Seasoned Hong Kong artist sees WKCD project as “one step forward” – AAA interview

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.

Chu Hing Wah, 'Escalator Balancing', 2005, ink and colour on paper.

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.

Chu Hing Wah, Hong Kong artist

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.

Digital rendering of Foster + Partners' design for the West Kowloon Cultural District.

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.

PR/HH

Related Topics: art in Hong Kong, art districts, Asia expands

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