AFTER centuries of Chinese influence and a brief period of British colonization, Hong Kong is where cultures collide, making it uniquely positioned for the arts.
The global financial hub’s art scene has bloomed in recent years.
Acclaimed art galleries from London and New York have opened up shop, there’s an invigorating annual schedule of festivals and exhibitions, and even Art Basel Hong Kong welcomed its installment this month.
While the modern art scene is all glitz and glamour, there’s also the local scene that’s quietly getting its share of the spotlight.
It’s an exciting time to be in Hong Kong, and here’s where to go to get started.
Immensely walkable, the unassuming neighborhood of Yau Ma Tei reveals a few surprises.
These include restaurant supply shops (kuih molds, traditional scales, etc), a neoclassical police station that has been frequently featured in movies, a fruit market (complete with singlet-wearing vendors playing mahjong on folding tables), and located right next to a public housing estate, the imposing complex that houses Broadway Cinematheque.
Hosting film festivals, screenings and talks since 1996, this boutique cinema is where one can delve deep into classic Hong Kong cinema or arthouse Asian films.
If you don’t have time to check out a film, browse the excellent record store or have brunch at stylish bookshop-café Kubrick, which stocks a good selection of Chinese and English titles and independent magazines.
Classified as a Grade Three Historic Building, the revamped PMQ (which stands for Police Married Quarters) used to be a government school once attended by China’s founding father Dr Sun Yat Sen.
The school was then turned into a police dormitory before it becomes a creative hub that it is now.
Tucked away in the steep alleys of Sheung Wan (an eclectic neighborhood known for its antiques and colonial architecture), PMQ makes full use of the sprawling compound.
There’s always something going on – workshops, exhibitions (the latest being Junji Ito’s “Aesthetics of Horror” and a showcase around cult favorite washi tape brand MT Tape) and events.
Some of the smaller rooms have been converted into studios for local artists and retail spaces selling everything from sushi pouches to designer homeware. Offbeat souvenirs for the folks back home? Sorted!
Spend the morning exploring the Sheung Wan streets, then drop by PMQ for the rest of the afternoon.
For supper, have the pork belly bun at Little Bao on Staunton Street.
The magic of Hong Kong lies not in its glittering skyscrapers or its exemplary service industry, but in the nit and grit of everyday life – the flickering neon signs, the simple rattan chairs gracing street corners, the seemingly garish plastic toys manufactured during Hong Kong’s industrial boom.
And those are some of the few visual cues M+, the new museum for visual culture strives to capture and preserve.
While the M+ is scheduled to be completed in 2019, its first exhibition space – the M+ Pavilion is now open, and it’s worth making a pilgrimage to the outskirts of West Kowloon to get a taste of what’s to come.
M+ will be part of the ambitious but long-delayed West Kowloon Cultural District, a government-based cultural project.
Designed by Foster + Partners, the 99-acre space will include a park, an auditorium for Cantonese opera, a waterfront park, the upcoming Hong Kong Palace Museum and more.
Bonus: At the park, you’ll also get a pretty great view of Victoria Harbour.