ing to me the sig­nif­i­cance of his se­ries of im­ages on ‘‘im­per­ma­nent’’ build­ings in Asia, which took him six years to shoot. We were chat­ting at a booth ex­hibit­ing works from Blindspot Gallery and there was keen in­ter­est from passers-by in Wong’s lat­est trip­tych of inkjet pho­to­graphs of cinnabar bam­boo on Chi­nese scrolls.

You could say Hong Kong came of age as a con­tem­po­rary and mod­ern art des­ti­na­tion with this in­au­gu­ral Art Basel; there were 245 gal­leries rep­re­sented, most from the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, ex­hibit­ing pieces rang­ing from the dra­matic to the frankly and fab­u­lously mad.

It has been an­nounced the Hong Kong govern­ment plans to in­vest about $HK21.6 bil­lion ($2.9bn) in the West Kowloon Cul­tural Dis­trict, where M+ art mu­seum will open in 2017. I was as­ton­ished to hear that Hong Kong is the world’s third largest art auc­tion cen­tre (af­ter New York and Lon­don) and there has been ter­rific mo­men­tum on the lo­cal gallery scene, with more than 80 for­mal ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces, of­ten in tucked-away precincts or re­pur­posed ware­houses on both sides of the har­bour.

It’s fun to ex­plore She­ung Wan on Hong Kong Is­land, with its hilly streets and clus­ters of cafes. Its edgy gal­leries are some­times no more than hole-in-the-wall salons or pop-ups such as 100ft Park, a room within a fourth-floor book­store in the slightly run-down Kai Wong Com­mer­cial Build­ing. The South Is­land Cul­tural Dis­trict, about 15 min­utes from the Cen­tral dis­trict, cov­ers Wong Chuk Hang, Ap Lei Chau, Tin Wan and Aberdeen and is home to about 15 gal­leries (in­clud­ing an an­nexe of Blindspot, where Ai Wei­wei is of­ten a fea­tured artist) and stu­dios, many in in­dus­trial spa­ces.

Back at Art Basel, Dou­glas Young in­vited me to take a seat at the VIP Lounge — this avant-garde de­signer’s over­sized cush­ioned cubes and ta­bles were repli­cas of mahjong tiles. It seemed such a per­fect tra­di­tion-meet­sto­mor­row Hong Kong mo­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.