We live and breathe art in our daily lives, and we do not appreciate art only in a confined art exhibit anymore. That’s why there is an emergence of art malls where developers invite interior designers, contemporary artists, and architects to create a modern, trendy and artistic environment that attracts locals and travelers for a lot of instagrammable moments. Mixing businesses with pleasure, visitors enjoy their shopping experience and appreciate art at the same time. On top of that, revitalization of a city’s historic buildings or heritage sites is a new trend – many of them have turned to art spaces or multifunctional or event venues that host exhibitions, performances, and workshops to promote art and cultural development. In this post, I am featuring a list of art spaces and venues in Hong Kong which has put in a significant part of their effort to support modern art, and I believe everyone, especially art buffs, photographers, and influencers, will love to explore.
618 Shanghai Street
Shanghai Street is in Mong Kok, a classic old district filled with old buildings and old shops that still captures the essence of Hong Kong city life in the 50s. This is one of the best areas to take photos of the signs and neon lights – one of the most unique sceneries of the Hong Kong fast-paced and “never sleep” characters.
618 Shanghai Street is a new vitalized art mall by connecting and renovating 14 tenement buildings (or tong lous, that was built before the war in the 1920s and classified as Grade II historic buildings), featuring design stores, art markets, and more.
The prominent features of Hong Kong’s tong lou are its concrete columns and neon signs. The new art mall maintained the integrity of these features but gave it a new life with repainted walls and a few modern elements. If you want to find out what these old buildings used to be like, just have a stroll in the neighborhood, where you can still have a glimpse of these tong lous in the Mong Kok and Prince Edward areas. The mall has a few boutique and old stores that may be of interest to art buffs, had they like to look for old and vintage Hong Kong-style toys, decor, records, fashion, handicrafts, and more. These businesses might give you a hint about the homes and lives of old Hong Kong. The ground floor features a small designer flea market that attracts many locals on the weekends.
Cattle Depot Artist Village
Originally a slaughterhouse for 90 years (from 1908 to 1999), it was renovated and developed into a village for artists in 2001. It is now home to around 20 art groups in the art village – and it forms an artist community for them to have a place to create or practice art in different forms and formats.
There isn’t much to see for general visitors, as there aren’t any shops or cafes. However, the village holds different functions and events related to art. A Cattle Depot Festival and a Book Fair are held regularly, and it attracts the locals to join and visit the site.
The Cattle Depot Theatre is a small production with activities like drama, concerts, small-scale fashion shows, movie previews, seminars, workshops, and more.
If you are visiting there, take a walk in the Cattle Depot Art Park. and the entire area is a cluster of historic red-brick buildings that generate great pictures for your Instagram posts.
Hong Kong Museum of Art
HKMoA is basically the only “official” art museum in Hong Kong located in a very prime location – the museum is sitting at the waterfront of the Kowloon peninsula, offering a glorious view of the skyline of the Hong Kong island. After more than three years of renovation, the museum has a few upgrades and new wings with increased floor space. Each gallery hosts different permanent and theme art exhibitions. Currently, the museum has an art collection of over 17,000 items. For themed exhibitions, it showed world-famous paintings provided by internationally renowned museums. Lately, the museum showcased Botticelli’s artworks from the Uffizi; and earlier, the same gallery showcased masterpieces of British landscape art by Thomas Gainsborough, George Stubbs, Joseph Mallord William Turner, John Constable, James Abbott, McNeill Whistle, Paul Nash, Richard Long, and David Hockney.
Jao Tsung-I Academy
JTIA is one of the projects under the “Revitalizing Historic Buildings Through Partnership Scheme”. The site has over 100 years of rich and vibrant history. It was first used as a seaside customs station at the end of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, a British company built living quarters for Chinese laborers on the site. Subsequently, the compound served as a quarantine station, a prison, an infectious disease hospital, and a psychiatric rehabilitation center. For more than a century, this place has reflected the historical and social changes of Hong Kong. Today, it takes on a new role as a hub for arts and culture promotion, reaching out to different parties to collaborate and enrich the cultural life of the Hong Kong community. The site offers free guided tours for individuals and groups.
There are activity rooms, exhibition spaces, lecture halls, conference rooms, and a theatre for various events like conferences, meetings, exhibitions, and weddings.
The High Zone is a heritage lodge for visitors to stay in with a focus on well-being. The Middle Zone are lecture halls, restaurants, and workshops. The Low Zone is a gallery with a bronze statue of Jao Tsung-I, a notable sinologist, calligrapher, historian, and painter in Hong Kong.
K11 Art & Cultural Center
The K11 is a chain shopping mall developed by New World Development, it has shopping and hotel development across China, and the K11 Art Center is the latest addition in Hong Kong. It was a rebuild on the location of the old New World Center (or the Holt’s Wharf). The complex, Victoria Dockside, is a development with shopping malls K11 Musea, serviced apartment, office space, and a hotel. The Rosewood Hotel and residences are now one of the most luxurious and trendy hotels in the city now.
K11 Musea is a cultural-retail destination that combines contemporary artistic expression with local and international retail flavor. Same as many other K11 branded malls, art pieces collected or purchased from notable contemporary artists are displayed in different places in the mall: Like Van Gogh’s Ear by Danish-Norwegian artists duo Elmgreen & Dragset. They are best known for investigating the social, cultural, and political structure, creating artworks that engage with their surrounding contexts. This outdoor sculpture takes the form of a swimming pool sitting upright. With its cyan blue interior encompassed by a white edge, and elements like a stainless steel ladder, lights around the inner perimeter, and a diving board, the work reminds the viewer of a real garden pool. Located in the center of Hong Kong, the artwork stands in surreal contrast against the city’s busy urban landscape. As the title suggests, the evocation of artist Vincent van Gogh’s missing ear opens up the possibility for a different perception of the form itself and demonstrates a witty take on the modern system of visual semiotics.
Here in K11 Musea, the K11 Art & Cultural Center is a dedicated art area on the 6/F rooftop of the mall with an exclusive curation of art, from Yayoi Kusama’s “The Moment of Regeneration”, Sterling Ruby’s “Drag On”, Erwin Wurm’s “Half Big Suit”, KAWS’s “What Party”, to Damien Hirst’s “Soulful”. The venue also hosts a number of themed art exhibitions.
Oi! Art Space
Located on Oil Street in North Point, this art space is the former headquarters and clubhouse of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club. It is a small historic building with red bricks, with a courtyard that provides a platform for art exhibitions, forums, and other art-related activities. Two artworks are shown on the site.
“Architecture of Shade. Kinetic Playground” is an outdoor electronic pavilion that explores the relationship between body and space. Created by artists Sarah Lee and Yutaka Yano, it is inspired by questions about the Anthropocene era and our role in shaping the world around us and the consequences and responsibility that comes with it. When the weather allows, the installation will be activated to respond to the brightness, wind speed, and movement around it through the sensors placed by the seating profile of three endangered animals: the Pink Dolphin, Green Turtle, and Black-faced Spoonbill.
“Over the Ocean, Over the Mountain” is a giant frame created by Wilson Lee, and contributors including Eddy Yu, Hung Lam, and Vince Yiu. Built on reclaimed land at the beginning of the 20th century, Oil Street Art Space is located on an island that was once water. Since then, the shoreline has been ceaselessly moving outward, resulting in the expansion of Hong Kong Island. Fortress Hill was originally named “East Hill”. Its name dates back to when the British forces stationed there and built battery barracks in order to protect Victoria Harbour. Oil Street Art Space thus witnessed the centennial vicissitude of Hong Kong Island. This installation Over the Ocean, Over the Mountain inhabits the adjoining point of Oil Street Art Space Phase I and II, carrying the origin story of this land. Visitors on one hand can walk back and forth through the intertwining geometric space as if it is a time tunnel that leads us to the past. On the other hand, the use of architectural material insinuates the amplification of Phase II Development of Oil. While new art space is being created, let’s look into the future as well as all future possibilities.
Apart from the artwork, there is a small gallery for temporary art exhibits.
The name PMQ is the short form of “Police Married Quarters”, meaning it was the residence of the civil servants up until the year 2000. When the last tenant had moved out, the original plan was to demolish this site for a new build in the private sector. The neighborhood saw the historic value of this building and to preserve this Grade III historic building, it was eventually converted into an art and cultural development center.
PMQ is a spacious area and after renovation, the two blocks of original buildings were connected by adding a new block, the “CUBE”, the linkage features a rooftop garden “PLATEAU” on the fourth floor. Some chain shops, boutiques, and galleries are set up here on the ground floor, and there is so much more upstairs in the building.
Historic Spots of PMQ:
Main entrance of the Former Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters: Located at the slope of Aberdeen Street is the main entrance of the Former Hollywood Road Police Married Quarters. It was the main access for residents and had witnessed the growth of the police family community and the neighborhood throughout the years. The planter curbs surrounding the tree near the entrance were constructed with stones excavated from the remains of the Central School.
Underground Interpretation Area: The Underground Interpretation Area is formed by two of the longest foundation remains of the Central School. Six pieces of floor tiles and fragments of building materials excavated are displayed here. It provides the public with an opportunity to appreciate the historical and architectural value of the remains.
Granite steps and rubble retaining wall of the Central School: The granite steps and the rubble retaining wall have existed since the opening of the Central School in 1889. The steps connected the quarter blocks and the former Central Junior Police Call Clubhouse. After revitalization, the steps maintained their original function to link the different platforms. Visitors can enjoy the scenery of the newly planted garden and old trees rooted at Hollywood Road.
Former Central Junior Police Call Clubhouse: Originally the two-story recreational facility of the Quarters, the building was subsequently converted into the Hollywood Road Police Primary School in the 1950s and then into the Central Junior Police Call Clubhouse in 1981. Today, it has been revitalized into a restaurant with its original designs intact, including the cantilevered balcony located on the first floor of the building and the canopy built over the main entrance.
Entrance of the Central School: One of the entrances of the Central School was originally located at Staunton Street. The granite pillars and plinths around this area have existed since the time of the Central School. An underground public latrine built in 1918 was also located close by.
Exhibition Area: Two neighboring living units were set aside for the interpretative exhibition. One features the timeline depicting the history of the Central School, while the other is designed to re-interpret the domestic home of a police family in the past. These two units provide visitors with a deeper understanding and experience of the historical and cultural value of the site.
Rooftop Garden: Newly constructed, the Qube is a multi-functional hall used to host public activities while connecting the two blocks. The rooftop garden is located at the roof of the Qube (fourth floor) and visitors can enjoy the scenery of the garden and the surroundings.
Many operators in the creative industry set up their businesses here – while there are shops that showcase their creative ideas and craftsmanship, they use the space for workshops, forums, or events as well. More, many local startups set up offices here. All in all, this is a location for the creative minds to gather, check out their event calendar as PMQ’s courtyard hosts art exhibitions and other events all year round.
To learn more about the background of PMQ, visit the tunnel created by the foundation of the former Victoria College.
The museum is a privately owned, non-profit, art museum in Hong Kong, established by the Simon Suen Foundation in 2015. Focusing on promoting Chinese art and culture, the museum hosts different themed exhibitions and it’s free to the public. It is one of the few privately owned art museums in the city and there should be more.
Being a former police compound including the central police station, central magistracy, and Victoria Prison, the giant red-brick colonial building has been a landmark in the heart of Hong Kong for a long time. It was established to maintain law and order since the early days of British colonial rule, and it witnessed the development of Hong Kong.
Its heritage significance was recognized in 1995 when its three key areas were gazetted as declared monuments. When Victoria Prison was decommissioned in 2006, the compound accomplished its mission as a law enforcement site for Hong Kong. In 2008, the city’s government and other organizations partnered up to conserve and revitalize this testament to Hong Kong’s history. It has been opened to the public since May 2018, and these historic buildings are now revitalized as a multi-functional space for arts, heritage culture, and lifestyle in Hong Kong.
Tai Kwun is now a platform for local practitioners to perform and display their creativity in a number of facilities – the JC cube, JC Contemporary, and the Parade Ground. The Barrock is the focal point of the entire site – with a number of designer shops, bookstores, and cafes on each level – it has a view of the entire Parade Ground and the city’s unique skyline. This is also the assembly point of its free guided tour.
There are signs, exhibits, and preserved areas that showcase the history of this place – the law enforcement and prison life in the past. Part of the exhibition galleries also hosts events with a focus on the unique Hong Kong culture and character, not to mention that the architecture of Tai Kwun is a perfect site, offering tons of photo-taking spots.
Now that you may also want to explore Hong Kong Authentic Dishes, the city is filled with cool and hip cafes – one place to look for them, is in these art places. Check out Between Pop Up coffee shop in Tai Kwun JC Contemporary, where you can unwind, enjoy a cup of coffee on the outdoor balcony with comforting treats & friendly service. I am going to write about some of my favorite coffee shops in Hong Kong, so stay tuned!
The location used to be a long-served textile factory complex owned by the Nan Fung Group. Titled “the last cotton-spinning mill in Hong Kong”, its operation eventually ceased due to the transformation of the economic development in the city. Factory buildings number 4, 5, 6 became part of the city’s heritage conservation project and revived as a shopping mall with art spaces – which an art space was kind of lacking in the booming neighborhood in Tsuen Wan West. So, it immediately became a hit with locals in the area hanging out there (with their pets, yes! It’s a pet-friendly space, some of the only few in Hong Kong), and enjoying their time with friends, furry buddies, and art at the cafes, restaurants, boutique stores, and designer’s markets.
The interior of the mall retains an industrial vibe, given that it was once a factory, with steel and iron frames covered with glasses that give the inner space a bright and open feel. Most of the stores in the mall focused on local design, organic health products, as well as vintage goods that speak to many local art buffs and young audiences.
Part of the building is dedicated to the Centre for Heritage Arts and Textile (CHAT). Funded and founded by the D.H. Chen Foundation gallery, the center is for the visitors to learn everything about the history and development of this spinning mill to the textile industry in Hong Kong: The textile industry plays an important role in the economic growth of Hong Kong in the mid-20th century when the influx of mainland Chinese immigrants brought their machinery, techniques, and capital to the city. With the support from the government in the 1950s, the industry took off rapidly bringing Hong Kong-made textile to the global market. By the 2000s, most textile-related companies were engaged in supply chain management, including product design, factory sourcing, and logistics. The transformation of the economic focus in Hong Kong has the factories closed down one right after the other, noting the end of the textile production in Hong Kong as the city has already shifted toward technology and financial development.
There are a number of public artworks on display in CHAT, with a CHAT Lounge for visitors to unwind or participate in CHAT’s events and art programs. This is a venue for artists, designers, or cultural practitioners to host workshops and discussions. The remaining galleries also host temporary art exhibitions featuring works of local contemporary artists in different themes and genres. Lastly, visitors could experience a re-created textile mill in virtual reality in the CHAT Lab, for a ticket of US$2.
West Kowloon Art Park
The West Kowloon Art Park is yet another waterfront promenade opened to the public, and it’s a construction site in progress. The goal is to create an art and cultural hub with a cluster of art and cultural venues and green space for the locals to unwind and relax. While many of the facilities are still under construction, the open area is already a popular spot for the locals to bring their pets or children to have a picnic on the lawn and enjoy the view of the west side of Victoria Harbour. Freespace is a new center of contemporary performing arts, housing Hong Kong’s largest black box theatre. The Art Park has a guided tour for different groups, with Hong Kong Palace Museum, M+, and Lyric Theatre Complex in the works. At the West Kowloon Competition Pavilion – “Growing Up” is a winning design of the first Hong Kong Young Architects and Designers Competition. The timberwork offers space for visitors to relax, and it’s also available for small-scale event rental.
Opens in November 2021, M+ Museum and it’s the latest addition to the Hong Kong modern art scene. The museum is a spacious art space of 17,000 square meters with over an impressive 50,000 art pieces by 777 artists from 35 countries. Upon its inauguration, art-lovers and social media fans have been flocking into the museum to get the first taste of the wide range of exhibits.
It has a total of 33 galleries, making it hard to complete and appreciate all the artworks in just one visit. In case you are visiting there with a limited time, scan the QR code for an audio tour and check out the highlights of the exhibit as listed below:
The exhibit was created by British artist Anthony Gormley, as he invited villagers in China’s Guangdong to each to make a small clay figurine and then filled up the entire hall with their work. The end result is a sea of over 200,000 clay figurines that makes your jaw drop.
Not a Prayer in Heaven
The crucifix was formed with five digital screens hanging inside a concrete-clad gallery, splashing with fast-moving slogans, colors, and patterns, and the tension of the highly-contrasted artwork, created by Korean artist Young-hae, is hard to ignore.
Kiyotomo Sushi bar
This is an unusual piece of installation art, as the entire sushi bar was reconstructed here in an art museum. The sushi bar was actually a well-known restaurant in Tokyo’s Shinbashi district and it was closed in 2004. The space was left empty ever since, until it was deconstructed and moved to M+, from interior finishes, furnishings to the exterior facade.
“King of Kowloon” Tsang Tsou-choi’s work
While he may not be an acclaimed artist, the legendary Tsang Tsou-choi has an interesting story to tell since the 1950s. He claimed that he is the ancestor of a family who owns most of the land of Kowloon and so he claim his land by adding his graffiti all around the city. His graffiti was repeatedly painted over, and he was arrested a few times for that. Until his work was widely recognized later – one of his major commercial successes was a Sotheby’s auction, selling at US$7,000 in 2004.
Ai weiwei is a well-known, and also controversial artist, of contemporary art. His works could be found worldwide, and are now also on display in M+. Whitewash is at the center of Sigg Galleries with 126 large white and earth-tone jars arranged in rows on the ground – and for sure it’s one of the most important artworks that visitors should not miss.
Things, Spaces, Interactions
Design and architecture define the things we use, create the spaces we inhabit, and ultimately inform the way we see and live in the world. The themed exhibition presents more than five hundred examples of furniture, architecture, graphic arts, and other design objects that have had a profound influence in Asia and around the globe over the last seventy years. The design moved across borders and is shaped by the transnational exchange.