Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

A se­nior part­ner of the multi­na­tional law firm King & Wood Mallesons, Ron­ald Ar­culli is chair­man of the FWD Group and vice-chair­man of the West Kowloon Cul­tural Dis­trict Author­ity.

Over the past two decades, the Hong Kong com­mu­nity has started ap­pre­ci­at­ing arts and cul­ture in a whole new way.

Mod­ern-day fam­i­lies have em­braced the idea that art, mu­sic and the­atre are as im­por­tant as any other as­pect of city life. A ca­reer in the arts would have been frowned upon 20 years ago. Now peo­ple look at the sec­tor in a more se­ri­ous man­ner. That speaks vol­umes about the changes within so­ci­ety, and how tra­di­tional sys­tems have evolved. The shift has pro­pelled our cul­tural scene to grow in un­prece­dented ways.

Both the gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor used to have lim­ited in­volve­ment in our cul­tural de­vel­op­ment. Things couldn’t be more dif­fer­ent now, and that’s a great thing.

Back in the day, al­lo­cat­ing pri­vate or pub­lic re­sources to the arts wasn’t at all a pri­or­ity. That’s changed enor­mously over the past 15 years. The gov­ern­ment has re­ally com­mit­ted to help­ing the sec­tor. Com­pa­nies have started in­vest­ing in it, too, as part of their cor­po­rate iden­tity. This stems from the shifts at the com­mu­nity level, but also from the re­al­i­sa­tion that if we want to catch up to Lon­don and New York, we have to of­fer more than shop­ping malls and fine meals.

The West Kowloon Cul­tural Dis­trict will be one of the most im­por­tant lega­cies of mod­ern Hong Kong.

Forty hectares of prime water­front land ded­i­cated to vis­ual cul­ture and the per­form­ing arts. It’s one of the most am­bi­tious projects I have been in­volved with, and a game changer for Hong Kong as an in­ter­na­tional cul­tural hub. I never thought we would get this far when we first con­ceived the idea for it in 1998. Al­most 20 years on, we’re near­ing com­ple­tion. It’s an out­stand­ing achieve­ment.

Con­ser­va­tion ef­forts have be­come part of our cul­tural iden­tity.

The preser­va­tion of the for­mer Cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion on Hol­ly­wood Road is the most re­cent ex­am­ple. We are cre­at­ing our very own “scene” by us­ing the ex­ist­ing ur­ban frame­work, which is some­thing quite novel for Hong Kong. We’ve gone from dis­miss­ing to re-eval­u­at­ing.

Hong Kong has the po­ten­tial to be­come a cul­ture city.

Just as much as it be­came a fi­nan­cial hub over the past three decades. The arts and cul­ture sec­tor is in­creas­ingly di­verse. We have world-class events like Art Basel, youth-cen­tred fes­ti­vals such as Clock­en­flap, and, soon, an in­sti­tu­tion like the Hong Kong Palace Mu­seum [sched­uled to open in 2022] dis­play­ing arte­facts from China’s il­lus­tri­ous his­tory. Not to men­tion the M+ mu­seum for vis­ual cul­ture. We’re bring­ing past, present and fu­ture to­gether. It will give us a cul­tural edge, es­pe­cially in Asia. World-fa­mous mu­se­ums from the West are ex­pand­ing to the Mid­dle East and Asia, but Hong Kong doesn’t need that.

We won’t see a Lou­vre Hong Kong, or a lo­cal ver­sion of the V&A, as in Shen­zhen. We’re mak­ing our own in­sti­tu­tions and gath­er­ing our own col­lec­tions.

The lo­cal art scene be­gan leav­ing a mark on the in­ter­na­tional arena only 10 years ago. To­day, peo­ple are in­creas­ingly pay­ing at­ten­tion to it.

The Hong Kong Arts Fes­ti­val has had a piv­otal role in that. For the past six or seven years, it has com­mis­sioned lo­cal works, from plays to op­eras to dance per­for­mances, and helped take them out­side Hong Kong and onto the world stage. The Hong Kong Academy for Per­form­ing Arts and Para Site have also been cru­cial in nur­tur­ing lo­cal tal­ent. They were both es­tab­lished pre-han­dover—1984 and 1996 re­spec­tively—and have shaped our cul­tural di­rec­tion over the past three decades. If we now have first-class acts, con­duc­tors, mu­si­cians and artists, it’s be­cause of them.

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