ART CULTURE DISTRICT CONSTRUCTION PROJECT
In a recent interview with Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong artist Chu Hing Wah commented on the West Kowloon Cultural District (WKCD) and the M+ contemporary art museum. The project has the potential to raise Hong Kong’s cultural profile.
I see M+ as one step forward in further developing the arts in Hong Kong. With its cultural capital as a vibrant cosmopolitan city, Hong Kong’s art scene should have been more vigorous. The WKCD project presents an opportunity, but it depends on how determined the authorities are to make things happen.
In the interview, Chu also talks on his unique style and how he is influenced by traditional Chinese arts. Chu recently participated in the West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre, which integrated Cantonese opera with contemporary visual art pieces. Running from 20 to 24 January 2012, it was the WKCD Authority’s first cultural event.
The WKCD project will include seventeen cultural venues, including the M+ Museum of Visual Culture, headed by former Tate Modern Director Lars Nittve, several performing arts venues, and a 15,000-seat arena and expo centre. Nittve’s selection is part of a larger push to attract the best talent to Hong Kong for the project.
Not everyone is optimistic about the scheme’s prospects. As reported by the South China Morning Post, the project is now in its fourteenth year of development and has been marred by several controversies. Not only did the original design by architect Norman Foster have to be scrapped due to infeasibility, but his newest plan, which routes all traffic underground, may conflict with his stated goal to be completely carbon-neutral. It will also demand massive up-front construction costs. In addition, there has been controversy over the selection process, including alleged bureaucratic manipulation of public opinion polls.
Perhaps most distressing is the concern that the project will fail to live up to its aims. According to Samuel Leong, Head of the Hong Kong Institute of Education’s cultural and creative arts department, “The arts hub has been tied up too much with real estate and other commercial interests”. Indeed, from the outset, there has been doubt over whether the Hong Kong government has had a unified vision for the WKCD project, alternatively envisioning it as a cultural, commercial, and tourist venture. Without a comprehensive cultural program, critics suggest that Hong Kong will ultimately lack the professional talent or audience to support the ambitious project.
- Norman Foster promises accessible arts for Hong Kong Kowloon project – Time Out – August 2011 – Lord Norman Foster discusses his plan for the new art district
- Is Hong Kong’s current art climate failing local artists? Wall Street Journal discusses – January 2011 – problems facing contemporary artists in Hong Kong
- Ex-Tate Modern director Lars Nittve appointed to lead West Kowloon’s M+ – July 2010 – an experienced art director joins the WKCD project
- Is Hong Kong a cultural desert? How can you become a better collector? Answers revealed at Asia Art Forum – June 2010 – two art professionals sound off at the annual forum
- Hong Kong’s new museum district appoints ex-Barbican CEO, Graham Sheffield – media round-up – April 2010 – media coverage of the short-lived project director
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on the West Kowloon Cultural District