The center was first established in 1977. Since the 60s, local art associations had petitioned the government for a piece of land on which to build the center. In 1971, after years of negotiation, they successfully obtained a piece of land near Gloucester Road in Wan Chai.
At first, funding issues caused construction to be halted. However, the association obtained a loan with the intervention of Sir Murray MacLehose, who was then Governor of Hong Kong.
The 19-storey building was designed by acclaimed architect Tao Ho, featuring a geometric architectural style with a triangular waffled ceiling and a spiral staircase. The design won Ho the silver medal from the Hong Kong Institute of Architects in 1978.
Boasting 130,000 square feet of venue and office space for the creative industries, the main building offers professionally-equipped cinemas, galleries, rehearsal rooms, theaters, classrooms and studios, as well as a restaurant and a café.
The exhibitions and performances hosted by the HKAC reach an audience of over 350,000 per year. Some of the organization’s most respected long-term programs include the Hong Kong Independent Short Film and Video Awards (ifva), which have been running since 1995 and the the Art in Hospitals project, which was started in 1994 and has been registered as a charitable organization since 2003.
The HKAC is currently contracted to manage the Comix Home Base (CHB), a community platform for Hong Kong’s homegrown comics and animation industries. Occupying a series of revitalized pre-war buildings in Wan Chai, CHB serves as an important hub that connects local artists and animators.
Another important arm of the HKAC is the Hong Kong Art School (HKAS), an accredited art institute located on the 10th floor of the building. The school offers diplomas in the areas of Fine Art, Applied Art, Media Art, and Drama, as well as short-term courses for art lovers and children. Its award-bearing programs and short courses together train almost 4,000 students a year.