Push­ing Lim-its

As a 24-storey art hub he en­vi­sioned rises in Cen­tral, ar­chi­tect and avid art col­lec­tor Wil­liam Lim tells Richard Lord of his fas­ci­na­tion with all things de­sign

Hong Kong Tatler - - Faces -

rchi­tect wil­liam lim has worn a lot of hats. As well as head­ing his firm CL3, he’s prob­a­bly the world’s lead­ing col­lec­tor of Hong Kong con­tem­po­rary art and is a suc­cess­ful artist in his own right. He has twice rep­re­sented his city at the Venice Bi­en­nale’s In­ter­na­tional Ar­chi­tec­ture Ex­hi­bi­tion, in 2006 and 2010, with large in­stal­la­tions. He him­self was the sub­ject of a ret­ro­spec­tive ex­hi­bi­tion last year at Artistree, Wil­liam Lim/fun­da­men­tal. His art col­lec­tion was im­mor­talised in 2014 with the pub­lish­ing of The No Col­ors, a beau­ti­ful book of pho­tos of se­lected works with com­men­tary by art-world lu­mi­nar­ies. And he’s been an en­thu­si­as­tic pa­tron of a range of or­gan­i­sa­tions that pro­mote the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of art, in­clud­ing the Asia Art Ar­chive, Para Site, the Tate and the Asia So­ci­ety.

Now all th­ese strands have been brought to­gether in one pro­ject—an art hub Wil­liam is cre­at­ing for Hen­der­son Land De­vel­op­ment. The 24-storey build­ing in Cen­tral is spe­cially de­signed to at­tract gal­leries, along­side restau­rants and shops. For Wil­liam, who has of­ten talked about the syn­er­gies and sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween art and ar­chi­tec­ture, the pro­ject is a chance to live the dream.

“For me, it ties my whole ca­reer to­gether,” he says of H Queen’s, which is tak­ing shape at 80 Queen’s Road Cen­tral. “For the long­est time I’ve been strad­dling a few dif­fer­ent lives—artist, ar­chi­tect, col­lec­tor, art ed­u­ca­tor—but not to­gether, and I’ve been try­ing to rec­on­cile them. At the be­gin­ning I was try­ing to lead two sep­a­rate lives. I talked to [cu­ra­tor and art critic] Hans Ulrich Obrist, and he ad­vised me to com­bine them rather than sep­a­rate them. I thought it’d be great if some­how my artis­tic side could come out in my pro­fes­sion.”

Hen­der­son tapped Wil­liam’s firm to de­sign the build­ing about three years ago. At that point, Wil­liam had a port­fo­lio of im­pres­sive projects un­der his belt, in­clud­ing the in­te­ri­ors of Tsim Sha Tsui’s Ho­tel Icon, the Ja­panese restau­rant Nadaman at the Is­land ShangriLa, the East ho­tel in Quarry Bay, Ma­rina Bay Sands in Sin­ga­pore, and the re­fur­bish­ment of the Gate­way Ho­tel in Har­bour City.

“When Hen­der­son ap­proached us, I thought: ‘How do I make it stand out in Cen­tral?’ It could have been just an­other of­fice build­ing. I spend ev­ery week­end at art gal­leries and I know there’s great de­mand for gallery space, so I pro­posed the con­cept to Hen­der­son. This was just at the be­gin­ning of art be­com­ing big in Hong Kong—art Basel was tak­ing over Art HK, M+ was get­ting go­ing—and one thing led to an­other.”

Wil­liam started col­lect­ing art se­ri­ously around 2007, at first pretty much in­dis­crim­i­nately. “Ev­ery­thing is in­ter­est­ing to me. It all talks about the way peo­ple live. Ev­ery­thing has been de­signed by some­one, and that to me is a very in­ter­est­ing process.” A few years ago, how­ever, he de­cided that if he kept col­lect­ing with­out a fo­cus, his col­lec­tion “wasn’t go­ing to amount to any­thing.” To avoid be­com­ing a jack of all trades, so to speak, he de­cided to con­cen­trate on works pro­duced in his own city. “At the time, Hong Kong art was be­ing ne­glected com­pared to the boom­ing Main­land China mar­ket. A lot of it was con­cep­tual and not very com­mer­cial.”

But the land­scape has changed dra­mat­i­cally over the past cou­ple of years, with trail­blaz­ers like Lee Kit and Adrian Wong pre­sag­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of lo­cal artists who at­tract in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion. The tide re­ally turned when M+ an­nounced its col­lec­tion strat­egy— which places Hong Kong art at the core of a col­lec­tion that ex­pands to Main­land China,

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