I wanted my stopover to be different. Already familiar with China’s freedom of expression dilemma, I figured exploring the Hong Kong art scene would teach me a heck of a lot about the territory and the People’s Republic — from a very refreshing perspective.
Thus, I enlisted the help of Liuda HK to get a glimpse of the history of Chinese art and expression in the Special Administrative Region (SAR).
Below, some of my fascinating findings after a walk down Hollywood Road in Central.
Hong Kong Art Scene: A Walk Down Hollywood Road
It might have been 11 AM, but it was relatively quiet. “Its Cantonese nickname, ‘Cultural Desert,’ is quite fitting,” I thought.
Filled with tranquility, behind the walls of some of the most expensive spaces in the city, I delved into Chinese art for the first time.
Our guide, Raymond, introduced himself and the walk by explaining how the Hong Kong art scene was born.
In the Beginning…
Hollywood Road might have been the second street to ever been built after the British colony was founded, but in 1987, it became the cradle of contemporary art in Hong Kong.
Fleeing the oppression of the mainland’s communist regime, Chinese art flocked to the SAR. Few artists came to sell their works or go into hiding.
Interestingly, most paintings from underground artists were brought in by Western journalists living in China in the 1980s and 1990s.
Xing Xing artists (known as The Stars Art Group) and Yuan Ming Yuan artists were some of the first to emerge and flourish here.
Fleeing Socialist Realism
Screaming frustrations and desire for social change were clearly depicted through oils, watercolors, and canvases.
These artists who pushed away Socialist Realism–the Chinese state-sanctioned form of art–for finally revealing true freedom of expression and individualism forbidden in the mainland.
One of my favorites? Chen Lianqing. His work perfectly depicts the aforementioned plight of the Chinese people toward freedom of expression.
His paintings drew me in: they denounced not only the government, but also materialism.
The emotions portrayed were a reflection of how most people from the Sichuan Province of China are: sensitive, but very busy and naughty.
And, in the artist’s own words, wishing to escape some type of misery…
Intimate Emotions and Sculptures
Other works were truly surprising. Sexuality and intimacy abound– something I was not expecting from what I perceive to be an ultra-reserved culture.
What surprised me the most, though? Hong Kong art that depicted Communist China in ways that seemed to glorify it:
Beyond the paintings, I found the Hong Kong art scene to be extremely rich in sculpture.
Unique, abstract emotions related to love and religion shone through.
My favorite installations were found at Park View: the only gallery we visited off Hollywood Road:
That Buddha statue was created by binding intricate metal pieces.
What’s even more beautiful? Those delicate metal pieces are actually Chinese characters, all reading Buddha teachings:
A similar art piece floated gracefully in the background:
In the back, what seem to be a cross between Dali-inspired Surrealism and contemporary Impressionism hung from the walls:
Hong Kong’s Street Art: Another Hidden Gem
After 2 hours, thirsty for more, we wrapped up by taking in some Hong Kong street art:
Have you explored the Hong Kong art scene?
Many thanks to Liuda HK for the unique introduction to the Hong Kong art scene via Hollywood Road and vicinity. While this artwork was provided free of charge, I received no payment nor other compensation in exchange of positive reviews. This post is a reflection of my own feelings and conclusions after being exposed to contemporary Chinese and Hong Kong art.