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Best art galleries in Hong Kong
Where to see big names, emerging locals, new media and contemporary Chinese art
Hong Kongers are a tough crowd. Every second person I meet protests that we have no real art scene and pronounces the city barren of creativity.
But, come on. In recent years, the Hong Kong gallery scene has evolved significantly.
Dealers are bringing in big name artists like Damien Hirst and Zhang Huan for solo shows. Alternative spaces devoted to new media and subculture art have cropped up. A slew of international dealers such as Larry Gagosian, Ben Brown and Sundaram Tagore have opened outposts.
Famed London gallery White Cube 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 Beijing's 798 or Shanghai's 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.
Also on CNNGo: Saamlung: Showcasing Hong Kong's best new art
Para/Site Art Space
Para/Site is perhaps the most 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.
Last year Para/Site set up video monitors and screened a Skype conversation between Ai Wei Wei, the enfant terrible of contemporary Chinese art scene, and Vito Acconci, the celebrated American artist and architect.
Also on CNNGo: Who's afraid of Ai Wei Wei? Certainly not Hong Kong artists
This month, Romanian-born curator Cosmin Costinas flew in a group of artists to transform the gallery space. Among them was Malaysian-born artist Heman Chong who covered the floor with thousands of black name cards, forcing viewers to wade through a sea of paper.
G/F, 4 Po Yan St., Sheung Wan, +852 2517 4620 www.para-site.org.hk
One of the most powerful dealers in the art world, Larry Gagosian has had his eye on Hong Kong for years. After opening an office in 2007, he finally set up a gallery space in Central last January.
While Gagosian’s presence spans from New York to Athens, this marks the empire’s first outpost in Asia. Housed on the top floor of Pedder Building, the gallery is among the most sophisticated art spaces in the city.
Following Gagosian’s arrival, several big collectors have been spotted passing through the premises.
Nick Simunovic, Gagosian’s managing director in Hong Kong says their goal is to expose the local audience to museum quality exhibitions. This year alone, they’ve hit the public with shows by international heavyweights Damien Hirst, Zeng Fanzhi, Richard Prince and Roy Lichtenstein.
7/F Pedder Building, 12 Pedder St., Central, +852 2151 0555 www.gagosian.com
Hanart TZ Gallery
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 Pedder Building, 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 galleries.
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 have come together in a project called West Heavens -– an ongoing series of talks, exhibitions and film screenings traveling across China.
407 Pedder Building, 12 Pedder St., Central, +852 2526 9019 www.hanart.com
Grotto Fine Art
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.
Director Henry Au-yeung says it’s a common misperception that Hong Kong is lacking in artists:
“We’ve had more than 85 exhibitions and survived for a decade, so I would say yes, there are 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 work by the celebrated local painter Lam Tung-pang.
2/F, 31C-D Wyndham St., Central, +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 20-somethings.
Tagore recently directed and produced a documentary film on the life of an Indian artist that was screened worldwide. His second film on American Architect Louis I. Kahn is due for release next year.
Also on CNNGo: Sundaram Tagore: 'This documentary is about your life'
57-59 Hollywood Road, Central, +852 852 2581 9678 www.sundaramtagore.com
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 website lists obscure yet fascinating video and new media projects worldwide. Recently, their site linked to a project called "Man With A Movie Camera" where anyone could 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.
13, Cattle Depot Artist Village, 63 Ma Tau Kok Road, To Kwa Wan, Kowloon, +852 2573 1869 www.videotage.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, Above Second is a hub for young creatives. Openings are a relaxed affair with hipsters spilling out of the gallery onto the pavement with beer, cigarettes or sake in hand.
31 Eastern St., Sai Ying Pun, +852 3483 7950 blog.above-second.com