With restaurants and shops cramming every inch of Hong Kong, is there really space for art to survive in this hyper-developed city? Luckily, the answer is a resounding yes, best proven by the success of Art Basel Hong Kong, going into its fourth edition on March 24, 2016, always enthusiastically received by bona fide collectors and enthusiasts in-the-know. But you don’t have to wait so long to experience art in Hong Kong. The city’s new cultural districts have carved out a precious haven for weary visitors, as independent galleries introduce an exclusive experience. If you wonder what to do in Hong Kong besides wining, dining and shopping, we have the answer for you.
Visiting West Kowloon Cultural District
West Kowloon is home to the Elements shopping mall, the Ritz-Carlton and the W Hong Kong. Now, it also boasts a global-scale Cultural District, opening in phases under development. While constructions for the Xiqu performing arts centre and M+ cultural building are underway, you can enjoy other facilities. ‘Black Box in Freespace’ showcases plays and dance performances, as the Outdoor Stage hosts concerts and the annual Freespace Fest for an excited audience of up to 10,000. From now until summer 2016, don’t miss ‘Freespace Happening’ alfresco events every second Sunday of the month. From 2-7pm, you can see live bands, street dances, browse souvenirs at handicraft markets and participate in workshops. For a more exclusive experience, the innovative mirror-lined Arts Pavilion will walk you through a discovery of artists and designers. www.westkowloon.hk
Visiting South Island Cultural District
Another area that has been seeing a revival on both the dining and cultural front is Aberdeen, Hong Kong Island’s southern coast. What used to be a residential area has turned into a lifestyle destination just minutes away from the city centre. South Island Cultural District runs a free shuttle bus to and from the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre, bringing visitors to this hub with over 20 galleries. See exhibitions, meet the creators in persons and witness the magic of contemporary and performing arts. www.sicd.com.hk
Meet the Artists
One of the SICD members is the gallery Mur Normade, located in Aberdeen. Encouraging cultural exchanges, the group exhibition ‘Recollections’ in December 2015 featured Colombia’s Ana Gonzalez, Iran’s Nastaran Shahbazi – both of whom presented in Hong Kong for the first time. Along with the city’s own Ivy Ma, they explored the theme of post-traumatic memory through etching, porcelain, embroidery, painting and video, placed between two rooms so visitors had to go back and forth – an experience like being reminded and remembering. In conjunction with the exhibition, Shahbazi hosted a 2-day printmaking workshop in Hong Kong, which let visitors go a little deeper into the medium and meet the artist herself. www.murnomade.com
Also located in Aberdeen is Charbon, a space highlighting art, drama, dance, talks and workshops. Featured artist would often attend the opening and closing ceremony of the exhibitions, and host a week of local events as a run-up or wrap-up of the show. A great example is Swiss-born illustrator Emmanuelle Houdart, whose solo runs until 6 February 2016. See how she turns ‘the wonderful and the dreadful things of life’ into vivid drawings during a 3-day workshop. www.charbonartspace.com
Indeed, a personal experience can make art even more memorable. Duddell’s, an Ilse Crawford-designed restaurant, welcomes art collectors and enthusiasts to its exhibitions, lectures, talks and screenings in an exclusive setting. Until 10 January 2016, it will be displaying photographs and videos of edible art by Beijing-based artist Song Dong. See how he used biscuits and sweets to build impressive miniature cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Barcelona and London, which were filmed as they got devoured by visitors. Experiencing art first-hand has never been so good. www.duddells.com
For more ideas on how to Do, Dine and Spend in Hong Kong and beyond, visit our Destinations pages.