HK Art: galleries, streets, people
Hong Kong has vibrant contemporary art, fashion and design scenes, and one only needs to wander around the crowded streets and laneways of Soho (in this case, south of Hollywood) and Sheung Wan to discover it. Street art is scarce in most parts of the city save for a few stickers here and there, but in this hood the walls are a bit more colourful. And so are the locals. Feeling sociable, I stopped to chat with locals like Mike Ting at Dear Bell, an accessories shop on Wellington.
Mike & I hit it off and I seized the opportunity to take a break and hang out in the store, amidst the stuffed teddybear heads on the wall, quirky multifunctional jewellery incorporating plastic toys, miniature perfume bottles crystals and feathers.
I continued weaving through the streets, popping into contemporary art galleries and clothing and design stores. My favourite store was the impeccably curated Konzepp on Tung St. The store’s bright yellow polygonal facade is impossible to miss and the merchandising makes you feel like you’ve fallen into a hive of design honey! Konzepp describes itself as “a place in Hong Kong where the artistic and creative community could come together, share and hatch ideas and products, cross-pollinating like-minded inspirations.” The owners hand picked local and international products like iPhone 4 analogue speakers by ARKCANARY, cheeky porcelain by Undergrowth Design and bespoke undies by Moustache.
In order to encourage creative collaboration and conversation, the store features a big communal table . The co-owner, Willie Chan, invited me to sit around the table with him and have a few glasses of wine. We sat and chatted and snacked on peanuts. Googling my new buddy when I got home, I discovered that Willie is kind of a big deal. He’s a producer and artist manager whose clients have included Jackie Chan.
In the galleries scattered around the neighbourhood, I saw some incredible contemporary Chinese art – most of it with a strong message about consumerism, human destruction of the planet, or oppressive politics. My favourite was Yang Yong Liang, a photographer who plays on traditional Chinese landscape painting and calligraphy, melding these tropes with images of contemporary urban congestion and decay. At first, these appear to be serene landscapes but when you get right up close, you see that the mountains are made up of skyscrapers, the white robed sages are lounging among ruined power plants, and the trees are thousands of tiny cranes.
The last Hong Kong art star that I encountered was Frog King Kwok, when I accidentally stumbled into a VIP showing at the Fringe Club (which I had been unsuccessfully trying to find, on a friend’s recommendation, for a few days) an hour before heading to the airport. Kwok’s Frogtopia paintings and his outlandish getups made a splash at this year’s Venice Biennale. Despite his larger than life persona, Kwok was down to earth and more than happy to chat and explain his art. He demonstrated the “sandwich writing” style that he often uses in his paintings, and then gave me his doodle, signed ‘Frog King.’ He insisted on taking a picture of us in his froggy glasses.