This Abandoned School in Hong Kong Is an Instagram Sensation

© Audrey Sim
© Audrey Sim
Photo of Audrey Sim
21 November 2017

A desolate and abandoned building rests quietly by the South China Sea, in the coastal district of Kennedy Town in Hong Kong Island. What was once a primary school has evolved into a canvas for local street artists, a playground for urban explorers and a backdrop for Instagram-savvy millennials.

A plastic sign warns that unauthorized entry is considered illegal trespassing, but unguarded gates and shattered windows do little to prevent the local Hong Kong youth from catching a glimpse of what is essentially, a free-of-charge art gallery.

View of vibrantly splattered graffiti from east-wing of the building | © Audrey Sim
Presumably, what was once a music room | © Audrey Sim
Anonymous expression of discontent towards Hong Kong’s challenging education system. Similar struggles are experienced in other East Asian countries | © Audrey Sim

Surprisingly, this decaying structure has become a highly geotagged location on Instagram in Hong Kong. Multicolored graffiti and murals from young street artists expressing political dissatisfaction sprawl across previously naked walls, bringing life to the bleak atmosphere that once haunted the school. Considered avant-garde in an ostensibly conservative East Asian metropolis, this abandoned school is an edgy reflection of the emerging underground art scene that is truly worth exploring.

Most visual artworks are created in a clandestine manner, signed anonymously or with brief initials | © Audrey Sim
Some artists regularly find their way back into the abandoned school to spend days on more intricate murals | © Audrey Sim
One of the very few windows left unbroken | © Audrey Sim

This building was previously occupied by the co-educational international school, Hong Kong Academy. Since they relocated to a new campus in Sai Kung, New Territories around August 2013, no other establishments have occupied the building. Without doubt, street art is still largely considered vandalism in Hong Kong, and is promptly removed from public spaces. As a result, many artists and graffiti fanatics have found their way into decrepit, unmonitored and disowned buildings around the city for their art work to preserved in a more permanent setting. Here, you will discover anything from amateur graffiti to powerful political imagery and motifs supporting the notorious 2014 Umbrella Revolution.

Covered in spray paint, some desks and cupboards remain relatively intact | © Audrey Sim

The widespread use of social media has transformed this abandoned school into an unofficial education centre among the local Hong Kong youth. However, instead of maths or science, graffiti art, urban exploration and photography are the subjects on the curriculum here.

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