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A million reasons to love Hong Kong: Michael Lau

  • Written by Tatler Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s toy industry reached its pinnacle in the 70s when majority of the toys were manufactured in this prosperous coastal city and could be found on shelves of countless, foreign chain stores. “This was when I was exposed to all sorts of toy samples,” Michael Lau says. “Moreover, street culture went viral all around the globe throughout the 80s and 90s. Several friends of mine who were into skateboarding, graffiti and hip-hop bands inspired me to create my first collection of designer toys in 1999 – Gardener, consisting of 99 vintage 12-inch G.I. Joe action figures.”

Known as the “Godfather of Designer Toys”, Michael Lau discusses the role of art in modern Hong Kong.

shop in Tai Yuen Street

To the “Godfather of Designer Toys”, as Lau is known for having pioneered in the field of designer toys, inspiration can be found anywhere in Hong Kong. One of Lau’s go-to places for ideas is Tai Yuen Street Get me there {{title}} {{taRatingReviewTotal}} {{taRatingReviewText}} Address {{address}} Website {{website}} More info in Wan Chai, as it is where hyper-realistic action figures can be seen posing behind numerous shop windows of local toy stores. “I also frequent Apliu Street Get me there {{title}} {{taRatingReviewTotal}} {{taRatingReviewText}} Address {{address}} Website {{website}} More info in Sham Shui Po,” he adds, “there are many seemingly-useless, miscellaneous objects that have the potential to form part of my artwork.”

Michael in front of the toy shelf

Growing up in Hong Kong, “toys were like our friends” the artist exclaims. “Other than being good company, they provided us with emotional support as well.” Although modern technology has distanced us from each other, Lau noticed in the past few decades that toys have the power to bring people together and grant them the chance to share their views as well as experiences. “I find it interesting that objects like toys can create a lot of wonderful human connections and real-life experiences,” he remarks.

Michael painting

Lau’s philosophy, “all art are toys, all toys are art”, connotes that all collectibles are both toys and art pieces in the eyes of aficionados. In hopes of further promoting this notion, he recently returned to more fundamental art forms such as painting and sculpting, experimenting with new ideas that explore the boundaries of art.

Display in Art Basel

“Ever since Hong Kong became one of the three hosting cities of the annual Art Basel in 2013, its cultural landscape has been radically transforming,” the artist explains. “Nowadays, exhibitions and galleries are ubiquitous, showcasing chef d’oeuvres of local and foreign artists,” he says. Expressing his content with the flourishing of the global as well as Hong Kong’s art industry, he adds, “collectors of different ages and backgrounds are being offered a plethora of options, from the traditional to the contemporary to street art.”

Michael on a ferry

Many artists love to move from place to place or to settle down in foreign countries; Lau, however, opted to stay in his home town. “One of the reasons why I love Hong Kong is that its charm can hardly be defined,” he notes. “In arts, one could mix the three primary colours to create infinite tones. Likewise, the melange of oriental traditions and innovations renders Hong Kong a vibrant, fertile land for artistic creations.”

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