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
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,