Arts in the wild — explore public art spaces across the city
Written by Time Out Hong Kong
Home to a wealth of world-class art galleries and exhibitions, Hong Kong is without a doubt one of Asia's most leading art hubs — but there's no reason why art has to stay within four walls. From urban parts of town to the wild countryside, we’re surrounded by an abundance of creativity that often goes unnoticed every day. Be it outdoor art that blends seamlessly into nature or hidden architectural gems unbeknownst to daily commuters. So, step outside (or just look up from your screen), explore, and discover the splashes of colour that paint the city.
Lam Shu-kam, founder of creative studio AllRightsReserved, on making art accessible to everyone
From the scenic trail lined with outdoor paintings in Ha Pak Nai, to often overlooked art spaces within the bustling city like Oil Street Art Space and Asia Society Hong Kong Center, along with many more public art hubs and projects that have popped up in recent years, Hong Kong’s unique landscape provides endless opportunities for public arts. "Hong Kong people have a great appetite for vibrant public art initiatives," says Lam Shu-kam, founder of Hong Kong-based creative studio AllRightsReserved (ARR). “In a city as vibrant as Hong Kong, we have a number of fascinating places to discover,” he adds.
Seeing Hong Kong as a prime public art destination, Lam and his team has helped curate and bring numerous larger-than-life art installations to the city — a 6-meter-tall rocket ship inside a shopping mall; a giant floating rubber duck in the harbour; 1,600 papier mâché pandas at landmarks across the city; 100 life-size Doraemon figures outside a busy shopping mall; and a 37-metre-long float by American artist and designer KAWS, to name just a few.
“Public art can create a more dynamic city and even a landmark,” Lam shares. “Hong Kong definitely needs more public art that’s accessible to everyone and resonates with the community.” Art projects such as Viva! River, organised by the Art Promotion Office, are excellent examples of how public art connects with the community. These initiatives, whether through exhibitions, installations, or workshops, encourage the public’s involvement, enabling them to engage with different artworks and appreciate art in a familiar setting. Even a mural like the colourful masterpiece by local artist Zlism, which covers the exterior wall of Leighton Centre in Causeway Bay, provides a delightful art-viewing experience for anyone and everyone who passes by.
Naturally, as the demand for innovative art grows, artists and designers face the difficulty of producing pieces that are outside of the box. “In the last 20 years, the creative industry has created a lot of interesting works,” explains Lam. “We are facing a challenge at the moment to keep on and be more competitive”. But for Lam and his team, their passion for creativity fuels their drive to create. “We just look for anything interesting and do what we want,” he shares. “There is no standard and boundary for creative projects. Nothing is impossible, just challenging.”
Taking inspiration from Tuen Mun district’s local history and culture, the Viva! River project sees six sets of art pieces placed along Tuen Mun River. The artworks include bronze sculptures with a narrative based on the stories of local residents, a series of emoticons-turned-urban furniture, a community weaving project by knitting studio La Belle Époque, an innovative ping pong table with a glockenspiel tabletop that produces musical notes, and more. Created by local artist groups, the project sets out to enrich the creative scene in the Tuen Mun district and connect with the local community through art.
Stop 2: Ha Pak Nai
Ha Pak Nai might be famous for taking in sunsets, but there are also numerous artworks in the area for both art and nature lovers. Discover colourful wooden cabins at App Store Cafe & Barbecue and snap a photo in front of a large butterfly wing mural on the patio. There are also 19 stunning paintings located along Nim Wan Road created by Chemiyan, a local artist trio formed by three sisters. Each painting is created on a recycled insulation board and takes inspiration from Ha Pak Nai’s beautiful scenery and wildlife in an effort to promote nature conservation in the area.
Stop 3: Leather Factory My Secret Garden
On the peaceful island of Peng Chau lies a secret garden like no other. Tucked away along Wing On Street sits a dark alleyway with a signboard bearing the words 'Leather Factory My Secret Garden'. The alleyway, marked by a contrasting collection of colourful mismatched ornaments, leads to a former leather factory and a Grade III cultural monument site which has been revitalised into a surreal artsy junkyard. Filled with various sculptures and installations made from unwanted waste materials — think hanging chandeliers, scrap iron robots and even a chair-stacked tower — the seemingly chaotic garden injects vibrancy into an otherwise modest island.
Stop 4: The Mills
Originally a cotton mill established in 1954, this Tsuen Wan factory building re-emerged in 2018 as an art and design hub that celebrates the city’s industrial history while nurturing its creative community. The heritage destination now boasts a shopping area filled with local independent merchants, a dedicated space for the heritage conservation project known as CHAT, and a shop floor gallery space which regularly showcases artworks by different local artists and designers. Located outside the complex are also six beautiful murals created by local artists to portray the past, present, and future of oneself. A perfect photo op not to be missed.
Stop 5: Leighton Centre
Adding a full spectrum of colour to the Causeway Bay neighbourhood,Leighton Centre has undergone a makeover with a rainbow-coloured mural created by local artist Zoie Lam — aka Zlism. The mural, titled Communion, was a winner in the Hysan Mural Design Competition in 2020. A fruit of the artist’s imagination, the mural reinvents Causeway Bay under Zlism’s point of view, which depicts a harmonious life in the city through colourful flora and fauna in an aim to spread positivity to those who view it.
Stop 6: Oil Street Art Space
Established under the Leisure and Cultural Services Department’s aegis, Oil Street Art Space is a platform where young artists can experiment with and showcase their art. Housed inside a Grade II historic building that was once the clubhouse of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, the art space supports the city’s emerging talents and often hosts exhibitions and workshops.
Stop 7: Asia Society Hong Kong Center
Asia Society Hong Kong Center is a rare beast — a modern site with seamlessly integrated heritage structures. Designed by husband-and-wife team Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the former Explosives Magazine of the Old Victoria Barracks gives way to four mid-19th-century British military buildings, which have been carefully restored and adapted into art and culture hubs to give the public access to an array of art exhibitions, live performances, talks and film screenings.
Stop 8: Cattle Depot Artist Village
Nestled in the sleepy neighbourhood of Ma Tau Kok, Cattle Depot Artist Village is one of Hong Kong’s most precious artistic hubs. Notable for its red brick buildings, the site was formerly a quarantine base and slaughterhouse before it was renovated and converted into a local art community in 2001. Free for the public to enter, the village is home to a community of local artists and art organisations, with arguably none more prominent than Videotage, a media art organisation that focuses on new media.
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