CoCA Blog

Hong Kong Street Art

Posted by admin on April 3, 2015

From Change-Seed curator David Francis

Street Art in Hong Kong, like the Lonely Planet guidebook reports in the passage below, is a new phenomenon, reflecting the fairly recent emergence of contemporary art in Hong Kong in the early 1970s. Since Beijing and Shanghai have much deeper traditions of art production, compared to the relatively recent emergence of Hong Kong as a center of trade and finance (British occupation: 1842 – 1997), art has always been an afterthought in this city of money. With major initiatives designed to pay more attention to art (M+ space, West Kowloon Arts District), combined with the major tax breaks on sales that have attracted major art fairs (Art Basel HK since 2013), Hong Kong is poised to catch up to Beijing and Shanghai and perhaps even push beyond them in terms of the role of artists in democratic reform.

Lonely Planet entry on Street Art in Hong Kong (Piera Chen, 2013):

Street graffiti was almost nonexistent or largely unrecognized in Hong Kong until the passing in 2007 of the self-proclaimed ‘King of Kowloon’ (aka Tsang Tsou-Choi), who for decades had smothered the city with his trademark rambling, childlike calligraphy that cursed the Queen of England for ‘usurping’ his rightful land. His irrepressible daily reveries and inimitable visual style eventually inspired many artists and designers, and won him exhibitions at home and abroad.

Street art has noticeably grown in Hong Kong since, perhaps with the King’s benediction. This trend in part stems from a new-found confidence among a younger generation of artists to express their dissatisfaction with the social problems of the day using means that are more open and combative. After the April 2011 arrest in mainland China of the prominent artist and activist  Ai Weiwei, a number of artists in Hong Kong came forth with a dose of creative surprises to raise public attention of his case and to rally for his release. Most memorably, Ai-inspired graffiti stencils appeared on pavements, overpasses and walls for five nights straight around the city, thanks to a lone operator known only as 'Tangerine'.

The 90 images in the slideshow were taken by David Francis from April – September 2014 in Causeway Bay, Central, Kowloon, Wanchai, Aberdeen, and other places in the region. Several images are also from Macau. They are tourist shots on an I-phone, each about 1.2 MB, and not intended as more than documentation. That said, however, viewers will also notice the poetics carved on bamboo tree trunks along Bowen road, the prehistoric rock art at Big Wave Bay (admittedly a bit of a stretch for “street art”), and a particular fondness for the artist Cat Time Blatch, whose rodent-like people gaze out from the alleyways around Hollywood Road and Lan Kwai Fong bar district, an upscale art-gallery zone in Central.  A group of political posters – candidates from Beijing-aligned political parties – are also included as they have been modified by stickers. King of Kowloon’s work is represented toward the end of the sequence, calligraphic characters in black behind a protective plastic shield.

Slideshow

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