The art scene on Hong Kong
Island is known for its glitzy galleries, blue-chip art fairs and international art crowd. But across the harbour in Kowloon, erstwhile walled city and future home of the WKCD
, Asia’s largest cultural district, a host of vibrant contemporary art spaces are challenging expectations and exploring the diversity of Hong Kong contemporary art. Here is our pick of ten must-visit contemporary art galleries and exhibition spaces in Kowloon.
Located in a former slaughterhouse and manned by a team of artists, curators and IT consultants, Videotage sounds at first like an unlikely place to see contemporary art. This was perhaps true in 1986, when the collective started out with not much more than a shoebox-sized office and some willing volunteers; almost 30 years later the non-profit initiative has evolved into Hong Kong’s foremost video art space, dedicated to protecting and promoting this relatively new art form. In addition to a growing archive of video works and frequent video-focused events, Videotage also holds installations and exhibitions of other new media works. Keith Lam’s exhibition (S)CUL(P)TURE saw the artist record online discussions from two news websites in Hong Kong, turning the raw data collected into a series of sculptures using new fabrication technology. This melding of the physical and digital realms encapsulates Videotage’s mission to convert new media and video art from mere niche genres into a ‘cultural movement’ in their own right.
Videotage, Unit 13, Cattle Depot Artist Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Rd, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 2573 1869
As its name suggests, 100ft Park consists of 100 square feet of non-commercial art space located inside Wontonmeen, an apartment block dedicated to providing accommodation and work-space to creatives. 100ft Park’s small exhibition area and unusual location ensure that visitors have an intimate experience of the art works on show, and people are encouraged to participate in the frequent discussions staged in the space. The young gallery, which was co-founded in 2012 by 3 native Hongkongers including artist South Ho, focuses on up-and-coming local artists because, as the founders point out, ‘our space cares about the local development of arts in all media’. Despite this concern for diverse media, photography plays a major role in 100ft Park’s exhibition roster. Dozens of Photography Works, a group show staged in collaboration with Hong Kong International Photo Festival, and Chan Wai Kwong’s Tenderness of a 19 year old Girl, which was influenced by Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama, demonstrate the strength of Hong Kong’s young photographers.
100ft Park, 220 Apliu St, Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong,+852 9013 9723
New Gallery on Old Bailey
10,000 plus feet of exhibition space and 6-10 exhibitions per year make New Gallery on Old Bailey, or NGOOB for short, one of Hong Kong’s largest and most active commercial galleries. Formerly located on vertiginous Old Bailey Street in Central, now Kowloon-based NGOOB focuses mainly (but not exclusively) on Chinese contemporary art, often leaning towards shows with an abstract or surrealist tinge. Sacrifice, a 2013 exhibition by Hong Kong artist Claire Lee, used fragments of glass, painting and poetry to explore the psycho-drama of redemption through ritual killing; Un Lio Hermoso (A Beautiful Mess), a group show of three Spanish artists, also dealt with inner worlds, depicting emotional upheaval through abstract painting and collage.
New Gallery on Old Bailey, 4/F, 35 Tai Yau St, SPK, Kai Tak, Hong Kong, +852 2234 9889
Osage Kwun Tong Gallery
Osage Kwun Tong, with its lofty ceilings and 15,000 square feet of exhibition space, would look more at home in New York than in cramped Hong Kong. Making the most of its location in a former industrial warehouse, Osage often holds several different shows simultaneously, the majority of which contain works by artists from East and Southeast Asia, and the Asian diaspora. This regional perspective allows visitors to Osage to consider the connections between Asia’s diverse contemporary art communities. Exhibitions such as the recent Poetics of Materiality, which included four artists from four different countries, encapsulated Osage’s pan-Asian vision. Works by Ringo Bunoan (the Philippines), Young Rim (South Korea), Ng Joon Kiat (Singapore) and Yu Li (China) combined to show that, while the artists hailed from very different places, the works themselves hinted at a unity of purpose and practice, echoing each other in strangely poetic ways.
Osage Kwun Tong Gallery, Kian Dai Industrial Bldg, 73-75 Hung To Rd, Hong Kong, +852 2793 4817
Art Gallery, Building
IOW (Input/Output Warehouse) is the space for Input/Output to showcase media artworks and projects. Since moving out of the gallery space in Sheung Wan, IOW has held various pop up exhibitions in public spaces in Hong Kong to reach out to a broader audience. The gallery is designed as a permanent showroom presenting small to medium scale of media artworks to collectors and art lovers alike. There is no set theme or specific exhibition period; IOW is a highly organic space where artists are free to present artworks until they are sold or sent to exhibit at a different venue for showing.
Input/Output Warehouse (IOW), G/F, Hung Mou Industrial Building, 62 Hung To Road, Kwun Tong, Hong Kong, +852 3105 1127
Since its establishment in 1998 by a group of local art professionals, independent gallery 1a Space has staged over 100 exhibitions and dozens of visual arts events in an effort to become a ‘creative interface’ between contemporary art practitioners and the Kowloon community. Working with both local and international artists, 1a Space tries to emphasise the cross-disciplinary potential of contemporary art: initiatives such as Writing Machine Collective and Barcode + Sound explore the potential for finding art in unexpected places, from an internet chat room to the electronic beep of a barcode. Unlike a lot of independent spaces which often focus on emerging artists, 1a Space makes a point of showing work by artists at various stages in their careers. A mid-career retrospective of work by Hong Kong artist Chris Chan Kam-shing can follow a group show of graduate works from Hong Kong Art School, allowing the gallery to pursue its aim of supporting artists solely on the basis of their work.
1a Space, Unit 14, Cattle Depot Artist Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Road, To Kwa Wan, Hong Kong, +852 2529 0087
In 2007, two Hong Kong artists Clara Cheung and Gum Cheng decided that it was time for the city to have an art space with a social conscience. So they set up C&G Artpartment, a bi-fold gallery and art education organisation dedicated to nourishing the local art scene. With a pedagogical mandate firmly in mind, C&G holds a variety of events and exhibitions designed to allow artists and non-artists alike to engage with contemporary art in new ways. Projects range from the informal ArtMix, a fun painting event which combines socialising with ‘art-jamming’, to more experimental screenings of unseen video art, C&G aims to ‘fill up the cracks in the current art scene, and become an art space for idea exchanges.’
C&G Apartment, 3/F, Sai Yeung Choi St. South 222, Prince Edward, Hong Kong, +852 2390 9332
K11 Art Mall
Given that Hong Kong is one of the world’s commercial and retail powerhouses, it seems fitting that the city should be home to K11, the world’s first ‘art mall’. The mall’s founder Adrian Cheng, who set up two artist villages before opening the Kowloon art mall in 2009, works to a business plan which he describes as ‘art x commerce… bringing nature, people and art into harmony.’ Cheng’s ambition led him to spend over HKD 20 million on sculpture, paintings and installations, all by local Hong Kong artists, and spread over four storeys of the mall between luxury storefronts and restaurant areas.
K11 Art Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong,+852 3118 8070
Woofer Ten is one of Hong Kong’s most unusual art spaces, not least because as of its willingness to risk political controversy from time to time. The outspokenness of the arts practitioners behind the gallery came to a head in 2013, when Woofer Ten was threatened with eviction from its Kowloon space after organising an exhibition commemorating the anniversary of Tiananmen Square. Officially the two events were unrelated but rumours abounded. Despite these recent troubles, Woofer Ten is still based in Kowloon for now, and remains true to its mission to demystify contemporary art for the normal people of the neighbourhood, continuing with projects such as the re-imagining of local craftsmanship and maintaining their ‘art activation community.’
Woofer Ten, G/F 404 Shanghai Street, Hong Kong,+852 3485 6499