Over the past decade, Hong Kong has been gaining clout as Asia’s art capital. Every year, the city draws thousands of artists, curators, buyers and art enthusiasts from around the world for high-profile art fairs such as Art Basel Hong Kong, the Asia Contemporary Art Show, Art Central and the Affordable Art Fair. However, Hong Kong art extends far beyond these events, with the city’s museums and other creative destinations high on the list of best things to do in Hong Kong. Here’s how to make the most of your visit.
The city’s dedication to promoting the arts is evident in recent conservation projects that have seen historical architecture repurposed as creative lifestyle destinations.
Built in 1889 as Hong Kong’s very first government school, then demolished and rebuilt in 1951 as the Police Married Headquarters – government-subsidised housing for Hong Kong’s junior police officers and their families – this now buzzing hub remained unused for 15 years before it was restored and resurrected in 2014 as a creative lifestyle venue named PMQ. Today, it is home to around 130 studio units that local designers and artisans use as workshops and retail spaces. A number of stylish restaurants and cafés such as Aberdeen Street Social have also set up shop at PMQ, while vibrant design and food markets draw a hip crowd.
Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts
Far removed from its former life as a colonial compound housing Hong Kong’s first and longest-running prison, Tai Kwun has seen a remarkable rebirth as a vibrant arts complex. Constructed in 1841 to accommodate the British colony’s main police station, magistracy and the Victoria Prison, the compound stood vacant from 2006 to 2018, when the Hong Kong Jockey Club hired Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron to transform its historical buildings and prison yard into a new art, culture, dining and shopping venue. Across its indoor and outdoor venues – for example, the JC Contemporary gallery centre, and the Laundry Steps performance space – Hollywood Road’s Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Art hosts a lively programme of events, centring on performing arts, contemporary art and history.
If you’re looking to spend the day viewing artwork – or perhaps purchasing or even creating some yourself – Wong Chuk Hang, Hollywood Road and a newly completed “vertical art complex” named H Queen’s are the places to go.
Wong Chuk Hang
In the past decade, this once industrial neighbourhood on the southern side of Hong Kong Island has evolved to become a hotbed of art galleries. These include Art Statements Gallery, which showcases everything from Buddhist sculptures to cartoon-style paintings, and Blindspot Gallery, which focuses on modern photography. While you’re here, you can even take a pottery-making class at Lump Studio, or connect with your inner Picasso and create your very own masterpiece at Artjamming Studio.
Hollywood Road, which traverses the districts of Sheung Wan and Central, is packed with a number of quirky independent galleries. Some of the best are 88 Gallery, specialising in contemporary design and metalwork; Yellow Korner, which showcases limited-edition art photography; and Joyce Gallery, which will thrill collectors of Chinese art and antiques.
Standing at 125 metres (410 feet) and 24 floors high, H Queen’s is Hong Kong’s first “vertical art complex” – a distinctive glass tower built specifically with galleries in mind. Designed by Hong Kong studio CL3 Architects Limited, H Queen’s has 16 floors of gallery space and is home to internationally renowned art galleries such as David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, Pace and Whitestone Gallery. This dynamic arts-and-lifestyle destination also has a number of eateries and bars on its lowest and top floors. For drinking and dancing with panoramic views, head to Piqniq on the building’s roof terrace.
Hong Kong is home to around 50 museums, each with its own unique collection of paintings, sculptures and artefacts from Hong Kong and farther afield in China.
This non-profit museum in Kowloon’s Kwun Tong neighbourhood was set up with the goal of increasing public awareness and appreciation for local Hong Kong art, along with art from the wider region that makes use of traditional Chinese aesthetics. The Sun Museum runs a vibrant programme of exhibitions, lectures and publications, all with the aim of promoting awareness and understanding of Chinese art and culture.
Hong Kong Museum of Art
Following three years of expansion and renovation, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is slated to re-open in November 2019. Hong Kong’s principal public art museum was founded in 1962 and moved to its current location in Tsim Sha Tsui in 1991. It is home to a collection of more than 16,000 artworks, including exhibitions dedicated to Chinese paintings, antiquities and calligraphy.
Liang Yi Museum
Set within a 20,000-square-foot (1,858-square-metre) warehouse, the Liang Yi Museum is the largest private museum in Hong Kong. Founded by a local collector in 2014, the museum centres on design, craftsmanship and heritage, specialising in Chinese antique furniture made from huanghuali (rosewood) and zitan – precious woods that were used for furniture making in China during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. With the world’s finest collections of classical Chinese furniture and European vanity cases, the Liang Yi Museum is the place for lovers of traditional Chinese craft or European history.
A number of restaurants in Hong Kong offer the opportunity to feast on both food and art.
Founded by Hong Kong entrepreneur and patron of the arts Alan Lo, Duddell’s feels like the home of an art collector. It has a Michelin-star restaurant; a garden terrace and salon that serves all-day dim sum, casual snacks, dinner, and weekend brunch; and exclusive private dining rooms. On the walls in the hallways and dining area are works from an ever-changing but always excellent roster of international and regional artists.
Savour modern French cuisine surrounded by the works of renowned artists such as Banksy, Damien Hirst, Daniel Arsham, Jeff Koons and Aya Takano. With an interior inspired by French Art Deco, Bibo is a cosy and elegant dinner destination where even the dishes and cocktails look like works of art.
Hong Kong has no shortage of vibrant street art, and even well-known international street artists such as Banksy and Shepard Fairey have created murals here. Instagram-worthy graffiti spots include a mural of two koi fish by Danish artist Christian Storm, the fully painted Man Fung Building by Madrid-based street artist Okuda San Miguel, and a tribute to Hong Kong icon Bruce Lee by South Korea artist Xeva in Sheung Wan.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Sally Gao.