Partners of Art
On November 19, 2015, Hong Kong woke up to 31 sculptures of lifesized, naked sculptures dotted throughout Central and Admiralty. Made by British artist Sir Antony Gormley from casts of his body, four cast-iron sculptures had been installed at street level, while 27, made of fibreglass, were located on the roofs of various skyscrapers. (The latter prompted concerned passersby to notify the police, thinking they were potential suicides.) The touring project, which had previously been to London, Rotterdam, New York, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, was entitled Event Horizon and it was the most extensive art installation Hong Kong had seen.
Although initiated by the Very Hong Kong Foundation, Sarah Pringle and Levina Li, cofounders of Hong Kong-based independent art consultancy, art-partners were brought in to work with the British Council as project directors to secure funding and project partners, manage the art installation and create the extensive outreach programme.
“Event Horizon was the first project of its type here and it was a massive challenge,” says Pringle. “It was very controversial but we had the support of Carrie Lam, then Chief Secretary for Administration, because she felt Hong Kong should be able to host a world-class public art project.”
Pringle, who has 25 years' experience working with public and private art organisations and galleries in the UK, Hong Kong, China, India, the Philippines and the UAE, set up art-partners with Levina Li and Vita Wong-kwok to conceptualise, develop and realise place-making art projects from Hong Kong across Asia.
Think of most of the city's big companies– Swire Properties, Henderson Land Development and The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels to name but a few–and they will number among art-partners' clients. On the art side, they have worked with a myriad of household names and most of the public projects in Hong Kong that involve Britain's prestigious Royal Academy have been through Pringle, Li and their team.
Understanding the requirements of each commercial entity they work with, artpartners brings together the perfect fit of artists, galleries, brands and corporations. It's win-win all round. Creating something engaging and enjoyable for the public generates press and social media attention; the associated building or brand is elevated because it is perceived as giving back to the wider community plus it gains more traffic because everyone wants to go and see what the buzz is all about; and the artist feels that their work is being experienced outside of the gallery domain and received by a huge audience.
When Henderson was looking for people to fill their 88 Queen's Road project, designed by William Lim, for example, they came to art-partners for placemaking assistance.
“An association with art has the ability to placemake a property and help to promote a brand,” says Pringle. “We understand the art world, what the community responds to in the way of art and the commercial aspect so we try to tick everyone's boxes.”
This is what prompted Pringle and Li to create a public arts programme and the free Harbour Arts Sculpture Park was born. Huge museum-quality sculptures by various local and international contemporary artists including Tracey Emin (UK), Yayoi Kusama (Japan), Matthew Tsang Man-fu (HK) and Hank Willis Thomas (US) transformed the Central and Wan Chai Harbourfront, with the aim of making art accessible to everyone of all ages and interests. This “museum without walls” was backed up by workshops and educational activities presented by the Hong Kong Arts Centre.
“We felt strongly that it shouldn't just give a commercial platform to galleries but enable everyone in Hong Kong to have an engagement with public art,” says Pringle. “Major cities like New York and London have established museums and art galleries and are constantly staging huge art installations in the public domain but Hong Kong is just not there yet and residents don't get exposed to art in the same way.”
Not that there isn't an appetite for art here. According to Pringle, Hong Kong was the world's second-largest trader of art last year and it is also the only city where the art fair Art Basel completely sells out of public tickets. Major art galleries as well as bigname collectors all have a presence in Hong Kong but this isn't yet reflected in public art.
Part of Hong Kong's problem is that there is no public arts government application policy, so organisations like art-partners often have to go through all 14 government departments to get permission for their projects. It is, says Pringle, highly bureaucratic and challenging so the process needs to be streamlined in order to encourage and enable more public art projects to happen.
“It is well known that the development of big public art museums and cultural districts can help regenerate areas of city, which is what is hoped for with West Kowloon and has been seen in all the major cities throughout China, some with great success. Initially, there is a big investment but it can come back tenfold,” says Pringle, who has been working as an art consultant in China for the past ten years. “I trained as an artist, so what excites me are the opportunities to help make art happen and for it to be experienced and enjoyed by everyone as part of their day to day life.”
Watch the (public) spaces around you. For more information visit art-partners.co
高思雅 (Photo Courtesy of Harbour Arts Sculpture Park ) Sarah Pringle
(Left and Right 左圖和右圖) Harbour Arts Sculpture Park藝遊維港(Photo Courtesy of Harbour Arts Sculpture Park)
Installation view, Jim Lambie's, Spiral Scratch, Pacific Place, Hong Kong, 2018太古藝術月(Photo Courtesy of Swire Properties)
Love Art at The Peninsula: Michael Craig Martin (Photo Courtesy of the artist, Gagosian and The Peninsula Hong Kong)