This month and the next, collectors are headed to Hong Kong, which is hosting Art Basel, March 29-31, as also some important auctions across genres in April. For those hopping over to the city with the most skyscrapers in the world, here's our pick of how to live it up like a local in Hong Kong.
For a breath of fresh air, wander down to the water front between Central and Wan Chai to explore Hong Kong Harbor Arts Sculpture Park. Just installed a few weeks back, the temporary outdoor exhibition features 21 sculptures from 19 international and local artists, including Yayoi Kusama of Japan, Zhan Wang of China, Tracey Emin and Antony Gormley of the UK, Jenny Holzer of the US, and local artists Ho Kwun-ting and Kacey Wong Kwok-choi. From a spotted pumpkin to gargantuan feet in charcoal flipflops, each sculpture interfaces with the backdrop of the city in different ways.
To see what some local artists are up to, swing by Hong Kong Arts Center, a non-profit, which has supported the city’s Contemporary arts and culture scene since 1977. A dedicated 19-story building in Central with nearly 130,000 square feet of space, the HKAC houses a cinema, theaters, galleries, classrooms, studios, restaurants and office space. With the mission to connect the broader public to the arts, programing includes performing arts, visual arts, films, public art projects, conferences, art festivals and more. The HKAC will have a late-night program on March 30, and the 42nd Hong Kong International Film Festival is ongoing until May 4.
If you tire of white exhibition walls, wade through the welcoming darkness of the iconoclastic Empty Gallery, a 4,500-square-foot exhibition space in Tin Wan founded by Stephen Cheng in 2015. The gallery showcases emerging artists working in “ephemeral, time-based, and non-object oriented practices” such as the moving image, sound and performance. Emulating the architecture of a black box, a stroll through Empty Gallery is like walking through a dreamscape of colors, shapes and sounds. The gallery is currently running two exhibitions: “Mother is a Woman” featuring Jes Fan, and “Ruthless Logic” featuring Xavier Cha.
Hungry, but haven’t had enough art? Eat in the presence of works by Banksy, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Aya Takano at Bibo, a French-cuisine restaurant where art is on the walls and on the plate. With many works on loan from private collectors, these pieces could be in museums if they were not over your head as you munch on pan-seared lobster or roasted pigeon breast with sweetcorn purée and foie gras. The cocktail menu offers vintage spirits, homemade syrups, and recreations of early-century forgotten classics. And the wine menu spans 36 pages — santé!
For a taste of some of the best traditional cuisine that Hong Kong has to offer, head to the Cantonese restaurant Lung King Heen in the Four Seasons Hotel with a sweeping view over Victoria Harbour. Chef Chan Yan Tak, a native Hong Konger who has lived here his entire life, holds the distinguished title of being the first chef in the city’s history to receive three Michelin stars. Try the crispy pork rib with osmanthus and pear, siu mai dumplings with lobster and scallop, or roast goose with plum sauce. Lunch time dim sum, ever-popular, should be booked in advance.
For a more casual atmosphere, take a seat at one of the longest-standing dim sum establishments in the city, Luk Yu Tea House in Central. Founded in 1933 by Ma Chao Wan and Lee Chi-Nan, and housed in a 160-year-old building decorated with Chinese calligraphy and paintings, this tea house is as traditional as it gets. Artist Angel Otero, who visited Hong Kong for his art exhibit, told a BLOUIN ARTINFO writer, “Luk Yu Tea house has a classical, historical environment, which is a complete contrast with the futuristic feel of the city, and a welcome break from the fast pace of Hong Kong.”
A qipao or tunic suit from Shanghai Tang is undoubtedly a piece of art. Founded by Hong Kong businessman and socialite David Tang, the luxury fashion house combines traditional Shanghainese tailoring with Contemporary design and fabrics, offering new renditions of classic Chinese elements, including cheongsam collars and flower knot buttons. Shanghai Tang also sells luxury homeware, specializing in fine bone china, a type of fine porcelain known for its whiteness and translucency.
When it’s late at night, and you need a quiet place to withdraw, browse the shelves of Taiwanese chain mega-book store Eslite. Hard to beat in terms of breadth, the Hong Kong branch in Causeway bay spans three floors and claims to have one million titles on its shelves. The selection is bilingual in English and Chinese, and features a great selection on art, photography and travel. Best of all, it stays open until 10 p.m. most nights and even later on weekends, making it an oasis for quiet reading or shopping when being in one of the most densely-populated cities in the world gets over whelming.
For a smaller bookstore with a quirkier personality, try independent bookshop cinema-café Kubrick (yes, named after American director Stanley Kubrick) in Yau Ma Tei. A watering hole for local artists and cinemaphiles, Kubrick sells art and design books, novels, travel books and movie pamphlets and is well-loved by young Hong Kongers. Attached is a small cinema and shop featuring illustration, photography and paintings from local artists. The café is notable for its large selection of floral teas and also serves a full American breakfast.
— This article appears in the April 2018 edition of Art+Auction