Hong Kong art galleries you don't want to miss
Hong Kongers are a tough crowd. Every second person that I meet protests that we have no real art scene and pronounces the city barren of creativity. But I beg to differ.
In recent years, the Hong Kong gallery scene has evolved significantly. Dealers are bringing in big name artists like Shazia Sikander, Tatsumi Orimoto and Edward Burtynsky for solo shows. Alternative spaces devoted to new media and subculture art have cropped up. Two international galleries -- Ben Brown and Sundaram Tagore Gallery -- opened outposts in Central. Famed New York gallery Gagosian has a space under renovation and rumor has it that Marlborough and Pace Gallery are next.
Admittedly, we don’t have a bona fide gallery district like 798 or Moganshan Lu, but buried among the bars of Wyndham Street, the knickknacks of Hollywood Road and the depths of high-rise buildings, are a spate of galleries worth the visit.
Click to the next page to see Hong Kong's essential art galleries.
Para/Site Art Space
Para/Site is perhaps the most raw, boundary-pushing art space in Central. Located on Po Yan Street, Para/Site is a non-profit organization known for its highly conceptual exhibitions -- think quirky performances and disorientating installations.
Set up in 1996 by a group of artists, the tiny venue has matured into one of the most important exhibition spaces in the city. Its Canary Islands-born curator, Alvaro Rodriguez Fominaya, shows a range of emerging and established artists.
Last year Para/Site invited a group of young Australian artists called Bababa International to perform. Their humorous performance-installation, dubbed "Smooth Interpersonal Relationships," involved setting up a fully functioning nail salon in the space. Clad in white overalls, the young male artists poured tea, played soothing music and spent their days giving free manicures and pedicures. The project aimed to offer a respite to domestic helpers on their day off.
Recently, Fominaya set up video monitors and screened a skype conversation between Ai Wei Wei, the infant terrible of contemporary Chinese art scene, and Vito Acconci, the celebrated American artist and architect.
G/F, 4 Po Yan St, Sheung Wan, tel: +852 2517 4620 www.para-site.org.hk
Inclined on a sleepy street in Sai Ying Pun is Above Second, an artist-run gallery that doubles as a studio for co-founder Jasper Wong.
With the help of fellow artists from across the globe, Wong brings a taste of lowbrow, comic, pop, street and skate culture to Hong Kong. Unpredictable and experimental, the new space opened just last February is a hub for young creatives and artist-types.
Openings are a relaxed affair with hipsters spilling out of the gallery onto the pavement with beer, cigarettes or sake in hand. Recently, Above Second began hosting regular indie movie nights called BYOP (Bring Your Own Pillow).
31 Eastern Street, Sai Ying Pun, tel: +852 3483 7950 blog.above-second.com
One of the first galleries to set up shop in Hong Kong, Hanart TZ is run by intellectual and ideas man Johnson Chang. A pioneer in contemporary Chinese art, Chang has been exhibiting important Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong artists since the early 1980s.
Tucked inside an office building near the HSBC tower, the gallery plays host to installations, oil paintings, video art and contemporary Chinese ink paintings. Chang says he is interested in artists that reflect our times and look beyond the surface of things.
Earlier this year, he opened a second space Hanart Square in a massive industrial warehouse in Kwai Hing. Yet, Chang’s ambitions run far beyond his gallery spaces.
Peering out from his black large-rimmed glasses, Chang says his latest goal is to dislodge China’s obsession with the West. “My wish is to implant India into the imagination of China,” he says. For the past two years, Chang has rallied together a group of Indian intellectuals and artists. They will come together in a project called West Heavens -- a series of talks and an exhibition will take place during the 2010 Shanghai Biennale this month.
202 Henley Building, 5 Queen's Road, Central, tel: +852 2526 9019 www.hanart.com
The only gallery in the city to focus on promoting our own talents, Grotto Fine Art offers a much-needed platform for Hong Kong artists.
Since its inception close to a decade ago, Grotto has been supporting local artists, some of the most under-represented creatives in the city.
When asked if there is a lack of artists in Hong Kong, director Henry Au-yeung jokes, “We’ve had 85 exhibitions and survived for a decade, so I would say yes, there are some artists in Hong Kong.”
Amidst the chaos of Wyndham Street, Au-yeung has carved out a contemplative space on the second and third floors of a small commercial building. The cavernous gallery features intricate drawings, painting, sculpture and conceptual works.
Their current exhibition includes a delicate digital animation projected onto a traditional Chinese ink painting by local artist Wong Chung-yu.
2/F, 31C-D Wyndham Street, Central, tel: +852 2121 2270 www.grottofineart.com
Sundaram Tagore Gallery
The first international art gallery to arrive on the shores of Hong Kong, Sundaram Tagore Gallery injects a double dose of art and culture into Hollywood Road. Initially established in SoHo, New York with a second location in Los Angeles, the gallery is known for its diverse roster of artists and a mission to spark dialogue between East and West.
Besides their line-up of exhibitions, they host book launches, artist talks and lectures. The openings attract a mixed crowd of well-heeled clients, art aficionados and trendy twentysomethings.
Tagore recently directed and produced a documentary film on the life of an artist that will be screened worldwide with a showing in Hong Kong in February 2011.
57-59 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: +852 852 2581 9678 www.sundaramtagore.com
London dealer Ben Brown came full circle returning to his birthplace, Hong Kong, to open his eponymous space last year.
Boasting exceptionally high ceilings, the gallery occupies a large space in the Pedder Building just two floors above the China Tea Club.
The pristine white box carries a selection of international contemporary artists. Brown vows that if the artist is alive, he will fly him into Hong Kong for the opening.
Part of his mission is to expose the Hong Kong audience to artists of international renown. Among the most established artists on his roster are Candida Höfer, Caio Fonseca and Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne.
Private views and openings are filled with fashionable would-be collectors and clients who can be found at SEVVA, KEE Club or Dragon-I after.
301 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central, tel: +852 2522 9600 www.benbrownfinearts.com
I/O (Input/Output) is no ordinary shoe-box sized Hong Kong gallery. Opened last year, this is one of the only spaces in Central that focuses on new media art featuring video, digital and interactive works.
Hong Kong-based LED light artist Teddy Lo opened the space to introduce edgy experimental art to the city. Unlike mainstream galleries with fixed exhibition schedules, Input/Output works on a project basis.
The space constantly brings in new art forms to trigger conversation and dialogue. Last April, they showed controversial Chinese bio-artist Lu Yang whose music video Dictator E featured footage of frogs being exposed to pulses of electricity in a small tank set to sounds composed by artist Wang Changcun.
Recently they set up turntables and invited four performers to spin against the backdrop of a video-sound installation by Portuguese artist João Vasco Paiva
U/G, Tung Yiu Commercial Building, 31A Wyndham Street, Central tel +852 3105 1127 inputoutput.tv
Located in Cattle Depot -- a former slaughterhouse turned artist village -- Videotage was born out of an artist’s love for video.
Founded in 1986, the organization is an artist collective run by a group of IT specialists, artists and curators. Their creative line-up of exhibitions and seminars focuses on new media art.
Videotage’s openings tend to attract a small crowd of followers including students, local artists and those in the know.
Recently they hosted an experimental music open jam session paying tribute to the underground music scene in Hong Kong. Audience members were invited to listen, discuss and play with a group of Hong Kong musicians.
In an effort to keep people informed, the collective sends out a newsletter and their web site lists obscure yet fascinating video and new media projects worldwide.
Currently their site links to a project called "Man With A Movie Camera" where anyone can create a piece of video art by uploading their film footage to run parallel to a 1929 classic film and become part of a worldwide video montage.
No. 13, Cattle Depot Artist Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Rd. To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, tel: +852 2573 1869 www.videotage.org.hk
For a full list of gallery spaces across the city and updates on new exhibitions pick up a copy of the Hong Kong Gallery Guide.