Lee Kit and Chantal Wong launch new independent art space in Hong Kong

A significant new independent art space will be unveiled in Hong Kong this September.

As Hong Kong moves through a ‘creative awakening’, a new arts space is being co-founded by Lee Kit and Chantal Wong, two of the city’s pioneering young forces. ‘Things’ will appear in an historic building in Sham Shui Po this September with a programme of exhibitions, happenings and residencies. 

Photo courtesy Things.

Photo courtesy Things.

A reimagination of the city

An intriguing scene played out earlier this month in the heart of Hong Kong’s Kowloon district. Lee Kit – an artist who represented Hong Kong at the 55th Venice Biennale – and Chantal Wong – a new curator on the rise – were celebrating the soft launch of their independent arts space, Things.

When it opens to the public this September, Things will mark a significant new addition to the rapidly-growing, money-saturated Hong Kong arts scene. It will offer a place for experimentation and dialogue beyond the glitzy galleries of Hong Kong Island and industrial lofts of Fotan, Chai Wan and Aberdeen – bringing art deep into the heart of grassroots Hong Kong. It appears during a time when the entire city has been moving through a “creative awakening” – following the Umbrella Movement of 2014 when hundreds of thousands protested on the streets of the city.

As the website for Things explains:

“Recent political developments in Hong Kong have triggered a spirit of political and civil urgency amongst the city’s population. These resistance movements are not only shifting the socio-political landscape but have also roused a creative awakening amongst the people of Hong Kong and inspired a profound reimagination of the city and its citizens. It is vital at this juncture to provide platforms that continue nurturing this sense of curiosity, especially in a city where imagination and experimentation continue to find little structural support.”

Left-right: Chantal Wong and Lee Kit. Photo courtesy Things.

Left-right: Chantal Wong and Lee Kit. Photo courtesy Things.

A space for interpretation and discussion

It certainly seems like the natural next step for Lee Kit, whose body of work has seen him creating environments filled with ready-mades and a practice that deeply weaves together art and daily life. In an exhibition in Sydney, he once set up an entire apartment in the gallery and moved in for the month. His hand-painted tablecloths, towels and curtains have graced galleries and museums around the globe.

Lee told Art Radar that the overall mood of change and unrest in Hong Kong was one of the many factors that propelled him and Wong to launch the project:

“In the midst of social change, consensus has become very extreme. We thought it would be meaningful to do something to open up more discussion and possibilities. When looking at the local art ecology, we definitely need more non-profit art spaces to provide more perspectives as the grounds for understanding, interpretation and discussion.”

Lee Kit, 'I Feel Fine and I Feel Good’, 2015, acrylic, emulsion paint, inkjet ink, pencil, stretcher on cardboard, 2 video, looped, dimensions variable. Installation view at Tina Kim Gallery, courtesy of the artist and Jane Lombard Gallery.

Lee Kit, ‘I Feel Fine and I Feel Good’, 2015, acrylic, emulsion paint, inkjet ink, pencil, stretcher on cardboard, 2 video, looped, dimensions variable. Installation view at Tina Kim Gallery. Courtesy of the artist and Jane Lombard Gallery.

This is also a natural step for Chantal Wong, who originally hails from Montreal and has been working at the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong since 2006. In 2009, she moved to London for an M.A. in Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths while also working at Outset Contemporary Art Fund. Since her return to Hong Kong in 2011 and into a role as head of strategy and special projects for AAA, she has co-curated the “Mapping Asia” exhibition at the AAA as well as co-curating “Ten Million Rooms of Yearning” with Cosmin Costinas at Para/Site Art Space.

As Wong explained to Art Radar:

“Working closely, collaborating with, and learning from artists is something I want to continue doing… The time also feels ripe, there is a very active commercial art world in Hong Kong, the cultural landscape is changing rapidly, the political climate is tense, many elements call for a small artists’ space for dialogue, experimentation and imagination. To show that art can do and be more.”

Sham Shui Po. Image courtesy Things.

Sham Shui Po. Image courtesy Things.

Arts on the rise in Sham Shui Po

They soon found a space in a tong lau (historic residential building) on Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po, an area in the northwest of Kowloon known for its street markets filled with second hand electronics and its diverse demographic. Far from the sheen of Hong Kong Island, the district is also home to 100ft Park a new art space co-founded by a trio including artist South Ho and architect Stanley Siu.

The funding for ‘Things’ comes from a myriad of sources. Alan Lo and Darrin Woo of the development company Blake’s have supported the project with the physical space. Art consultant Jehan Chu has offered foundational support, and other family and friends are stepping in to contribute. The space will follow a two-year programme of events.

Image courtesy Things.

Image courtesy Things.

Beyond the white cube

Things officially launches in September with a show by the artist and animator Wong Ping, who was recently showcased in the inaugural ‘Moving Image’ programme by M+. This will be followed by an exhibition co-curated by Paul Pfeiffer, an artist based between New York and Manila. The first residency kicks off with Singaporean artist Godwin Koay whose research responds to the ways political oppression manifest itself in media, the body and subjectivities. You can also expect a small curated bookshop, a roof garden and an entirely new type of arts space for Hong Kong. As Wong says:

“We want to offer an alternative kind of art space to the city, an alternative to the white cube model. In fact, people keep asking about the renovations but the intention is to keep the space close to its original state with its tacky 1990s lighting and small bedrooms… It’s a very ‘Hong Kong’ set up, both inside the space and outside, when you step into the hustle of Sham Shui Po. It’s one of the most dynamic, historically rich and challenging parts of the city.”

Clare Tyrrell-Morin

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Related Topics: Hong Kong artistscuratorial practiceevents in Hong Kong, interviews, Asian artists

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