An intersection of cultures, Hong Kong has the third-largest art revenue in the world behind Paris and London. But as galleries move into the Central district, a new breed of art spaces has emerged in the suburbs, sprouting a truly innovative, thriving scene. Ianthe Butt rounds up the places making waves in the art world.
The new kid on the block: Tai Kwun
Smartened-up historical complex Tai Kwun is a brand-new centre for heritage and the arts. The 16 buildings that formerly housed the Central Police Station, built between 1864 and 1925, have been painstakingly restored and some now feature immersive exhibitions bringing the law and order of yesteryear to life. Adding a heavyweight art punch is a Herzog & de Meuron aluminium-brick-clad contemporary art space and auditorium. Expect vivid installations by local talent such as Wing Po So rubbing shoulders with theatre and dance performances that spill outdoors. Once a month, music activist Kung Chi Shing curates eclectic gigs, with acts spanning gypsy-jazz through to indie. There’s also a clutch of cool bars, restaurants and shops to explore; bonart offers terrarium workshops, Madame Fu cooks up tasty Cantonese cuisine, and LockCha teahouse serves traditional brews, while Taschen does a brisk trade in covetable coffee-table books.
10 Hollywood Rd, Central; +852 3559 2600
The disruptor: Empty Gallery
Think “gallery” and most people think white walls and an atmosphere of hushed reverence. Not so at the Empty Gallery, a 4,500-square-foot black cube in Tin Wan, where astonishing artworks – mostly multimedia, moving images, sound and performance – are displayed in darkness, with minimal lighting to appreciate each piece. Showcasing the bizarre to the brilliant, previous exhibits have included virtual-reality pieces by German artist Hans-Henning Korb, and the first Asian exhibition of Swedish mathematician, composer and visual artist Catherine Christer Hennix’s work.
3 Yue Fung St, Aberdeen; +852 2563 3396
The mega-gallery: H Queen’s
Hong Kong is no stranger to well-known galleries, being home to the likes of Gagosian Gallery and White Cube, but new opening H Queen’s has been described by the Financial Times as “the gallery space Hong Kong was waiting for”. Fast defining itself as the city’s go-to gallery space, the aptly nicknamed “HQ” is a purpose-built 24-storey glassy Jenga tower of a cultural behemoth. And the big-hitters are setting up shop thick and fast, with Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner, Pearl Lam, Pace Gallery and Galerie Ora-Ora already in residence. It’s not all about the art either; there’s Japanese fine dining at Arbor restaurant, fancy French fare at Ecriture and showstopper pastel-hued cakes whipped up by Vivien Lau at Vive Cake Boutique.
80 Queen’s Road Central, Central; +852 2343 1738
The millennial favourite: PMQ
A long-established heritage revamp, PMQ stands on the site of Hong Kong’s first government school, and later, after damage in the Second World War, its Police Married Quarters, which had fallen out of use by 2000. As of 2014, the renovated PMQ is an artsy haven, jam-packed with the studios of local “create-preneurs”. Think contemporary jewellery at Obellery – where you can craft your own pieces as well as shop – workshops and exhibitions at Photo Now, and calligraphy exhibitions at Art House Oriental, as well as a Korean Cultural Centre. There’s also a bakery, cooking school, saké bar and an ever-changing roster of buzz-worthy pop-ups where the likes of MakerBay run 3D printing, laser cutting and woodworking sessions.
S614, Block A, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central; +852 2870 2335
The creative hub: Wontonmeen
A truly unique space, Wontonmeen is part artists’ collective, part hostel and all-round boho hotspot in Kowloon’s Sham Shui Po. Here, artists and artisans live alongside journalists, designers and Wing Chun disciples across 11 storeys of flats. It’s the kind of place where communal living-room chatter ranges from how to pull off a new film festival to debates on who the hottest emerging local art talent is. If you want to get inspired and soak up some of the creativity, there’s on-site accommodation to bed down in, a mini-gallery called 100ft Park, and a swish bike-rental shop.
135 Lai Chi Kok Road, Kowloon; +852 6904 0918
The one to watch: M+ Pavilion
Art buffs awaiting the 2019 arrival of M+, a game-changing museum dedicated to 20th- and 21st-century visual culture in West Kowloon, can get an ahead-of-time fix at teaser space M+ Pavilion. Exhibitions at the split-level sci-fi-esque mirror-clad pavilion, designed by three talented Hong Kong architects (VPANG Architects, JET Architecture and Lisa Cheung), give a taste of what’s to come at M+ and have included explorations of gender and identity in Hong Kong, thought-provoking solo shows from Tsang Kin-Wah and Samson Young, and a debut display of M+’s design collection.
Yau Tsim Mong District, West Kowloon; +852 2200 0217