While H Queen’s is not due to open until next year, it’s already being pressed into the service of art. Its hoarding will become a sort of outdoor gallery during Art Week, in which artists selected by Lim and Henderson will exhibit interactive works. Expect surprising displays by Frog King (pictured) and Lam Tung-pang, as well as a host of emerging Hong Kong artists. To see exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage of artists decorating the hoarding, check out hongkongtatler.com/mar16 Asia and the rest of the world—and when Art Basel took over from Art HK in 2012, bringing in international collectors and giving Hong Kong artists more exposure, he says.
Ironically, William believes local artists’ former obscurity has helped fuel their current fame. “International curators always felt that a lot of work by Hong Kong artists was challenging and interesting. It’s never been a commercial market, so a lot of work is very pure and academic. Since Hong Kong started making its mark on the global art map over the past decade, the work of its artists has piqued the interest of international galleries. Galleries started off here showing international artists, then realised there was a body of local artists producing good work. Art Basel put a stamp of approval on their work. They were just undiscovered—then they got discovered.”
It’s hard to overstate William’s love for contemporary art. Favourite artists represented in his collection include Lam Tung-pang and Chi Hoi, whose Moon Rise I hangs in his bedroom. For someone with such a vast and revered collection, it’s amusing to hear William admit he’s never been able to come up with a rationale for what arouses his interest in particular pieces. “I’m never very analytical about why I like things. I try to get a thread not just of why I like a certain work, but also of why people who take art seriously like it. With good art you can see the spirit of the artist in there. I’m still trying to analyse that. The process of talking to an artist is really exciting.”
In the art world, as with architecture, there’s a growing understanding in Hong Kong not just of the importance of aesthetics, but also—rather characteristically for our fair city—of how it can add value. “Hongkongers realise that good design can bring value to a project,” William says. “Art needs to have a soul and architecture is the same—it has to have a spirit and reflect that somebody worked hard on it.
“There’s a point of awakening—people are starting to think about what architecture is. It’s not about an iconic, superfluous exterior. Design needs to be holistic, taking account of the building’s environment and purpose, how people relate to it, how well it works for them. Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright would never let another person design the interior of their buildings. People need to reassess architecture in a more human way— something that responds to people, use and culture, and reflects the way people live.”